Of the two condiments on this delicious hot dog, one is a recent addition to the roster.
Long-time Greenwich Village landmark Gray’s Papaya began life as a renegade branch of Papaya King in 1973. But though Papaya King, founded 1937, has evolved somewhat over the years in its menu, Gray’s always kept it more bare bones, offering only franks dressed with onions, kraut, ketchup, and mustard, or any combination thereof, offered in an expanse of chrome and yellow tile.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the blindingly bright interior beckons.
In the austerity of its offerings, Gray’s never failed to ignite a nostalgic spark in the frank eater. Imitators like Papaya Dog peddle hamburgers, fries, fish sandwiches, and corn dogs, but Gray’s remained true to its origins for nearly 40 years, like one of the great stately hot doggeries of New Jersey. (Boulevard Drinks of Jersey City springs to mind.)
But Gray’s — whose mainly Filipino staff is stately in the execution of their duties — has been updating lately. First, dollar slices of pizza appeared at a newly formed counter in the rear, displacing slightly the giant pump plastic jars of ketchup and mustard.
Just recently, the place expanded its list of condiments, adding three new ones to the original four: molten cheese-like substance, emphatically canned chili con carne, and — odd man out — green pickle relish. Not as green as the pickle relish on a Chicago Red Hot, but green nonetheless. And achingly sweet.
The new condiments sit athwart the griddle at Gray’s Papaya.
The new chili-cheese dog at Gray’s Papaya looks like any other chili-cheese dog in town.
Pickle relish is actually the condiment I’ve been craving, the one I’ve used with mustard since being a kid. So nice to have it now with the all-beef, natural-skin frank purveyed at Gray’s. The one that pops when you bite it.
I tried the other two new toppings, too. Nothing compelling, but just about average for a hot dog stand, where ramping up the fat content is a preoccupation with any meal.
Still sad to have an ancient institution cave in to commercial pressures to attract a new clientele, for whom a frankfurter without chili and cheese is unthinkable.
402 Sixth Avenue
Follow me on Twitter — @robertsietsema