Why New Yorkers Swear By Papaya King's Hot Dog And Fruit Juice Combo | Legendary Eats

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Oct 29, 2019


Why New Yorkers Swear By Papaya King's Hot Dog And Fruit Juice Combo | Legendary Eats
Why New Yorkers Swear By Papaya King's Hot Dog And Fruit Juice Combo | Legendary Eats thumb Why New Yorkers Swear By Papaya King's Hot Dog And Fruit Juice Combo | Legendary Eats thumb Why New Yorkers Swear By Papaya King's Hot Dog And Fruit Juice Combo | Legendary Eats thumb


  • Taryn Varricchio: Hot dogs are as true to New York
  • as bagels, pizza, and pastrami on rye.
  • But only one spot has been serving
  • their franks with tropical drinks since 1932.
  • The winning combo has spawned
  • many imitators over the years,
  • but tourists, celebrities, and loyal customers
  • still seek out the original.
  • This is Papaya King.
  • Customer: I've been coming in here since I was maybe 9,
  • 10 years old, and I'm 69 now.
  • But this place has always been tops,
  • and everybody that's from this area
  • or from New York knows about Papaya King.
  • Taryn: We're in Manhattan, where hot dogs
  • are basically around every corner in the city,
  • and we're gonna head to the place that
  • New Yorkers have been going
  • for practically the last 90 years:
  • Papaya King.
  • But before they were selling hot dogs,
  • they were selling something much different.
  • So, let's go find out.
  • Papaya King's hot dogs have been called
  • "arguably the best hot dog in New York City"
  • by food icon Anthony Bourdain.
  • Anthony Bourdain: For me, there's nothing better
  • than a Papaya King to tamp it all down,
  • send me off into the arms of Morpheus properly.
  • It's the gold standard.
  • Taryn: And praise for the restaurant has led
  • many imitators across the city to serve
  • a similar tropical drink and hot dog combo.
  • But contrary to popular belief,
  • these look-alikes have no connection to Papaya King.
  • Wayne Rosenbaum: The biggest misconception in New York City,
  • and I deal with it every single day of my life,
  • is that, "Oh you're on 72nd Street."
  • "Oh, you're on 14th Street and 1st Avenue."
  • This is the original Papaya King.
  • A lot of the younger generation has no idea,
  • no clue which is which.
  • They think it's all the same.
  • But I guarantee you, you go to these other places,
  • totally different product.
  • Taryn: Before Papaya King became a destination for hot dogs,
  • it wasn't Papaya King at all.
  • It started as juice bar called Hawaiian Tropical Drinks
  • opened by Greek immigrant Gus Poulos.
  • Wayne: He stumbled upon the most
  • unbelievable melon in the world,
  • the papaya melon, on a vacation in Cuba.
  • He came back from Cuba and he said,
  • "Oh, my God, I have to open up something in New York City
  • that I could use the papaya fruit."
  • So Hawaiian Tropical Drinks was born.
  • We are the first juice bar in America.
  • All these other guys came 65 years after us.
  • Taryn: But two years later,
  • a customer walked in wanting more.
  • Wayne: 1934, a customer came into the store and said,
  • "What do you have for lunch? I'm starving."
  • And he's like, "Well, I brought some frankfurters
  • from home." The guy's like, "I'll take them!"
  • And the rest is history.
  • So in 1963, it was renamed Papaya King,
  • no longer Hawaiian Tropical Drinks,
  • and they focused more on the combination
  • of salty, sweet, and fresh fruit.
  • So it's kind of like devil
  • and the angel in the same location.
  • Taryn: Hot dogs are delivered
  • each morning at 6 from a local factory.
  • Papaya King employees wearing bright-yellow shirts,
  • undoubtedly made to match the shop's signature neon sign,
  • ready themselves for the lunch rush.
  • Wayne: On an average Monday through Wednesday,
  • we go through 250 to 300 pounds of hot dogs a day.
  • All right? It's 10 to a pound.
  • So 3,000 hot dogs a day.
  • On the weekends, we go anywhere from
  • 4,000 hot dogs a day to 4,700 hot dogs a day.
  • A day.
  • Taryn: Thank you. No, that's OK, thank you.
  • Wayne says the most popular order
  • is the Original combo: two hot dogs
  • with relish, sauerkraut, or New York onion sauce.
  • And a papaya drink.
  • Honestly, from the moment I opened that box,
  • I could smell the vinegar from this sauce,
  • and I'm really excited.
  • That makes me more excited to try it.
  • It's a snappy hot dog, for sure.
  • I really liked the sauce because it was like,
  • zingy was the way that Wayne described it to me,
  • kind of tangy, you really get that vinegar.
  • Although hot dogs are the assumed star of the show,
  • Papaya King's signature juices are just as popular.
  • What about this combination of juice and hot dogs
  • do you think is so appealing to customers?
  • Wayne: Well, you have a salty and a sweet kind of concept,
  • so our drinks are fresh, they're natural,
  • it's a digestive, as you can see on the machines.
  • Sounds crazy, having a beef hot dog
  • with a fresh juice or tropical drink.
  • But it works.
  • Customer: Because it's the best combination for me.
  • I enjoy it every time, and it's enough.
  • I'm not too full after I get out, I'm just right.
  • Customer: The food is a staple, it's not just a snack.
  • And the papaya is great with vodka.
  • Taryn: All day, we've been talking to people
  • and they, for the majority,
  • said that they get their dogs with the New York onion sauce
  • and they always get the papaya drink.
  • That was unexpected.
  • I expected it to be a thinner juice,
  • but it's actually a frothier fruit drink.
  • But I think it's honestly refreshing,
  • creamy, and not too heavy.
  • And it does, like every other person has said,
  • complement the savory hot dog.
  • I got the sweet drink.
  • Clearly the combination works,
  • place has been around for 87 years.
  • Customer: We're from Amsterdam,
  • and we came to Papaya for the hot dogs
  • because we heard from Google it was the best, so.
  • [laughs]
  • Taryn: What do we think?
  • Customers: Awesome!
  • Wayne: This kind of thing appeals to everybody.
  • I have politicians, I have Martha Stewart,
  • Woody Allen, de Blasio comes all the time.
  • We have a ton of doormen, firemen, school kids,
  • older women, people that have been coming
  • for generations, generations of families.
  • It appeals to everybody.
  • Everybody still eats hot dogs,
  • no matter what they say out there.

Download subtitle


Papaya King has cemented itself as a cheap-eat institution in NYC. But before it became a New Yorker’s go-to for hot dogs, it sold something else entirely. Insider’s Taryn Varricchio headed to Papaya King to find out why New Yorkers flock to the 80-year-old location for its hot dog and tropical drink combo.

For more on Papaya King, visit: https://www.facebook.com/papayaking/

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Why New Yorkers Swear By Papaya King's Hot Dog And Fruit Juice Combo | Legendary Eats