It was later in a somewhat eventful evening in New Haven when a friend and I strolled down Crown Street looking for food. Despite all the dining options available, the bright neon sign of Jake's Diggity Dogs called out.
It was right around closing time, but the proprietor was more than happy to serve up a few dogs as long as the toppings we wanted weren't put away. It was a Monday evening at 8, but it sounds like the restaurant's 3 a.m. weekend closing time is when Jake's really shines.
"It comes in waves," says owner Jake Russell. "We get one right after the early birds leave the bars, then another around 1 a.m. There's a line out the door."
The choices are astounding: more than 20 loaded-dog options. Dozens of potential toppings, some of which are free (all the basics); $1 (chili, beans, and cheese-centric additions); $1.50 (pineapple, coconut); and $2 (bacon, pastrami, etc). When faced with options like these, the brain freezes. Mac and cheese, bacon and chili were still available, which made deciding a bit easier.
We were hungry, and decided splitting three dogs would do it. We opted for The Seattle (cream cheese and bacon, $6.95); The Mac (macaroni and cheese, $4.95. Plus we got sriracha because, you know, it's sriracha); and The Tex (chili, bacon, and barbecue sauce, $7.95. We added onions, tomato, and cheese).
Jake's is in the same location as the old Mochi Shop. Though now dog-centric, they still carry 18 flavors of the frozen Japanese rice paste treat, plus a flavor of the month ($1.50 per piece). Sitting in the center island of the very tiny store, we chatted up Jake.
Turns out he was the old owner of Costume Bazaar, an Elm City landmark that closed a few years ago. This is his first attempt at a restaurant. In the past few months, his "everything" buns had even gathered enough attention to be sold at New Haven area Shop-Rite supermarkets. Sadly for us, he had run out of those buns.
The dogs came out. These were big, footlong beasts sliced down the middle laid into a toasted bun and smothered in their respective toppings. Forks and extra napkins are required, especially for The Mac, which would be impossible to fit in even the most gaping gullets. The sriracha really added to it.
The Seattle was a tasty combination, but it lacked a certain pop to balance the cream cheese. In retrospect maybe a sweet pepper or salsa topping would have done the trick. The Tex was the real standout, with delicious chili and the crunch of those raw onions.
We finished things off with two pieces of mochi, in chocolate espresso and guava flavors. We'll be back, maybe a little later at night next time.
Jake's Diggity Dog, 216 Crown St., New Haven, is open Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Information: 203-782-1111.