TRAVERSE CITY — Hot dogs or beignets: which would Traverse City residents rather tuck into at the Grand Traverse Mall?
Viewers finally will find out when restaurateurs Nick and Autumn McAllister square off against food entrepreneurs Matt Hunter and Matt Fitzsimons on the Sunday season premiere of “Food Court Wars.”
The episode features the McAllisters’ House of Doggs versus Hunter and Fitzsimons’ Matts’ Beignets as the Traverse City teams battle to win a mall food court space rent-free for a year.
“It was fun and very hard work — and challenging,” said Nick McAllister, 49, of the reality TV show that tests contestants’ product concept, menu offerings and marketability. “You were up very, very early in the morning planning for what you think you might have coming that day. I would go to bed at midnight, wake up at 4 in the morning. It kept you up all night.
“I’m glad we did it. I’m glad it’s over, too,” he said.
McAllister said he and his wife were approached to do the show after the network contacted the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce and checked out the website for the couple’s retro House of Doggs on Union Street. The couple debated at first but eventually decided the opportunity to win a new restaurant location was too good to pass up.
“It’s hard where we are, with no parking,” said McAllister, whose signature menu items include the Slaw Dog and the Fusion. “It’s been a struggle for all the years we’ve been open. We were looking for a location outside of town when this came up. It’s in a mall where there are a lot of different people, lots of parking, and the competition part of it sounded fun.”
The episode was taped during several days in early November at locations including Turtle Creek Casino, where the two teams worked side-by-side to serve up their samples to more than 50 high-rollers.