Saturday, December 20, 2008

Papaya King (New York, NY)

Papaya King
179 E 86th St, New York, NY 10028
Sat 12/20/2008, 01:45p-01:55p

Now with deli and pizza out of the way, it was time for me to experience a true New York hot dog, and Papaya King was the first place that came to mind. The King actually has a number of locations (including three in Manhattan and one in New Jersey), but I wanted to go to the original on 86th St on the Upper East Side. Originally founded in 1931 by Gus Poulos, the restaurant was named Papaya King because it originally sold only tropical fruit drinks, though it quickly expanded to selling hot dogs due to the large German population in the vicinity. Because of its success, the chain has spawned two "Papaya" competitors--Gray's Papaya and Papaya Dog.

Here we see the exterior of the original building. Interestingly, on March 22, 2007, the location was shut down briefly by the Health Department after the news program Inside Edition found rats inside the premises.

The interior is suitably cramped. There is no seating; rather, patrons can stand next to counters along the windows. Overall, not a comfortable dining experience.

Original Special [$4.59]
The Original Special includes two hot dogs with sauerkraut, onions, or relish and a 16oz Tropical Drink. We chose kraut, the preferred New York topping I'm told. The Sabrett-sourced frankfurter itself was quite tasty, among the best I've had. I really liked the snap of the natural casings, which is heightened by the cooking method of griddling atop a flat-top grill. The kraut, meanwhile, added a nice sourness to contrast the savory flavor of the beef. This sourness was further augmented by the use of mustard, which we added later. The bun, however, would've been better grilled.

As for the drink, there are a number of flavors available, including Mango, Coconut Champagne, Piña Colada, Banana Daquiri, and Strawberry Supreme, but seeing how this was the Papaya King, I had to go with the original. Even though I'm not a huge fan of papayas in general, the drink was quite delicious. Its flavor was not distinctly papaya, which was key, and the drink had a rich, smooth creaminess that hinted of dairy; it wasn't merely juice.

The Papaya King has become synonymous with the New York hot dog, and really is a culinary beacon of the city, appealing to people from all walks of life, from locals to tourists, the marginalized to the gentility. It's simple, straightforward, unpretentious food, but at the same time represents a true dining destination, one definitely worth a visit if you're ever in town.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok that's it. I am OFFICIALLY jealous. When you ate at Le Bernardin I didn't feel this envious... but BOURDAIN'S Papaya King?? !!! : )

Sunday, January 04, 2009 9:52:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Wow that was quick!

Yeah this is Bourdain's favorite, and I even went to their arch rival Gray's Papaya afterward. ;)

Sunday, January 04, 2009 10:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh! He went there on an early episode of NR or maybe it was "A Cook's Tour"!!!!! DOUBLE ENVY! : )

Sunday, January 04, 2009 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Apparently, Bourdain, like myself, prefers the King:

Sunday, January 04, 2009 10:38:00 PM  
Blogger MyLastBite said...

; )

Sunday, January 04, 2009 10:39:00 PM  
Blogger Geoff said...

I hate to think how many Papaya King hot dogs and half mango/half papaya drinks I had in the 10 years I lived in NYC. Gray's is a just sad imitation.

Monday, January 05, 2009 4:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This looks good. I also loved your Le Bernadin review. We just went to the Inn at Little Washington - I think you would like my review - check it out on my blog! Thanks. Natasha

Monday, January 05, 2009 8:30:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Geoff: I went to Gray's afterwards and also felt that it wasn't quite as good. I should've tried Papaya Dog as well for comparison.

5 Star Foodie: Inn at Little Washington is definitely on my to-eat list next time I'm in the DC area. So far my favorite is Citronelle.

Monday, January 05, 2009 2:08:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

Gray's Papaya is great, wish they had something like that in NY. Tacos aren't a bad substitute though.

Monday, January 05, 2009 4:51:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

oh wait, I didn't realize Papaya King and Gray's Papaya were different! Now I know...

Monday, January 05, 2009 4:52:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Well I guess we have Pink's in LA.

But yeah, Gray's was a clone of the King started by an ex-employee. I went to Gray's right after Papaya King. That'll be my next post.

Monday, January 05, 2009 5:19:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

ever the glutton with two consecutive hotdog places. NICE. Pink's is pretty good even though chowhounders and other foodies don't like it. Who doesn't love an Ozzy Osbourne dog?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

And after Gray's, I stopped for a dog from a street vendor as well. Glutton indeed.

As for Pink's, I still like it despite naysayers, though the lines are a bit troublesome at times.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009 3:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Next time you are in NY, try Crift Dogs in the East Village, and order Spicy Redneck. I ahven't had anything like it in LA.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 7:33:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I just checked out the Spicy Redneck and it looks really good. Hot dog, bacon, chili, slaw, and peppers--sounds like a winning combination to me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 8:23:00 PM  

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