Papaya King reopens after iconic New York City building is demolished for luxury high-rise: ‘I’m crying’

The king is dead, long live the king.

Popular New York City hot dog restaurant Papaya King has reopened in a new location, as the iconic building the restaurant used to call home has been sold and demolished.

“It brings tears to my eyes now that it’s back,” neighbor Jamie Boone, 57, said Sunday as he stopped by Papaya King’s new offices on the Upper East Side.

“My sister couldn’t even walk past that place that was being demolished,” Jamie’s sister CJ, 68, said, describing how she was “born and raised” going to the store with her parents.

Papaya King has reopened on the Upper East Side in a new location right across from its old spot. James Keivom

Papaya King , Anthony Bourdain once called it “the pinnacle of the art of hot dog making” , It reopened its doors on Saturday, after its old fluorescent-lit space was closed permanently last spring to make way for the construction of a luxury skyscraper.

The new location is right across from the intersection of East 86th Street and Third Avenue — a huge relief to those who feared they’d never see it again in the neighborhood where it thrived for nearly 100 years.

“For the past one and a half years, I have been getting a lot of calls every day. Some people tell me that they would die for Papaya King,” said manager Mohammad Alam.

“We don’t want to lose our customers, because we live in the neighborhood. This is our company that’s been here for 92 years.”

The new Papaya King reopened on Saturday after being closed for over a year James Keivom

Customers flocked to the new location on Sunday afternoon, sipping their spicy Red Hot beverages with ketchup and onions and serving them alongside Papaya King’s signature tropical drinks.

“My dad grew up nearby and he always loved it, so when I was a kid and we would go to New York he would always take us there,” said New York resident Bill A., adding that he is thrilled to continue the tradition again with his own kids.

“This is great. , My daughters will be so excited. They are 9 and 12 and they love this place. They were so sad when it closed a few years ago. This will be the third generation of Papaya King.”

Customers again flocked to Papaya King over the weekend, including some who hadn’t been able to visit before it closed last year. James Keivom

Papaya King first opened at its old location in 1932, where it became a mainstay for generations of New Yorkers and visitors passing through.

But it was forced to move out of its longtime home in 2021 after the building’s landlord sold it to developers for $21 million.

Ownership vowed to reopen in a location across the street, but negotiations with a new landlord fell through in early 2024 and its future is up in the air — especially since its original home was razed to the ground.

Customers who visited there on Sunday called the dogs at the new location “excellent.” James Keivom

“This is a New York institution and the old location should have been landmarked,” said Jill Schlesinger, who grew up on the same block with Papaya King founder Constantine “Gus” Poulos. “I attended all the board meetings to try to save the place.”

Alam said since the shop opened yesterday, the number of customers has not been as high as before, but he hopes that will change once the news spreads that the shop has reopened.

“I think it will take a little while, maybe a week or two,” he said.

The old Papaya King location, which the restaurant called home for nearly 100 years, was demolished to make way for a high-rise building. James Messerschmidt

By then, the new location has already attracted some first-time customers.

“We moved here about two years ago and we started looking into what food we should eat here and everybody said that’s why we’re here,” said Eric Wang while eating a dog meal with his wife, Erin, and daughter.

Although he was “a little late” in arriving at the old location, he said everything at the new Papaya King was “excellent.”

Additional reporting by David Propper,

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