Gray’s Papaya

Hot Dogs at Night – A NY Weenies original. (Sung to the tune of Downtown by Petula Clark)

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always eat… hot dogs
It’s 3 AM, you are tipsy and hungry
Seems to help, I know… hot dogs

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the sausages look pretty
Gray’s doesn’t close?
Nothing else is open there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

So eat hot dogs
Things will be great with some hot dogs
Go with a friend for sure, hot dogs
A whole lot of wieners for yoooouuuuu!

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I really enjoyed writing that song. I also really enjoyed reviewing this hot dog. This was my first “NY Weenies @ Night” review, because it was really late, after a night at the bar. I also ate 3 hot dogs. Good lord. Gray’s Papaya is another “papaya” joint, and is the upper west side rival of the upper east side, recently highly reviewed 4.5 weenie Papaya King. All of these places are similar. There is a lot of yellow, they also serve smoothies and fries, but really everybody goes there for the cheap, quick, and artfully simple weenies. They are also open 24 hours a day. Gray’s was founded in 1974 by a former partner of Papaya King, once had three bustling locations, now has one, and only has half of it’s sign lit. Obviously I am not bothered by this at all, because all that matters is the dog.

Very openly and humbly I approached the counter and asked the two gentleman for their best hot dog. After some hesitation and overcoming a language boundary, below is what they came up with.

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What the hell is that?! The frank looks good, the bun looks good, but whatever they put on top of it is a tremendous mistake. Blasphemy! It’s some sort of onion, ketchup, sweet and sour sauce, urine combination that should never be on a hot dog. Bye Felicia. Very poor start. I guess that’s what you get from the late night staff. I could, however, tell that there was a quality weenie underneath that toxic sludge that they call a topping. (Of course I ate it anyway.) So, I approached the counter after receiving some advice from my personal hot dog adviser Mike and decided to take matters into my own hands. Per the rules, published in the Who Am I? page of this site, I got a classic with mustard. But, just like Papaya King, there is no yellow mustard. Come on, man. I understand this is a New York thing, and try to keep an open mind. I am very pleased with this one, but the bun could have been a little more toasty, and the dog a little bit thicker. It has the snap, and it is a good temperature, color, etc., but it seems a little small. When I place my index finger and thumb on either side of the bun, the frank disappears quicker than a frightened turtle. It must be better than this. Gray’s is legendary, there must be a better hot dog. So, I order a third weenie.

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That’s the ticket. A little bit of chili goes a long way. This was the best of the three, and totally out of protocol, but you only live once as they say (YOLO), and I’m so glad I got this one. Chili, relish, and mustard. Like Bosh, Wade, and LeBron, the three combine to win championships. You can’t lose. Gray’s delivers a high quality hot dog for an incredibly affordable price, but it doesn’t quite match its upper east side rival.

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In conclusion, if you want to lose your inhibitions and go to Gray’s to devour 3 hot dogs, bring some Tums and enjoy. I highly recommend it.

Cheers

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Papaya King

I was not legitimate until now. Until this review, I was not a real hot dog blogger. But now, it’s like I found platform 9 and 3 quarters, hopped on the mustard express, and magically traveled to the University of Wieners and Franks. I am real. In a Field of Dreams, I am Shoeless Joe Jackson. In the Matrix, I am Neo. In Ghost, I am Whoopi Goldberg. E.T. phone home… I have accomplished my dream. Papaya King is an incredibly legitimate establishment. Popular film and television programs such as Seinfeld, Anthony Bourdain, How I Met Your Mother, and Crossing Delancey have mentioned this place. Although it never got a mention on Gossip Girl, I promise you it’s famous. Ladies and Gentleman, Papaya King.

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Just look above these words. I don’t even need to write, but I will. On the Upper East side on 86th and Third Ave neon signs glow, beckoning all passers by to come in for a snack. There’s not much to this place, and there doesn’t need to be. The staff is very friendly, and they are proud to be there. When I asked for their best dog, the man behind the counter genuinely cared to know what my taste buds preferred. Eventually we came to the conclusion that I should have the classic. Sauerkraut and mustard. I knew that this was the classic coming into the place, and I was scared. Generally, I’m not a ‘kraut guy. I find it to be overbearing, and kind of like my Frankie’s on the Go post, that guy at the party who is loud and crappy and takes all the attention. But why, Jack? Why did I ever doubt the Germans? They invented the dog, why would I question their topping choices!? The spiciness of the mustard and the sour taste of the kraut mixed together to form this new harmonious flavor that I’d never tasted before. It reminds me of the first time I had a Yuengling. There’s something else out there? Shocked, I didn’t even realize how good the actual sausage was until the second bite. The snap is there, the temperature is perfect, and the bun is toasted with care. This is a dog of champions. Oh, and they’re 3 bucks? I’ll have another.

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The second dog: plain with mustard. Look at those char marks on the dog. Look at how awesomely I placed the mustard on that bad boy. Look how epic-ly I devour it. I am in my element. Is this place perfect? Is this the best in New York? While it may be incredibly close, it never will be the king. For those that have read my “About Me” page, you know what I think about mustard. Keep it yellow. Papaya King does not have yellow mustard anywhere. I even asked, and it is nowhere to be found. While I kind of respect them for sticking to their guns, the fact of the matter is that they’ve made the wrong choice. I don’t care how much money Gulden’s is giving you, the better choice is to take money out of your pocket and literally pay French’s to be your sauce. At least have it in your restaurant.

Papaya King gets 4.5 weenies.

I absolutely love this place. I will be back, and it is definitely the best quality dog I’ve had in New York so far. However, I do believe that there is an establishment out there that knows how important yellow mustard is, and can rival this landmark in quality. I’ll leave you all with this quote from the great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Mustard is my music, and the rhythm I dance to is yellow. It is this music that blasts throughout my soul. Stay yellow, my friends.

Cheers

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