Rock Aronheim, the man who created Doogie's in Newington, breezed into his newest place (operated by Rob Cohen), The Clam Digger of Waterbury, with a fantastic new product from his sausage supplier. "I was going to call it the torpedo," Rock said. "But I like King Kong better. It's edgier." Size does matter in the world of hot dogs, over which Doogie's has reigned for some time with its amazing char-cooked, two-foot-long Grote & Weigel, served in a bun to match. The two-footer is a big hit at Doogie's, but doesn't sell well at the Clam Digger, probably because most people come for seafood.
It is, by the way, superb seafood, based on the clams I tasted. Clam STRIPS, mind you – an item I tend to skip on fried-seafood menus because they generally have all the chewiness (and flavor) of deep-fried rubber bands. But Clam Digger strips, breaded to order, are tender and sweet inside with a nice crunch to their surface. Other available seafood includes whole-belly clams, a lobster roll, a clam roll, crab cakes, a fish sandwich, and fish tacos.
But back to the King Kong. It is less than two feet long – maybe a foot-and-a-half; but it is three times as thick. It is a one-pound hot dog! Bisected and cooked on the charcoal grill, it sucks in massive amounts of smoke and maintains mighty sausage supersucculence. Topped with the superior house hot relish, it is a nice meal for two, or for one very hungry hot dog lover.
I want to add that Clam Digger hamburgers, also cooked on the grill, go way beyond anything one would expect from a seafood shack where burgers are by definition second fiddle. They are cooked to order – mine was perfectly rare – and they deliver their own kind of wanton meat savor.
"King Kong, dressed, in the foreground. For comparison's sake, that is a mere one-foot hot dog in the background."
"Bacon cheeseburger on a Portuguese roll with lettuce and tomato: a beautiful combination. Double-patty burgers also are available, but the balance of this single would be hard to beat.
"Fried clam strips at The Clam Digger are a revelation -- worth a try even if you tend to be a whole-belly snob like me."
"A one-foot hot dog adorned with peppery hot relish. The split-top bun is, of course, grilled on both sides."
"The Clam Digger deserves all the media attention it has gotten."
"Sir Clam-Alot watches over the dining room from a corner up front."