One of the most famous quick & cheap eats of NYC is Papaya King. I know there are other “Papaya” guys out there, like Gray’s Papaya Dog (founded by a former partner of Papaya King), and Papaya Dog, but I believe Papaya King is the oldest, and original.
The history of this establishment is quite interesting. The founder fell in love with papaya drink when he traveled to Cuba many moons ago, and opened the first juice bar in New York called Hawaiian Tropical Drinks in 1932. Legend has it that a famous Brooklyn Dodger became addicted to the juice and coined the name “Papaya King.” Customers began to use the name “Papaya King” until the founder finally changed the name to Papaya King. How was the franks came into the juice stand? Well, if the tropical juice started with the love of papaya drink in Cuba, then you can guess the franks came with the love for a German girl! The founder fell in love with a German girl (and German food), and with their marriage, the marriage of Papaya juice and frankfurter was also born. Pretty cute, right?
Papaya King is hard to miss, with their super bright red and yellow stands, and cute logo. With its popularity, affordability, and quick and tasty fare, there are always several customers in there.
The inside is really narrow. the first half of the space gets pretty packed with people ordering, picking up the food, and eating on the counter right across from it. They have menu everywhere, so you won’t have too much trouble looking at all that they offer. Just keep in mind, they are “Cash Only” and don’t even accept a bill larger than $20.
This is indeed a “stand” so there is no table seating, only counters along the windows. If you can get the counter space all the way to the back, it is much less crowded. They have ketchup and mustard on the counter if you need to add them to your food.
We were pretty hungry that day, so we ordered a lot (and ended up taking some home). First, we order two kinds of franks; Southern Comfort and C&C ($3.75/each). All of their Specialty franks are $3.75. The Southern Comfort comes with coleslaw, raw onions, and chili. C&C comes with chili and cheese sauce. The franks are not too fat, had very crispy skin and juice in the inside. The topping gives added substances to the franks, and of course, added flavor and texture. Great comfort food indeed.
We also ordered King’s Tots ($5), which comes loaded with chili, onion crunch, and cheddar cheese. One of my weaknesses (among many) is tots. I LOVE tater tots. Why all these bad-for-you food taste so good? So, it was quite the size, more than enough to share (in fact, we took about half of it home). It is just simple tots with all the gooey goodness on it, and the onion crunches were really nice touch.
Then, we also shared a corn dog ($3). It came wrapped in a hot aluminum wrap. Put some ketchup and mustard, and ready to go! It was just a plain, ordinary corn dog, but we were not there for any thing fancy or expensive. We just wanted some comfort good at reasonable price. So, it was everything we wanted, it really hit the spot.
Needless to say, this type of food is not something we should eat often, but every once in a while, I get crazy cravings for these bad food. Now you see why I do juice cleanse at least once a year (You can read about it here: http://www.foodlovergirl.com/jus-by-julie/)! Once good thing about this place is that you are not going to have too much amount of the bad stuff. It is just a frank, or corn dog, or well, ok, lots of tater tots, but still, it is not like a whole pie of pizza or two. You can get some kind of portion control in a small way…especially if you are there with someone you can share the food with. If you have one of those cravings and don’t want to spend too much money, walk over to one of their locations for a solid, good ol’ franks and some other tasty sides!
Papaya King – 179 East 86th Street, New York, NY 10028