By Ava Stryker-Robbins
The Upper West Side is lucky to have a wide range of fabulous restaurants. There are world-renowned Michelin-star destinations, small “holes in the wall” with incredible food, chains, and popular neighborhood joints. There are so many types of food, from all corners of the globe. But one staple of American dining is often overlooked. Hot dogs are delicious, inexpensive, and importantly, filling. And what better place to buy them than the UWS’s long-standing treasure, Gray’s Papaya?
They have a standing table outside that overlooks Broadway. At night, it is beautiful to see streetlights and people, while munching on one of the few Upper West Side dishes that is older than nearly all the people who eat it. Gray’s Papaya offers a wide range of condiments: mustard, onions, sauerkraut, chile, cheese, relish, and ketchup. The frank and toppings nest comfortably inside a warm bun. This quick—yet delicious—meal is even better when paired with a sweet and refreshing papaya juice.
The restaurant was opened 49 years ago by founder Nicholas Gray and has stood strong ever since. When it first opened, a hot dog cost only 50 cents. Now a hot dog and a papaya juice cost $4.50. Gray’s Papaya is an integral part of the Upper West Side, and attracts tourists from around the world. Though the experience of purchasing and consuming a hot dog may often seem insignificant, at Gray’s Papaya it is unforgettable.
The Dish: Hot Dog and Papaya Juice
The Restaurant: Gray’s Papaya (2090 Broadway at 72nd Street)
It is an UWS institution. Our entire family loves their hotdogs; we have been grateful patrons for over 2 decades.
Big thanks to the guys behind the counter who are fast and courteous!
Still the best dog in NYC.
Love Gray’s Papaya! Unfortunately been cutting down on hot dogs these days…
I think there was a similar hot dog joint there even earlier. Anyone remember?
It was indeed an Orange Julius and prior to that a Nedick’s. However, BEFORE THAT, it was a large news/candy/card/sundries store that probably had been there on that corner for many years.
Apparently it was once an Orange Julius and before that a Nedicks.
Mustard. Sauerkraut. Onions.
Ketchup is a crime against hot dogs.
You got that right!
My favorite hot dogs in the world. 2 with ketchup mustar sauerkraut and 2 with mustard sauerkraut onions. Plus half banana half coconut drink.
Again with the ketchup… still; great dogs, good prices & service.
your colon thanks you.
I am so relieved the comment section isnt full of comments from people who just got here. It doesnt get much better than a slice, Zabars and Greys Papaya in the same day.
In Philly they have the “Philly Taco” which is a cheesesteak with a slice wrapped around it (not for the faint of heart, or for anyone who cares for their heart for that matter!). Perhaps the UWS taco would be a dog from Gray’s with a slice wrapped around it?
As my Mom taught me, “Well done on a cold roll with mustard and sauerkraut, please.”. Best way to order and eat GP dogs. 🙂
I am pretty sure it was a Orange Julius
2 blocks from us – best quick dose of sodium on the UWS. Love that place.
I started reading your article with hesitation… that Grey’s Papaya was going down the shredder like so many other businesses across Manhattan and the UWS.
I’m so relieved and happy they’re still here and going to pickup 4 right now.
It was the first place I ate when I moved here in ’98, and although I’ve bounced around a little in the intervening years it’s the place I always come back to. Somewhere I still have the “Polite New Yorker” pin that they used to sell – now I’m back in the hood for good I’ll have to dig it out for the nostalgia value.
I remember when you could get two hot dogs and a papaya drink at Gray’s Papaya for something like $1 and then $1.25 … the last time I was near there, there was a man begging for money for food and I offered to buy him hot dogs instead and I was shocked that it was almost $3 … and my son who now lives in CA recently visited and bought hot dogs and a drink and he said he paid more than $7! Many out of town friends who visit make a pilgrimage to GP … because it apparently has many fans on social media!
A friend of mine was shortchanged there c. 1980 and I have not done business with Gray’s since.
A friend was shortchanged 42 years ago and you’ve missed all those dogs since? I’m wondering who was shortchanged.
Not I: as a vegan since 1987 or so, I haven’t really been missing those meat dogs so much. (The tasty papaya drinks are another matter.) As for my veggie-dog cravings, those were satisfied by another eatery, one that sadly went out of business a dozen years ago. But life goes on!
That’s a long time to hold a grudge… I can’t even calculate how many dogs have passed under that particular bridge since then… c. 1980; that was after the Stone Age ended right? Near the Dawn of the Dog & Papaya Age?
Or was it after the Bronze Age? I think the Bronze Age ended back when skin cancer rates started their first spectacular rise…
It’s a long time to hold a grudge but not at all a long time to uphold one’s honor, imho, and that’s what I’ve been doing.
No, that was after the Coppertone Age. 1980, for those not around then, may be regarded as the pre-Internet, pre-smartphone period, when NYC, and the UWS in particular, was rich in bookstores, pizzerias, and Chinese restaurants. Never mind the jet-pack, where’s my time machine?
I had been going to Gray’s for many years UNTIL they served up a dog for me which was soaked in UNDRAINED sauerkraut juice. It was not only UNEDIBLE but the server refused to replace it. Nor was I ever able to reach anybody there! If they don’t care why should I? Adios!
Yes, the refusal to replace — or, in my friend’s case, refund — is the deal-breaker. The question to ask is not how many hotdogs you or I have missed out on but rather how many dollars Gray’s has forfeited as a result of such behavior.
The Gray’s on 86th and 3rd Ave (East Side) will be closing…….the buildings on that corner will be razed. I don’t remember the details, but over 25 years ago the owners were related or working together……there was some falling out. So, I was also glad to see that this article was not about a closing on the West Side!!!
That’s a Papaya King, not Grays!
I have been eating Papaya’s hot dogs since the 70’s. Unfortunately, the hot dogs are now the size of Number 2 pencils.The skin is also tough.
Hurray for Gray’s Papaya! Hope they stay forever.
I just wish they would bring back the fresh orange juice, even if it would be pricey. It always made that perfect finishing touch to the hotdog.
I moved to NYC in ‘81, right after I graduated. Lived on 70th & B’way. Coming home from the clubs in the wee hours, popping out at 72nd Street express stop, couple of home runs and a medium papaya set me right for the night. Still get the cravings.
Anyone remember the movie “Warriors”?
Warriors come out to playyayyy
Thank you for the reminder. A very good reason to return for a visit.
Yes – it is a NY institution and I’m glad they’re still in business… BUT – the area in front of the store has become an eyesore. A little bit of sweeping and hosing down the sidewalk once in a while would go a long way and would make it much more inviting.