It’s the first restaurant for Matt McMahon of Moorestown, who’s building his menu around hot dog recipes from Paris to Pennsylvania.
By Matt Skoufalos | June 26, 2023
If there’s any testament to the heat of the downtown Haddonfield business district, it’s that one of its newest eateries is awaited in one of its unlikeliest locations: the basement at 211 Kings Highway.
With turnkey kitchen spaces high in demand and short on availability, Matt McMahon of Moorestown is working to flip a former law office into a quick-service hot dog stand he’s calling Haute Dog.
“It’s kind of a family project that we’ve been working on,” McMahon said.
His mother, who grew up in New York and North Jersey, enjoyed pushcart-style hot dogs; his dad, who hails from northwestern Pennsylvania, grew up eating hot dogs with chili sauce from a local favorite spot, Nick’s.
McMahon wants Haute Dog to unite their favorites (and others) underneath one roof.
“I want it to be a mom-and-pop shop,” he said. “We’re going to have a happy-meal-style thing for the kids; pup cups for dogs. I hope to build a relationship with [Wildfether] distillery. I want it to be a very family-oriented town shop.”
McMahon, who has a marketing degree from St. Joseph’s University, a bachelor’s of science in nursing from Drexel, and spent time working at his family’s paper recycling business, took an opportunity to try his hand at cooking in the middle of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The only recipes I’ve ever known [came from] watching my grandmother cook,” he said. “Her meatballs, lasagna, marinara; I started making it, and giving it out to neighbors. After the third or fourth time, they said, ‘We’ll gladly pay you for it.’”
Taste-testing with neighbors prepared McMahon for the feedback he’d awaited from the most important critics: mom and dad.
“[They] said, ‘I think you missed your calling,’” he remembered.
But McMahon wasn’t confident in the notion of building a carryout business around his grandmother’s homemade Italian recipes.
Years ago, friends of the family had established a Parisian-style hot dog stand that they’d incorporated as Haute Dog, but were no longer using it.
They transferred the rights to McMahon, who began fleshing out ideas for a fully realized storefront.
“The entire design of this plan has come from a hot dog cart that did about 200 dogs a day,” he said. “If I can do that, that will be phenomenal. We are trying to make this as efficient as possible to try and make it a one-man show.”
To get his hot dog shop into the building at 211 Kings Highway East — where multiple businesses, including Earth Eats Cafe and NJ Content Studio, currently reside — required the approval of the Haddonfield Zoning Board, which greenlit McMahon’s application 6-1 at a May 16 appearance.
By virtue of its takeout-oriented plans, Haddonfield Zoning Officer Tavis Karrow offered an interpretation of the restaurant as a walk-up retail facility, and not a dining establishment “designed primarily for consumption on premises.” The board agreed.
The shop will feature a limited number of seats inside, as well as seasonal, al fresco tables on the sidewalk. Customers may enter from a 10-step stairway at the Kings Highway side entrance, or via stairs in the interior of the building.
McMahon has promised to accommodate customers who can’t use the stairs either by employing food runners, or delivering meals himself. While the space is being fitted out over the next six months, he’s working out his relationships with vendors for the dogs and, most importantly, the bread.
“Sabrett’s or no-skin, crunch or no crunch; I want it to be so everyone’s happy,” McMahon said. “Make it a real old-school, mom-and-pop-type place that cares about customers.”
Even with a concrete focus and an emphasis on high-volume takeout business, McMahon said he hasn’t lost track of the idea of offering his Italian specialties somewhere down the road.
“My endgame vision is that you’ll be able to get a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, a sausage-and-pepper sandwich; a slice of lasagna at all times,” McMahon said.
“But at the beginning, I’m going to stick with the hot dogs, and have it be a one-man show.”
Haute Dog is preparing for a late 2023 opening at 211 Kings Highway East in Haddonfield. Stick with NJ Pen for updates.
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