Jake’s Diggity Dogs opens in downtown Milford

Downtown Milford has a new eatery: Jake’s Diggity Dogs, formerly of New Haven, opened recently, selling hot dogs that harken back to the days of West Haven’s Savin Rock.
The 100 percent beef Hebrew National hot dogs are slit and charbroiled, according to Jeff “Jake” Russell, who opened the hot dog venue with his fiancé Sherri Knapp, at 40 Broad Street.
The building is owned by photographer and downtown businessman Stuart Walls. Between Russell and Walls, they have enough passion for this new business to make it an instant success. They say these hotdogs are second to none.
The menu includes Jake’s specials, like the Reuben, a hot dog topped with pastrami and swiss cheese and choice of sauerkraut or coleslaw, plus any cold topping.
There’s the baconater, topped with bacon and cheese and any cold topping.
Or how about the Hotsy Totsy, a huge Georgia hot with a choice of cheese and any cold topping. The Hawaiian has diced pineapple and coconut shavings.
Russell and Walls said these are more than just hotdogs. “They are an experience,” said Russell.
There are 34 toppings, eight mustards, four relishes and two types of rolls to choose from.
The restaurant is only about 750 square feet, set back behind Colony Grill, in a building that years ago housed a lingerie store.
There’s counter seating and a couple of tables inside the quaint eatery, room for about 22 people, plus a small outdoor deck in the rear. The vibe is somewhere between coastal New England and downtown New Haven, due to some of the photos and artwork on the walls that reflect Russell’s years as part of the New Haven scene.
Russell spent many years in New Haven working at the family-owned Costume Bazaar, which moved to Milford for a couple of years before closing in 2012. His mother, Josi, who is 92, started the Costume Bazaar in 1964, and Russell was just 10 years old when he started hanging out there, helping to ring up customers.
Russell’s father was Joey Russell, the comedian, who died in 2010. Joey Russell was Happy the Clown and Colonel Clown on local TV, and he was a Milford resident involved in the community. He arranged to have a Menorah put on the Green during the holidays, a tradition that continues today.
Jake Russell opened Jake’s Diggity Dogs on Crown Street in New Haven in 2013, and just closed it about eight weeks ago to open up his new venue in Milford.
“I was in New Haven 55 years,” he said. “It was time for a change.”
He also had a Jake’s in Branford for three years.
He opened in Milford June 1, and word of mouth has been keeping the place busy.
“The word is going around,” said Walls. “I’ve been downtown 38 years, and Jake, well he gets to know people really quickly.”
Russell is a hot dog aficionado. He didn’t even let his assistant split a hot dog until he was on the job six months.
“It has to be even so there’s a nice even cook throughout the dog,” Russell said.
Jake’s has more than just beef hot dogs. The menu also includes a veggie dog, veggie burger, basic breakfast sandwich, mac and cheese, hamburgers, fried scallops, fried clam strips and more.
Jake’s also sells Bubbies Mochi Ice Cream, Micalizzis Italian Ice and ice cream from Milford’s own Walnut Beach Creamery.
Russell hopes to open more Jake’s, and one day franchise. Walls is already working on the paperwork.
“Jakes is so good that it needs to be in more than one place,” Walls said.
Jake’s is open Sunday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Thursday to Saturday from 11a.m. to 3 a.m., to catch the late night bar crowd leaving downtown.
Hours may change seasonally.
Walls and Russell plan to have a mural of Austin Powers, the character portrayed by Mike Myers, painted on the side of the building so people can stand next to it and take selfies.
“Just because,” said Russell with a smile.