UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (PIX11) — Papaya King was the first. It’s often been imitated but never equaled, according to its many fans. But now a wrecking ball is on the menu instead of its signature hot dogs and fruity drinks.
“I grew up on the Upper East Side and Papaya has been a staple of mine for years,” said Papaya King customer David Gad. “It’s closing? It’s heartbreaking.”
Papaya King has been an institution on the Upper East Side for more than 75 years. It’s a humble one-story oasis on 86th Street and Third Avenue serving up arguably the best and cheapest hot dogs in the city, coupled with tropical drinks like mango, piña colada and papaya.
But now after a lengthy court battle, Extell Development reportedly has paid $21 million for the narrow corner lot of stores to demolish them and put up a high-rise.
“I’m told that celebrities would pull up in their Rolls-Royces and Jaguars on their way up to Westchester and Connecticut,” said Upper East Side resident Agnes Burns.
It seems like practically everyone passing by has a story to tell and more than one fond memory of Papaya King.
“Standing there with friends on a cold night, hanging out with a dog and a sausage,” said Moishe Kampin, a painter and customer at Papaya King. “It’s very nostalgic.”
“I love my Papaya King and customers love Papaya King,” said Mohammed Malek, the longtime night shift manager. He doesn’t know when the last dog will be served up, but everyone behind the counter insisted this PIX11 reporter revisit my favorite, the appropriately named Home Run: $3.99 for a juicy frank with sauerkraut and onion and the always yummy papaya juice.
“It’s a New York institution that has been here forever,” said Sarah Berg, now a Washington Heights resident who grew up on the Upper East Side. “It’s cheap, quick, delicious and consistent. I’m going to miss it a lot.”
Neither the Papaya King owner nor Extell Development were available to comment on the possible closing and date of demolition.