Right around the time that Coney Dog was hitting LA straight out of Detroit, Papaya King was also making its way to the West Coast by way of some other city called New York. Never heard of it. Billboards glowed with the words “Papaya King,” yet this native Detroiter largely ignored the hot dogs of New York in favor of those from his native land. But when a Blackboard Eats discount for 30% off came around, Papaya King could no longer be ignored. I gathered a couple hot dog-loving friends and hit the road for Hollywood.
The first thing that should be made clear about Papaya King is that there are absolutely no papayas in the hot dogs. Yes, this is a little disappointing, but there is still very good reason for the name of the place. It is actually named for the papaya juice served there, which predated the hot dogs at the original New York location. That papaya juice is still important, but not nearly as much as the hot dogs.
The interior of the place is little more than a hot dog stand. The walls are covered with bright red and yellow paint and signs promoting all the uniqueness of papayas and Papaya King itself. There is only one small counter to stand and eat at, with a couple more outside. Needless to say, this was not a sit down and relax kind of place. Now, even without my 30% discount, the hot dogs at Papaya King were quite cheap and I quickly found myself a combo in need of ordering. Called the Grand Slam, this contained two signature dogs, a side of curly fries and a drink for $9.
I must say, I was a bit disappointed with the unvegan options. In fact, the best one they had available was called the Side on Top. This was their chili cheese dog, topped with curly fries. The curly fries gave them an extra couple points for creativity, but I was sad to see most toppings go the way of the vegetable. I ordered two of these for the combo, then got their namesake beverage to join in the festivities. In a few seconds, these were ready and we took them outside to eat, fully aware that our gluttony might draw the ire of the local homeless.
My two dogs looked pretty tasty, and when I bit in I found a pretty nice snap to these all-beef hot dogs. The chili was not my preferred type, lacking in kick and containing beans, but it got the job done. The cheese was the sort you would find on nachos at a ball game and the curly fries were quite well-done. Combined, this had the makings of a pretty decent hot dog. Above average, but not standout. The big disappointment, though was the bun. It tasted good, but was not equipped to handle hot dogs such as these. Even my friends who didn’t get such crazy hot dogs noticed the buns were not up to snuff. One would think decades of preparing these dogs and not offering seating would have led Papaya King to maintain hot dog-capable buns, but one would be wrong.
The papaya juice was a nice, somewhat healthy drink that provided a sweet counterbalance to the salty meal I was eating. It had the texture and sugar level of a melty orange julius and I could only imagine how delicious it would have been in that semi-frozen state.
For all nitpickings, though, the value of this meal cannot be understated. Two crazy all-beef hot dogs, a side of curly fries and a fruity beverage for just 9 bucks? That’s pretty damn hard to beat on a normal day, but let’s not forget that my 30% discount dropped the price to 6 measly greenbacks. They may have room for improvement (which I won’t hold out for for a place going on 80 years of service), but they are certainly above average.
And as a bonus, we managed to avoid any sort of homeless humbling while devouring our dogs.