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Papaya King

179 E 86th St, New York, NY - (212) 369-0648
Posted By Michael Baily on 7/31/2009 2:05:00 PM
In the sixties and seventies, when I lived on East 87th Street, Papaya King was the king of hot dogs of the entire Upper East Side, and Yorkville, as this neighborhood used to be called. I grew up in this neighborhood and, to this day, fifty years later, I still think Papaya King hot dogs are some of the best I have ever eaten. They are beautifully grilled. The fact that it still thrives today speaks for itself.

The dogs are not parboiled and dropped in hot oil as a cheap shortcut. Just grilled to perfection the way good hot dogs are supposed to be cooked.

For the record: Papaya King on 86th Street and 3rd Avenue is the "original" juice and hot dog stand in Manhattan. Gray's Papaya on East 72nd Street has/had nothing to do with Papaya King. There are no connections, no shared roots or affiliations whatsoever. Gray's Papaya does not have the legacy Papaya King does but, for some strange reason, Gray's gets a lot of press. I guess that is because of its location on West 72nd Street and Broadway, directly on the #1 and #9 subway lines. There is lots of commercial activity on Broadway and it borders some media headquarters and lots of arts and cultural centers. I am sure lots of media and art types have munched on their dogs and word traveled from there.

Papaya King, conversely, is one long avenue block east of the IRT Lexington subway and, aside from the usual retail stores scattered about, is in a generally residential neighborhood.

Gray's hot dogs are good and have a similar quality but, in my opinion, they are not as good. Nor is their juice. Now this will sound kind of absurd but, small and tiny as it is, the ambiance of Papaya King on East 86th Street is more cozy, clean, and comforting than that of Gray's Papaya. Gray's location is a little grimy and tends to attract beggars and homeless who apparently clean the windows for a hot dog or two. Standing in Gray's, you just get the feeling they co-opted the concept from Papaya King, and are more than happy to just feed the masses. Papaya King feels like the original and tastes like the original. Because it is the original.

Forget Gray's and the crowded street of West 72nd. Make the trip to the Upper East Side instead. Take a walk over to Central Park, stop in the Guggenheim or the Met, then chow down on excellent NY legacy hot dogs and really fresh juices. It's worth it.

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Scorecard

4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
hot dog
papaya juice
Rate this place
A pair of Papaya King dogs, well-dressed
"A pair of Papaya King dogs, well-dressed"
Michael Stern





Papaya juice is creamy and sweet:  excellent balance for a few garlicky hot dogs.
"Papaya juice is creamy and sweet: excellent balance for a few garlicky hot dogs."
Michael Stern


The home run dog goes simple, with just sauerkraut and onions.
"The home run dog goes simple, with just sauerkraut and onions."
Cliff Strutz


Known as the hula hula, this busy hot dog has fresh pineapple, jalapenos, sweet peppers and sautéed onions.
"Known as the hula hula, this busy hot dog has fresh pineapple, jalapenos, sweet peppers and sautéed onions. "
Cliff Strutz


Most New Yorkers think of Papaya King for its hot dogs; but juice is how it started, and juice is still big in this little shop.
"Most New Yorkers think of Papaya King for its hot dogs; but juice is how it started, and juice is still big in this little shop."
Michael Stern


Tiny interior with standup-dining-only and seemingly hundreds of signs.
"Tiny interior with standup-dining-only and seemingly hundreds of signs."
Donald Thompson


Just some of the ways you can get your wiener fixed
"Just some of the ways you can get your wiener fixed"
Michael Stern


If the warden gave you your choice of anything for your last meal, would it be filet mignon ... or a Papaya King hot dog?
"If the warden gave you your choice of anything for your last meal, would it be filet mignon ... or a Papaya King hot dog?"
Michael Stern


This happy fella is the head atop a sandwich board on Third Avenue.
"This happy fella is the head atop a sandwich board on Third Avenue."
Michael Stern


Papaya King has doors, but if the weather is decent, it is basically an open-air corner stand.
"Papaya King has doors, but if the weather is decent, it is basically an open-air corner stand."
Michael Stern


The neon looks great at night!
"The neon looks great at night!"
Cliff Strutz



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