I just got back from Chicago, sampling all the dogs that city had to offer, so even though I visited the King in May, this one is going to be an easy review for me. I have some notes to fall back on in the blackberry as well, so I’ll be able to conjure up all the feelings from that night as if it were yesterday.
Thinking back on it, it was a pretty shitty night.
It was my birthday, and I was by myself. My girlfriend and I had broke up a week before (she was going to take me to Blue Hill). My business lost a contract that Tuesday. My mom, who was supposed to be coming down to take me out for dinner, decided that she was going to stay with her husband’s family in NYC at the last minute. The forty-something woman who I was subletting from was getting back that evening, and I had to go sleep on the futon in the 7×6 room stacked with the rest of her shit (she was the packrat to end all packrats – eg. she had a minidisc player) instead of the king I’d been using for the past two months. I don’t usually feel bad for myself, but this was a perfect shitstorm happening all at once, compounded by the birthday, of course. The low point of the year, for sure – looking back on it, it wasn’t that bad at all (aside from the fact I missed out on Blue Hill – that would have been an exceptional birthday present).
Every so often, I took the first avenue bus instead of the 6 train to get back to Harlem. Occasionally it was because I was reading, sometimes it was because I was hungry, sometimes it was because I didn’t have shit to do. Tonight it was all three – I finished The Omnivore’s Dilemma and decided the best way to commemorate that occasion was by having Meal 1.
Don’t those plastic hot dogs look delicious? Don’t forget the Papaya Drink:
I gotta tell you, I’m huge on smoothies. I rarely indulge in drinks that cost more than $3 without alcohol in them, but if you’re going to write a review of the papaya king, you absolutely must have the Papaya drink.
It’s just as heavenly as it looks in the picture. It’s smooth, soft, creamy … I could have easily killed three of these things. I don’t even remember if they are over $3, but they’re worth it. You gotta get one of these if you come here.
The Cajun Cheese Fries, on the other hand, I will allow you to skip:
Not because they’re bad. They’re great, it’s just that you’ve had them before. They’re curly fries with cheez whiz from a can. Nothing special about them, but they’re delicious. I’d say the bite pictured was 30% corn syrup.
I picked two dogs from the menu, the first one I devoured was the Southern Comfort:
Chili, Cole Slaw, and Chopped Onion. I can’t have chili on a dog without comparing it to the Half Smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl. I don’t know if the world will ever see a chili dog better than the Chili Half Smoke. If you’ve tried Ben’s and think this is blasphemy, please tell me where to go in the five boroughs to get a better chili dog and I’m there tomorrow morning.
The Southern Comfort was good. It’s the best dog I’ve had in the city so far. It is just a hot dog, however. I am more of an Italian Sausage guy, myself:
The italian sausage was good for the price. Comparing this to The Sausage Guy in Fenway, it’s a piece of shit, but compare it to a sausage that you can get for $3.50 on the Upper East Side, it’s best in class. If I had a jones for a sausage and pepper sandwich, Papaya King would at least cross my mind.
I was taking pictures of the place the whole time I was there. For some reason, when I tried to take a picture of the Papaya machine, the old Indian guy jumped in front of the machine, blocked my photo, and started spewing some unintelligible BS. I went for my card, tried to hand it to him, and he put his hands up as if I was robbing the place. Another guy stepped in, grabbed the card and pushed the noob to the side to let me get the shots.
It’s funny, you can’t shoot at Momofuku Ko; I get that – but Papaya King? I don’t know where the worker got the idea to prevent me from getting pics, but it seemed out of the ordinary for a hot dog vendor to be wary of cameramen.
That quizzical altercation and the Papaya drink brought me some sunshine on a cloudy day. I probably wouldn’t go back for the food, but I would definitely pick up a Papaya drink if I chanced by again. If anything is going to make you smile, here, it’s the namesake.
179 East 86th Street
New York, NY 10012