Manhattan hot doggery Gray’s Papaya set to raise prices (again)

New York City hot dogs at Gray's Papaya

It’s murder, I say! Murder!

Well, I don’t say it … Gray’s Papaya does. The Manhattan hot dog institution is about to raise its prices once again. This will be the third price increase since I moved to the Upper West Side in 2004.

There’s a rather dramatic sign hanging in the window at Gray’s Papaya screaming, “MURDER!” It continues:

WE ARE GETTING KILLED BY THE GALLOPING INFLATION IN FOOD COSTS
UNLIKE POLITICIANS WE CANNOT RAISE OUR DEBT CEILING AND ARE FORCED TO RAISE OUR VERY REASONABLE PRICES
PLEASE DON’T HATE US

Okay, it’s hard to hate the folks who sell two hot dogs and a drink for a modest $4.50, though I was much happier when it was a dollar cheaper, back in 2008. Seven years ago, one hot dog cost only 85 cents. Then it skyrocketed, on a relative basis, to $1.25 in 2005, inching up to $1.50 three years ago.

%Gallery-126040%The deal, which still returns change for a $5 bill, is called the “Recession Special,” which took real meaning in 2008, as New York City suffered the shock of the financial crisis. Since then, as we have struggled toward a recovery that never really seems to come, the Gray’s Papaya Recession Special has been a fantastic alternative to … well, just about everything.

But, where will the prices go next?

It’s hard to say. The notice has been up for a few weeks, but I have yet to see any indication of price change. The guy working behind the counter said he didn’t know where prices were headed and that they would probably take effect in early June. I walked by a few days ago and didn’t see anything different.

There is a lesson in all this: buy hot dogs.

If you bought hot dogs from Grays’ Papaya in 2004 at 85 cents each, they would have nearly doubled in value by 2008. With all the gripes were hearing about food inflation, it’s pretty safe to say that we’ll see another big spike in 2011.

Hot dogs are the new gold.

I guess the only problem would be storing them. I do suspect, though, that hot dogs are like Twinkies – they last forever.

If you find yourself in New York, definitely hit Gray’s Papaya. If the prices are higher than you expect, try not to complain. It still really is the best deal in town!

Note: The space in the window at Gray’s Papaya seems to be reserved for political messages, as it once endorsed Barack Obama for president. Now, the company is sending a message about government spending and deficit management. Who ever knew that a dog from Gray’s Papaya came with a free civics lesson?

Another note: when prices were raised in 2008, I stopped at Gray’s Papaya on my way to work for a hot dog for breakfast (it’s sick, I know). There were television cameras set up out front. I didn’t know why. Well, it turns out that MSNBC was doing a story on the price increase. And, a good friend of mine, now my roommate, wound up being interviewed about it. He’s in this clip.

Photo of the Day (03.27.10)

Taking pictures of food has never been more popular. Nearly everyone I know creates their own “food porn.” Food has become an integral part of our travel stories and photographs. More often than not, we document the strange, extravagant and repulsive things that we ingest. Lost in those extremes are the images of the classics. What I love about this image by Flickr user Paul_Brady (whose tumblr blog is a must-read) is that it’s not showy. It’s not braggadocios. It’s just one man’s simple meal at New York City’s famous Gray’s Papaya (Upper West Side location).

We don’t have to constantly try to impress people with tales of fois gras and deep fried tarantulas. Sometimes, all it takes is a classic to make your friends’ mouths water.

Do you take food porn photos? Submit your images to Gadling’s Flickr group right now and we might use it for a future Photo of the Day.

The Port Authority hot dog


I don’t think anybody enters a bus station looking for an unforgettable culinary experience – at least not a good one. But, when you’re in transit, you need to eat, especially if you’re staring down several hours on what is quite possibly the most unpleasant form of transportation. So, before dashing down to see the in-laws on Christmas Eve, I stopped at Villa Pizza, in the southern part of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, to grab a bite. I saw hot dogs wrapped in pizza dough and knew my problem had been solved.

I didn’t have high hopes for the dog – c’mon, I picked it up at a bus station. And, because there was dough instead of a traditional bun, I realized I’d have to eat it sans ketchup and mustard. As I rode the escalator down to my gate, I started to wonder if I’d made a mistake. I was about to chomp into a nude Port Authority hotdog. There were no condiments behind which to hide. I’m committed to my unique brand of hot dog blogging, though, so I had no choice but to follow through.Once I got settled into my seat at the back of the bus, I finally took a look at my meal. The hot dog from Villa Pizza was thicker than most, and it was still hot (lukewarm dogs suck).

The hot dog lacked the snap characteristic of the fare of New York’s better hot dog shops (such as Gray’s Papaya), but it was decent on flavor. Like most dishes in a pizza place, it was a tad too greasy, but I was able to live with that. The pizza dough in which the dog was shrouded added a dimension – a texture not normally found in a hot dog experience.

I wouldn’t rush back to Villa Pizza for a hot dog. In all fairness, it isn’t the joint’s focus, and there are many dogs in the city that are far superior. When you have a bus to catch, though, your range of choices shrinks drastically, and you could do worse than to pick up a dog from Villa Pizza.

See Chicago wieners (and others) on IgoUgo list

Chicago makes several appearances on IgoUgo’s list of top hotdog establishments, but there are plenty of spots across the country where you can pick up a great hotdog. My favorite apparently made the cut – a shortcoming of the list, I guess. For me, it doesn’t get better than Popo’s, in Swampscott, MA, and my local shop, Gray’s Papaya, is no slouch, either.

And, don’t forget that there are some dogs to be found outside the United States. I’ve had interesting eats in Stockholm, Montreal, East Anglia, Reykjavik and Madrid. That said, IgoUgo‘s honor roll is packed with fantastic hotdoggeries, and you’re bound to find something that satisfies the basest of “culinary” urges.

Get IgoUgo’s suggestions and reasoning after the jump.

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From IgoUgo:

Portillo’s, Chicago: “The hot dogs are all beef and are definitely the best in town. The cup of hot gold might not be real cheese, but darn, it’s good.”

Nathan’s Famous, Coney Island: “Sure, you can get their hot dogs at airports and malls throughout the country now, but they taste different in New York.”

Pink’s, Los Angeles: “Who knew you can fit two hot dogs in one bun (The Today Show Dog)? There’s even a crazy option with three hot dogs in a tortilla (Three Dog Night).”

Puka Dog, Koloa, HI: Located in a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shopping center,” Puka Dog’s homemade buns are spiked and warmed from the inside out before the bun is filled with a secret garlic-lemon sauce and topped with a veggie dog or a polish sausage – and star fruit, mango, or papaya relish.

Hot Doug’s, Inc., Chicago: “Not only do they have the classic Chicago-style dog but they also have the Elvis (with Polish sausage) and the occasional game”-try the alligator dog with blue cheese and order the duck-fat fries.

The Dog Out,San Ramon, CA: When walking into the Dog Out, the feeling is “it is going to be a fun meal.” Keep an eye out as sometimes the manager comes around with free ice cream for everyone.

The Wiener’s Circle, Chicago: There is not a Chicago-style hot dog like those “at The Wiener’s Circle (after midnight).” This place is one of character, “famous for people yelling and swearing at each other before they take part in the monstrosity that is cheese fries.”

Wright’s Dairy Rite, Staunton, VA: Open since 1952, this classic drive-in restaurant has had car-hop service since its inception. Inside, there’s a phone at every booth to call in your order. “The dogs come in regular size and Dogzilla, a 1/3-pound dog served on a sub bun.”

Chris’ Hot Dogs, Montgomery, AL: “Chris’ Hot Dogs is a dive, but everybody knows it was one of Hank Williams’ hangouts.” The place is dark, dingy, and kind of seedy, but the hot dogs are great. Regulars range from “construction workers to the governor.”

SuperDog, Portland: SuperDog prides itself on its natural and homemade goodies like “all-meat chili, soup, and cheesecake…yes, cheesecake.” The hot dogs are “the best,” the buns are “out of this world,” and, if you’re lucky, the beer on tap is “SuperDog IPA.”

Tour the world’s vandalism

Eyesore or art, graffiti is part of any culture’s public dialogue. Vandalism is visual profanity, and we all swear in our own f—ing ways. I’ve been drawn to these wall scrawls for a while, probably since I read Holden Caulfield‘s concerns about the subject in Catcher in the Rye. My fascination gained momentum while I was stationed in South Korea.

A soldiers’ bar in Tong Du Chon (the Peace Club, which is no longer there) was littered with attempted wit. “I used to believe in the common decency of main,” one drunken soldier-scholar printed at eye level. Another replied, “I still do.” Eight hours into a soju-induced haze, this stuff is profound.

Along the way, I’ve become a connoisseur of this crime, though only as an observer. I have seen social commentary and even debate. And, there’s even been a bit of meaningless paint spilled in the vain hope of making a point. I’ve soaked it all in and hit a few readers up for their tips, as well.

So, let’s take a tour of some of my favorite acts of defacement. Some reflect careful planning and show artistic talent. Others offer nothing more than layers upon layers of cries for attention and assertions of self-importance.In Iceland, I read in the local English language newspaper, the Reykjavik Grapevine, that an outbreak of graffiti was the result of building vacancies triggered by the weakened economy (and this was back in June). This was supported by the observations of the walking tour’s prophetic viking. Hell, the wall says it all.

The Parisians waxed political on the walls of metro stations. I was in town for the hotly contested presidential election of May 2007, and the ultimate winner, Nicolas Sarkozy, took a beating in the vandals’ press. This is nothing compared to the scratched-out eyes on campaign posters, though.

Translation: Sarko = Bush = Berlusconi = Shit. The tagger lumps the president of France with the now former president of the United States and the hotheaded former president of Italy … not to mention a steaming pile. Politics took center stage in Tallinn, Estonia, as well. Thankfully, the vandals worked in English, making it easy for me to take a stab at recreating the crime.

From what I could see, this is something of a public discussion. First, it seems, a disgruntled “activist” wrote “Fuck Fascism!” And, I have to admit, it’s hard to disagree with that. Next, a second person probably popped “anti” in front of fascism, before a third joined the spray-painted conversation by crossing out “fuck.” A fourth crossed out “anti,” and we’re left with fascism. But, the entire discourse supports the original position.

At least, that’s how I’d imagine the entire process unfolding.

The most compelling, however, was in Quebec. I found it fascinating that the retort to an assertion of independence was proffered in English.

Of course, my neighbors are far from innocent. Here on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, we seem to be waging a war on body image. Custo Barcelona, an upscale fashion retailer, has ads on the corner of W. 71st St. and Columbus Ave. The models, wearing about as much body fat as they are clothing, glare at me every time I walk to Gray’s Papaya for a hot dog, as if holding me in contempt for my substandard diet. Someone (not me, I promise) decided to comment.

Hey, New Yorkers can be brutal, even in my quiet, peace-loving corner of the city. This is but one example of how the poor Custo models, have suffered, though. Check out the photo gallery below to get a sense of how Upper West Siders feel about this bit of eye candy.

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And, this is just a taste of what I have collected. Take a look at the next photo gallery to see what our readers have submitted. Fortunately, their collections are a bit more high-minded than mine. The stories with each photos are in the readers’ own words (with some slight editing).

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