A new Peoria restaurant will feature gourmet hot dogs, plus added ‘ghost kitchen’ choices

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A new Peoria restaurant will feature gourmet hot dogs, plus added ‘ghost kitchen’ choices

PEORIA — A gourmet hot dog chain is to open a Peoria location early next year.

Also set to open is a breakfast-burrito purveyor. And a Nashville-style hot-chicken place. And perhaps an eatery that specializes in plant-based proteins.

Each restaurant is to be based in the same space at the Metro Centre shopping plaza.

Dog Haus is to be the primary, most obvious tenant. The others are “ghost kitchens,” delivery-only outlets where food is ordered online and prepared at one location.

A franchisee of Dog Haus, which operates in 10 states, has signed a lease to open in a Metro Centre outbuilding along University Street at Marlene Avenue.

The most recent business to occupy the spot next door to Noodles & Company was Pre-Game Pub & Grill. It lasted about five months and closed in mid-2019. An outlet of the Smashburger chain first was located there.

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“It’s our flagship space, right at our entrance, and we wanted it to be the right kind of concept for Metro Centre,” said Eric Brinker, the shopping center president.

“We spent a lot of time, frankly, saying ‘no’ to people. For us, this was like a match made in heaven.”

Dogs with avocados, jalapenos and/or aioli

Dog Haus features frankfurters adorned with non-typical toppings. Among them are arugula, avocados, caramelized and crispy onions, chipotle aioli and jalapenos.

Sausages, hamburgers and chicken sandwiches receive similar treatment. All are served on King’s Hawaiian rolls.

Dog Haus was to open a few years ago in Morton, in a building that once housed a Ruby Tuesday restaurant. Rent negotiations weren’t fruitful, however.

A different Dog Haus franchisee, Jesse Koontz, is behind the Metro Centre effort.

Koontz said the Peoria space first caught his attention a couple of years ago. But he was busy establishing three Dog Haus locations in Chicago, where he once worked in accounting and finance.

Indoor-dining closings that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic caused significant loss of business at first at those Dog Hauses, like others in the 60-some-store chain.

As a response in April 2020 came The Absolute Brands, the Dog Haus corporate version of a ghost kitchen.

“It’s basically a virtual restaurant group,” said Koontz, who has relatives who reside in central Illinois. “It’s given us additional revenue, especially in times that were pretty challenging.”

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Breakfast burritos, hot chicken available online

The six Absolute Brands concepts feature menu items that reconfigure ingredients Dog Haus already is using. The breakfast-burrito segment, called Bad-Ass Breakfast Burritos, requires only tortillas as an additional product.

Bad Mutha Clucka, the hot-chicken ghost kitchen, works the same way. Ditto Plant B, the vegetarian option. There also are breakfast-bowl, burger and chicken-wing Absolute Brands ghost kitchens.

“It is ambitious, but the beauty of it is all the items are things we’ve already made,” Koontz said. “The ability for the kitchen to do it, it’s a simple lift. It doesn’t require a lot of learning.”

None of these items is available to whoever patronizes Dog Haus in person. The Absolute Brands orders are placed via internet or mobile-telephone applications, then delivered through third-party services such as DoorDash and Grubhub.

“It was kind of a perfect storm, I guess,” Koontz said about the concept’s genesis, which by a few months predated the pandemic. “People weren’t going to work. People weren’t going to restaurants. They were kind of forced to their delivery apps.”

If the Dog Haus kitchen becomes busy, any or all Absolute Brands options can be paused.

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Ghost kitchens are not new to the Peoria area. Briefly earlier this year, the Eats on the Street restaurant in Canton operated one at suppertime.

Should all go according to plan, the Dog Haus concepts will open locally in February or March, Koontz said. He also said he believes Peoria will take to them, based on what he’s seen from a Chicago-style food chain that has a local location.

“That Portillo’s in Peoria is the largest one I’ve seen, even being from Chicago,” Koontz said. “The fact that Peoria can support that large of a Portillo’s is kind of a tell-tale sign to me.”