Eat Like a New Yorker: Gray’s Papaya—Arguably the Best Hot Dogs in New York City August 25 2017

NYC hot dogs

When people plan a trip to New York, having a traditional NYC hot dog is on most people’s bucket list. When it comes to hot dogs, everyone has their favorites.  Some will tell you that Nathan’s in Coney Island is the best.  Others may say that you need to be on the lookout for Sabrett hot dog carts. Still, most hot dogs on the street, even Sabretts are made in boiling water, and lack something yummy that is present when a frankfurter is grilled to perfection.  However, if you want a truly delicious hot dog that is a tradition for many New Yorkers, especially ones one a budget or who had too much to drink earlier in the evening, then you have to go to Gray’s Papaya flagship on 72nd and Broadway or their newest location at 612 Eighth Ave., between West 39th and 40th Streets in Manhattan. The snap of these delicious grilled, well-seasoned hot dogs is worth the flight to New York City.

Note:  There are many restaurants with the word “papaya” in it, such as Papaya King and they are similar and will do in a pinch, but they are not quite the same.  If you are Uptown, make a plan to visit one of these stand-up only or take out eateries--you won’t be disappointed.

What makes Gray’s Papaya so special?

Gray's Papaya

So many things!

  • The quality: The 100 percent all-beef franks come from a proprietary recipe from a manufacturer in New Jersey, called Marathon, actually the same place that makes Sabrett franks. The buns are fresh and the toppings are traditional.
  • The specialty drinks: The name of the business itself comes from the original owner and the papaya drink they make.  Gray’s Papaya has huge vats of special drinks in flavors such Papaya, Piña Colada, Banana Daiquiri, Coconut Champagne, Mango, Strawberry Supreme.  And don’t let the names fool you--there is no alcohol in any of these drinks.  Purists enjoy their Pineapple Juice and Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice.  They also have sodas, coffee and water too, but give their specialties a try on your first visit. 
  • The price: A hot dog runs you just $2.50. The “Recession Special” includes two hot dogs and one 14 oz. drink for $4.45, but may change sometime soon. Ketchup, mustard, onions and sauerkraut are free.  Chili, relish and cheese are only $0.50 each.  This is the one of the best, delicious deals in town.

Even though the lines can be long, customers are served very quickly and will have their hot dog and drink in hand within a reasonable time frame.

Gray’s Papaya is a fixture in New York City pop culture.  Celebrities mention it regularly on talk shows and in memoirs.  In fact, Samuel L. Jackson recently mentioned how he, Denzel Washington and others would save up for Gray's Papaya before they became successful actors. 

It was mentioned in the novels William Gibson’s Spook County and Francine Pascal’s Fearless and it was a prominent component of issue #32 of comic book series The Avengers when Spider-man suggests that the team swings in for some hot dogs.    It has been used in the background for many projects filmed in New York, but it was more than a location and almost a character in a few notable films and TV shows including:

In film:

  • 2001 Down to Earth with Regina King and Chris Rock
  • 1997 Fools Rush In with Matthew Perry and Salma Hayek

  • 2008 Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist with Michael Cera and Kat Dennings
  • 1998 You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan
  • 2010 The Back-up Plan with Jennifer Lopez and Alex O’Loughlin
  • 1995 Die Hard with a Vengeance with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson


  • A box of Gray’s Papaya were shipped to Joel Fleishman in Northern Exposure
  • Carrie Bradshaw celebrated the publishing of her first book by visiting Gray’s Papaya in 2002 episode of Sex and the City “Plus One is the Loneliest Number."
  • Gray’s Papaya was featured a couple of times in How I Met Your Mother

  • Richard Castle tried to cheer up his daughter with the possibility of Gray’s Papaya on an episode of Castle
  • Glee showed Rachel and Kurt enjoying the hot dogs and drinks from Gray’s Papaya
  • Anthony Bourdain featured Gray’s Papaya in Season 3, episode 9 of No Reservations
  • Gray’s papaya got a good mention in Season 1, episode 3 in the HBO series Vinyl

The Gray’s Papaya was founded in 1973 by a former partner in the Papaya King chain Paul Gray.  It has frequently been listed as the best hot dog in New York from foodie sites and a recent issue of Time Out New York

This chain also has good breakfast sandwiches, bagels, and their coffee is inexpensive and quite good.

So when you are in NYC, skip the over-priced, not-delicious, and not-always the freshest dirty water hot dogs you can find on any corner, and plan a trip to Gray’s Papaya.  It is a special place for anyone who loves a good hot dog, or for people who want a true New York experience.  And, for those who don’t particularly like franks, then there is always the Papaya Drink or their especially yummy pineapple juice.  The team at New York Nightlife won't let you down. Enjoy!