Beloved hot dog hotspot Papaya King reopens on Upper East Side

The Upper East Side’s favorite hot dog spot is back.

Papaya King reopened its doors at a new location over the weekend after closing its mainstay storefront at 86th Street and Third Avenue back in April 2023. But on Saturday, the King was back in action — just across the intersection from the last location — as first reported by the local news website Upper East Site.

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The eatery opened more than 90 years ago, serving up classics like a hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut and papaya juice.

Catalina Gonella/Gothamist

No dog sat on the grill for too long on Sunday afternoon as a stream of customers strolled into the shop, most getting a classic number one, or “The Original” order – two hot dogs and one of the joint’s sweet tropical drinks — a sweet and salty pairing made in meat sweat heaven.

Dan Venetucci, 26, has been living in the area since 2021 and used to frequent the old location. Though he couldn’t get his regular order of fries, because the fryer wasn’t going just yet, he said he was happy to take his hot dogs to go.

“I was really excited to see that they were back here and wanted to come by, give them a little business for the first few days they were open,” he said. “It’s definitely a different vibe than the old place. The old place had all the character to it, but they keep a lot of the same stuff. But it’s good, I like it in there.”

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The hot dog hotspot reopened its doors at a new location over the weekend after closing its mainstay storefront at 86th Street and Third Avenue back in April 2023.

Catalina Gonella/Gothamist

Regulars were devastated when the iconic original storefront closed last year, lamenting the loss as they chowed down on what some thought could be their very last Papaya Dog. They were soon told they wouldn’t have to wait too long for a new location to open just across the street at 1535 Third Ave., but the New York Daily News reported in January that those plans were derailed, sending fans back into a Papaya purgatory.

But it was a moment to rejoice over the weekend, as frank fans finally got their grand opening. People trickling in had commented on the amount of space in the new digs, and the way they kept some of the old charm with black and white photos of celebrities on the walls and the signature red and yellow signage.

“So happy that you’re back!” customers could be heard telling the grill masters.

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An “open” sign sits in the front window of the new Papaya King location on the Upper East Side.

Catalina Gonella/Gothamist

Rosa Rosario, 29, said she has always opted for the onions as her topping. The East Harlem native has been going to Papaya King for as long as she can remember, and said she couldn’t wait a day longer to see for herself if the dogs were as good as she remembered.

“Yeah, it’s still the same classic taste,” she said, after her first bite. “It’s a New York classic, that’s why they’ve been around for so long.”

Jay Santrone from the Bronx said he agreed. He said he saw the new location opened on social media while working on Sunday and drove straight down after work.

“This is an institution, you understand? There’s a difference between pop-up places — this is an institution. I pretty much grew up here. I brought my kids here, and they’re 23 now,” he said.

He took his first bite inside the store Sunday, but said he was taking the rest of his order home to enjoy some Netflix.

“Doesn’t taste the same, it tastes even better, for real, after almost a year and a half,” he said.

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