Gray’s Papaya Revisited

You cannot live on the Upper West Side and not indulge in a Gray’s Papaya hot dog. I realized that I had not eaten a Gray’s since the mid seventies. I needed to check out if this corner icon was still worthy of the hype. For years I walked by the corner of 72nd and Broadway and was more impressed with the aesthetic of the witty puns, the diversity of the crowd and the ‘orange’ motif that brightened up a dreary winter landscape than lured to eat a signature frank.

But there I went and got the hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut. Now, I must tell you I am an expert on hot dogs. I once blind tasted and judged 13 different hot dogs with Mickey Mantle (certainly one of the highlights of my life) for the New York Times. Not only did I pick the winner but knew what it was-a Hebrew National all-beef frankfurter. That day we didn’t have a Gray’s in the running. If we had, it would have won.

Gray’s hot dog was fabulous. The meat and casing were tender and did not feel like chomping into saran wrap. The seasoning was pitch perfect. Yummy. I never described a hot dog as yummy before. And I was blown away by the sauerkraut. It was finely chopped and had a hint of sweetness. Sometimes after eating a frank you feel a little bloated. Not with this honey. I felt totally sated. Light. And kept me full until dinner time. Can’t wait to go back.

There was one less than stellar moment. I had realized that I gobbled my hot dog before I could take a picture of it. I waited around until they made another for a customer. A double order with kraut was put on the counter to be rung up. As a polite New Yorker-perhaps too polite-I asked the person who ordered it if I could snap a picture of it before she scooped it up. She took a second, looked me in the eye (she was alone, in her 50s and casually dressed) and said bluntly, “no”.  I guess I looked startled and pulled my phone back. She then said, “In New Yawk, I’ve seen a lot of weird things.” I replied, “I am a born New Yorker and I’ve never seen a violating incident in snapping a picture of a hot dog!”  She got angrier and I realized she probably hadn’t purchased the button I just had at Gray’s. Although a self selecting group. I am proud to be a  ‘Polite New Yorker’ and I give that woman a Bronx cheer.

PS.  I went back! Couldn’t resist.

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