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

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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.


  1. Born and raised in Manhattan Lower East Side. I’m almost 40 and I’ve still never touched a hot from here. FYI Katz known for its pastrami also has the best hot dog in the city.

  2. I’m sorry but right across the river is Hiram’s in Fort Lee NJ. Best hot dogs you will ever have. No tropical drink fluff.

  3. Honestly those dogs did not look special in any way and the toppings/bread were boring unless you showed otherwise. Kinds a crappy clip. I mean if thise dogs are delivered every morning why not focus on the quality snd freshness a bit.

  4. I tried a Sonic foot long Dog the other day and it wasn't bad, the root beer I had was watered down and the tater tots sucked but the dog really was good. I'll try another Dog  from Sonic and that's it.

  5. John!!!! The red headed guy. I freaking know him. We haven’t spoken in like 13 years but I can’t beleive it lol. He is also ridiculously hilarious in real life. Omg. I did not expect to see him of all people on food insider ???

  6. 2 hot dogs with mustard and onions with a banana daiquiri is the best munchies after a night out of drinking or smoking and drinking ???

  7. Whats weird is in Idaho there was maybe one restaurant that tried to do the hotdog thing and it failed miserably. The only time it does work here is downtown, near the bars, in a food truck or stand.

  8. As a New Yorker used to visit quiet often but I dun live in the city anymore plus my taste buzz has changed I eat the korean cuisine more it really helped me recover my body n soul

  9. Just so everyone knows that hotdogs are made from pig lips and pig assholes if you don’t believe me look it up yourselves.also any sausage that’s out there the castings are pig intestines?

  10. Every time i go once every 3 months, i always get 2 hot dogs, a large papaya juice and i never forget to get a Half gallon on papaya juice for home 3 hours aways since im in PA ?

  11. I lived on the upper west side of Manhattan for 14 yrs the 72nd St location was one of my go to places, better than Nathan's & less expensive.. NYC style is w/mustard & onion sauce or mustard & sour kraut. NO ketchup or relish. Chicago dogs & Sonoran dogs (popular in southern Az) have far too many ingredients. Also they must be skin on all beef franks!

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