As the Grand Traverse Kennel Club’s annual dog show hits the Civic Center this weekend, all things dog come to mind–including hot dogs.
From its homey start two years ago out of a converted house on East Front Street, the House of Doggs has morphed into a slick new retro restaurant on Union Street. Along with the move followed a whole new crowd.
“After the bars close Friday and Saturday nights and during lunch on Sunday, this really turns into a happening place,” owner Nick McAllister said. “We found the right combination by locating here. It was our first choice to begin with.”
Never mind that the building is as skinny as a Blues Brother’s tie; the appeal of a music-themed restaurant serving 18 styles of dressed dogs for less than three bucks appears to be a hit.
There is no doubt that McAllister has created a place with intrigue. Burning neon signs beckon from a space otherwise cloaked in darkness. Album art, band posters and celebrity photographs span the walls and scatter the tabletops. Although the inside walls may be painted tomato red and royal blue, the atmosphere leans more towards Lil Wayne than John Wayne.
At the House of Doggs, each Coney dog is named after a music genre. Then, McAllister went one step further by reflecting the style of the music into the flavors of his recipes.
Dig the idea of Jazz? A hot dog is slipped into a bun and layered with chili, Chicago Fire Mustard, Cholula hot sauce, jalapenos, banana peppers, onion, celery and salt. Have a hankering for Honky Tonk? A hot dog is dropped into a bun, ladled with nacho cheese and given a toss of bacon. Like Alternative music? The House of Doggs’ version is a locally-baked bun stuffed with sauerkraut, cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickle, onion and –here’s the “alternative” –no hot dog.
The House of Doggs has it all figured out. A Chicago is a popular mutt. It’s a dog slipped into a fresh bun and heaped with tomato, pickle, onion, sport pepper, mustard and celery salt. Meanwhile, the Motown version is a cool purebred — just chili, onion and mustard over a dog in a bun. The coveted Flint Coney — known here as Grand Funk — consists of a hot dog, a bun and a raucous blend of mustard, onions and the ever-mysterious Flint Coney sauce.
The House of Doggs is in McAllister’s blood. As a five-year-old child, he remembers visiting his great uncle’s hot dog cart on the streets of Chicago. Life took McAllister to the Grand Rapids area, where he had a 20-year career as a graphic artist.
While living in Rockford, he became fascinated with a local nostalgic Coney dog shop. Then, he was laid off from his job. Fortunately, he had saved enough to move on.
“Just like that I came up with the name. I like all different genres of music. The stuff in the restaurant is from my private collection. So instead of the House of Blues, I would open the House of Doggs,” McAllister said.
McAllister still plans on parking his hot dog cart at Traverse City’s Friday Night Live and Sidewalk Sale events.
“I try to take people back to their childhood or college memories,” he said.
“Even in a hard economy, people like to get out and have inexpensive fun.”
House of Doggs
120 South Union Street
Traverse City, MI 49684