Volume 76, Number 21 | October 11 - 17, 2006

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Gray’s Papaya on Eighth St., left. Frank Marti at Papaya Dog, right, which, at two years old, is the new kid on the block on Sixth Ave.

Papaya vs. papaya; Dogs-and-juice rumble, kind of

By Lori Haught

Papaya proprietors vend their hot dogs and fruit juice all over the city every day. For years, the unlikely but affordable combination has struck a pleasing chord with New Yorkers.

“It’s a concept that works,” said Robert Goetz, owner of Papaya Dog on the corner of Sixth Ave. and Fourth St.

Papaya Dog has been a mere four blocks from the 20-year-old Gray’s Papaya on Sixth Ave. and Eighth St. for two years now. Both stores have locations all over the city.

They look similar, much like all papaya places in the city, with yellow and red being the décor’s dominant colors. They have standing room only — Gray’s with it’s traditional counter facing out the window, and Papaya Dog with high tables in the corners. The grill, the hot dogs and the drink dispensers all look exactly the same as well.

Yet, both have customers who are fiercely loyal to their preferred papaya.

In this reporter’s opinion, the hot dogs are better at Papaya Dog but the papaya drink is better at Gray’s.

At Papaya Dog the buns are soft and the options are many. You can get a regular hot dog, a turkey dog or even a vegetarian dog. You can also chose between a wide selection of ice creams. But the drinks, despite the sign on the door which reads “NO Artificial Chemicals, 100% Natural,” taste saccharine sweet and…well…chemical.

At Gray’s Papaya, the drinks are delicious. They taste like juice — no obvious chemical additives there. Gray’s also offers breakfast, a plus for the early birds looking for cheap food. The hot dogs are traditional and the buns are crispy.

It’s easy to see why some swear by one store or the other; but, in truth, most are indifferent.

Most of the customers at both stores said it all comes down to which they’re closest to when the urge to eat strikes them.

“A hot dog is a hot dog,” one man said last week while eating his two Gray’s Papaya hot dogs.

In fact, the only people who said there were people who swore by the individual papaya places were the owner of Papaya Dog and manager at Gray’s.

Ultimately, despite the fact that the stores are all over the city and on top of one another, there seems to be no real competition.

“We like to stay competitive in our prices, but there’s no real competition,” Goetz said. “We’re just the little guy. How could we compete with a 30-year-old establishment?”


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