Suddenly, there’s a lot happening in the normally staid world of Papayas. Papaya King, the uptown institution that opened a St. Marks location a few years ago, is celebrating its 85th anniversary on March 3 and 4. For the occasion, they’re instituting “throwback prices” of 32 cents for tropical drinks and hot dogs (with sauerkraut, onions, or relish). There’ll be giveaways as well. Just one thing: The East Village location isn’t participating, so you’ll have to hit up the locations at 179 East 86th Street in Manhattan or 6 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.
A press release insists that “Papaya King is The Original. Accept no imitations”– but there is one other papaya purveyor that has a fair amount of cred. Gray’s Papaya opened in 1973 after Nicholas Gray, who had owned a Papaya King franchise, started up his own operation. As Eater has noted, “the two stands have had a rivalry as fierce as that of the Mets and Yankees ever since.”
Of course, many of us are partial to Gray’s, if only because its location at the corner of West 8th Street and Sixth Avenue (now tragically the site of a juice bar that shall go nameless) made it a beacon for NYU students and downtown bar-crawlers. Sure, there’s till another Papaya King rival, Papaya Dog, nearby, but the closing of Gray’s three years ago left a hole in our hearts (or maybe that’s just the lack of heartburn). Heck, BuzzFeed even listed “8 Reasons To Miss Gray’s Papaya In The West Village.”
Anyway, the good news is that Gray’s is about to open a location near Port Authority, so you can at least grab a snappy one next time you’re trapped in that hellhole. A Gray’s employee at the Upper West Side location tells us there isn’t yet an opening date for the gleaming, white-tiled store at 612 8th Avenue (when we passed by this morning, there were still construction permits in the papered-over windows), but they’re hoping to be up and running in a week or two.