I don’t know when exactly it happened, but it did. The continued gentrification (read in this context: homogenization) of New York City took another beloved establishment.
It might be strange to mention Grays Papaya in the Bourbon & Bacon section of this blog, but trust me, it makes sense. All too many times I’ve been out late after some conference or big rock show before the last train or bus departs looking for something to soak up the likes of Tir Na Nog or Brother Jimmy’s and lo-and-behold the big yellow neon Grays Papaya sign beckoned me. Recession Special blinking below reminding me how inexpensive a treat I could have.
At one time they were ranked as the best dog in New York. Amazing, when you consider the history of dogs in New York (and across the Hudson in North Jersey) and the iconic Nathan’s, the Sabrett’s carts adorning every corner, Katz’s Deli, the higher power commercialism of Hebrew Nationals and even the bagel dog all compete along with thousands of mom-and-pop concocted variants.
This was for good reason – it was the best bang for your buck. Generally, hot dogs really reach dizzying heights of culinary perfection and so it’s as much about what you spend as what you get. You were always served quickly but really polite (even during the worst overcrowding of the restaurant at its peak times) staff who were more than eager to participate in the Grays experience. The dog had a delicious snap to it when you bit in and the plush white bun around it held up nicely to the burst of meaty goodness. Four, maybe five bites later and you’re done and eying a second (or fifth, as the case may be) in an addictive fashion. It was in the pure simplicity of what it was that made it great. Well, that and you could get them 24 hours a day, so it was convenient for those off-hour meals.
So many great stories are captured by the Grays experience, not just for the millions who muched these treats but in pop culture too as it serves as a backdrop in many a TV series, film and song. In that, it’s sad now that it’s gone and probably for good. What was once a beaming icon of local flavors has given way to the nationalistic homogony and corporate missives of White Castle and Taco Bell down the street.