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Doggone Good

Al Parker - September 7th, 2006
Nick McAllister is a busy guy.
In one quick swoop, he slips a tasty Vienna hot dog into a fresh bun and then slathers it with chili, onions and mustard. The result is a Motown – the most popular menu item at McAllister’s new eatery, the House of Doggs.
“Business has been really good,” said McAllister who opened his Coney Island-style restaurant just before the summer tourist crush began in Traverse City. “It was really heavy at first, and then leveled off. I’m curious about the fall and winter.”
But he’s pretty confident about the House of Doggs, given the number of customers who’ve become regulars at his family-friendly, music-themed restaurant that features 13 varieties of hot dogs.
McAllister, 41, moved to Traverse City from the Grand Rapids area this spring and spent two months readying the building that formerly housed The Muffin Tin at 115 Wellington, just off Front Street.
“I really like how hot dogs are a traditional American thing,” explained McAllister. “That’s what I wanted, a fun family place to gather.”
A graphic artist, McAllister was living in Rockford and driving to Battle Creek where he did work for Kellogg’s. He grew weary of the long work commute that kept him away from his family and began dreaming about moving to Traverse City and opening a hot dog place. He even designed the logo and built a sign.

When he was laid off from his job, McAllister figured the time was right to make a move. It’s his first full-time venture into the restaurant game, though he briefly ran a pizza operation in Grand Haven.
“I found this place by chance,” he said of his location near Wellington and Front streets. “And the nearby businesses have been great. When we moved in they came right over, introduced themselves and offered advice. It’s been great.”
House of Doggs is not only family-friendly, but also family operated. McAllister’s wife Autumn and their three daughters – Vanessa, 21, Megan, 18, and Taylor, 7, all help at times. “Megan was recently chosen as Miss Grand Rapids,” said McAllister. “So she’ll be helping here whenever her schedule allows it. But everybody pitches in. Even Taylor does bussing.”
McAllister’s love of music is reflected in the décor and menu of the House of Doggs, which is a not-so-subtle homage to the popular House of Blues. Musical instruments, records albums, posters and dozens of photos, plus an assortment of red, white and blue pop bottle caps, cover the walls and tabletops. Music videos play on a TV as customers enjoy their dogs.
“I had this huge music collection,” he said. “And wanted to use it to decorate the restaurant. Then we named the different hot dogs after the musical genres. I really respect all types of music and wanted to reflect that in the restaurant. I like the whole melting pot idea.”

In addition to the popular Motown, other tasty items on the menu are:
• Rock, with chili, cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickle and onion.
• Country, with chili, ketchup, mustard, pickle and onion.
• R and B, with chili, sauerkraut, ketchup, mustard, pickle and onion.
• Reggae, with sauerkraut, pickle and mustard
• BeBop, with ketchup and mustard.
• Blues, with chili and cheese.
• Salsa, with chili, jalapeno, hot sauce, onion and celery salt.
• Jazz, with chili, fire mustard, hot sauce, jalapeno, banana pepper, onion and celery salt.
• Chicago, with tomato, pickle, onion, sport pepper, mustard and celery salt.
Also on the menu are House of Doggs brats, burgers, loose coneys, tacos and chicken tenders.
Another popular item was added to the menu at the request of customers.
“We had some folks from Flint who came in and jokingly noted that we had a Motown dog, but not a Flint dog,” said McAllister. “Flint dogs have a different sauce. So we’ve added a Flint, that comes with Flint coney sauce, mustard and onions. One guy tried one and told me, ‘You’ve got as close as you can get without walking in the door of Angelo’s (a famous Flint hot dog haven)!’”

House of Doggs is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday. For more information, call (231) 922-1348.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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