Rumors of famed Upper East Side frank pusher Papaya King’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Carnivores can relish the news that the nonagenarian business, located at the corner of East 86th Street and Third Avenue, could live to see 100, now that Upper East Site has reported Papaya King’s plans to move the hot dog joint just up the next block to 1553 Third Ave.
News of the franks-and-fruity drinks fast food spot’s relocation comes after speculation that Papaya King’s days were numbered once developer Extell — of Manhattan’s famed “Billionaire’s Row” — filed plans to demolish the business’ building, Patch previously reported.
Soon after, Papaya King became mired in a lawsuit with its landlord, alleging that the red hot dealer’s management continued operations after its lease ended. Papaya King was eventually evicted from its original 179 East 86th St. location earlier this week.
New Yorkers, such as Frank Fleming, also known as Frank the Tank, and Michael Quinn, owner of Coney Island’s Feltman’s, quickly came to Papaya King’s defense. Last September, Quinn organized a “cash mob” to help save Manhattan’s own iconic frank seller, Brooklyn Paper previously reported.
More recently, self-proclaimed hot dog connoisseur Fleming organized an online petition, which has since garnered more than 360 signatures, to “Save NYC’s Iconic Papaya King.”
Fleming, who told amNewYork Metro he “goes around and reviews hot dogs,” was adamant about keeping the long-standing and last-standing establishment he’s frequented since Seinfeld’s Cosmo Kramer uttered those famous words — “I don’t want a movie hot dog. I want a Papaya King hot dog.”
While Fleming said he would never participate in Nathan’s iconic hot dog-eating competitions, he said he would always indulge in a Papaya King frankfurter — which, he added, sits pretty somewhere in his top 10.
“They have a good natural skin,” Fleming said. “What they do is they grill them up just the right way and when you bite it, it just snaps and there’s like a little bit of a juiciness to it. The snap is what makes the Papaya King special.”
And so, he looked to save that special “snap” that he’s been savoring for the past 25 years.
“I heard that they’re going to tear it down and build just another high rise building and I felt that was wrong,” Fleming said. “We’re talking a historical spot. I look around New York and all I see are chains. Chipotle’s and McDonald’s on every block.”
The New York original was founded in 1932 by Greek immigrant Constantine “Gus” Poulos. The business prided itself on its “original pairing of franks and tropical drinks” and especially on its connection to food celebrities, such as Martha Stewart and Julia Child — as its owners once stated, “It’s not just the hot dog and tropical drink that make Papaya King special. It’s the people. From policemen to politicians, celebrities to construction workers, firefighters to financiers, Papaya King is where people come together to share a moment while rubbing elbows at the counter.”
While there appear to be happier days ahead for the longstanding business, Papaya King has been largely inactive as of late on its Instagram account and even less so on Facebook, posting only once during the onset of the pandemic seeking crowdfunded donations for its staff — and nothing since then. Papaya King’s main phone line continues to be inactive at the time of publication.
Fleming is still relieved to see his beloved frankfurters live on — especially so close to Papaya King’s original home in the heart of the Big Apple.
“Just the fact that they’re still gonna be in the same neighborhood and this is basically on the same block, just across the street, I think that’s a victory,” he said.