Batali, Lam, Sheraton, and Others Remember Gray’s Papaya

Eater asked a handful of chefs and writers for remembrances of Grays Papaya

By Greg Morabito - Source:

[Gray's Papaya in 2007. Photo: Yelp]

[Gray’s Papaya in 2007. Photo: Yelp]

Following yesterday’s news about the closing of Gray’s Papaya on Sixth Avenue, Eater asked a handful of chefs and writers for remembrances. Here’s a look back:

Mario Batali, chef/restaurateur: When we were building Babbo, at the end of a long day at Po and then four to five hours on the Babbo construction site, at least twice a week I had a two dollar dinner around 3 a.m. celebrating the joyous snap of a pair of Papaya dogs with kraut and mustard.

Mimi Sheraton, former Times critic: Say it isn’t so! It was my secret vice. I slipped in at all hours from mid-morning to mid-afternoon hoping I would not be spotted indulging at such a plebeian level and wondering if it was safer to face the window on 6th Ave. or the other on 8th St. Don’ think there is another hot dog, mustard and kraut option now between me at Katz’s.

Francis Lam, food writer and editor at Clarkson Potter: Fifty cents. Two dogs for a dollar. There was always such an elegance to it. I remember when my cousin first took me there, and I remember thinking, “There is so much awesome shit in this city.” Things change, of course — it went up to .75 probably 10 years ago, and while I could never begrudge them their quarter, I realize now I stopped going when that happened. But still, it was there, it was a small thing that helped make New York New York, and walking by it you always knew where your eyes would land on the signs saying the dogs were better than filet mignon, the signs for the tropical drinks no one ever drank. The signs thanking Giuliani, the signs offering the Recession Special that was up so long it spanned at least three recessions, the signs wishing a newly-elected Barack Obama the best of luck. Even after I stopped eating the hot dogs, walking by Gray’s Papaya always made me feel, for a second, how thrilled I was to be in my city.

Robert Simonson, cocktail writer: A sad day. In a perfect New York, every neighborhood would have a Gray’s Papaya or Papaya King or some such place where a dog, fries and a neon drink to match the signage could be had for under $5. It’s an essential public service. Like the local post office.

Doug Quint, proprietor of the Big Gay Ice Cream: One late and messy night, about 20 years ago and 20 minutes after last call, I was there huddled along the wall eating the first of my two dinner-or-breakfast Papaya dogs. Some folks were getting really vocal, but I ignored it. Suddenly a hand appeared and grabbed my back-up dog and sent it flying. Another dog hit me in the head. One helluva hot dog fight broke out! I didn’t really care to push my way out, so I just finished my dog and went home covered in Gray’s detritus.

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