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

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:


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.

New Hampshire hot dog review: Wildcat Inn

Okay, if you follow my work, you know by now that I need to try a hot dog everywhere I go. Sometimes, it’s far more fun to eschew upscale and go right for the lowest common denominator. On my trip to the White Mountains last weekend, I wasn’t expecting to indulge. After all, the region, in New Hampshire, is only a few hours from where I grew up … how could I find something worth actually writing about?

Needless to say, my perspective changed quickly.

I walked down to the Wildcat Inn and Tavern from my hotel, the Christmas Farm Inn, in Jackson, NH. It was one of the few establishments within walking distance, and after a full day of driving (well, as the passenger) from the New York area, I couldn’t fathom getting back into a car. While the main menu looked good, it was the bar menu that caught my attention … I was in the mood for something simple and filling. In my hunger and haste, I almost missed a menu item that was made for me: the “Ripper”.

%Gallery-123848%At $6.95 ($8.95 for two), it might seem a bit pricey for a hot dog, but keep in mind that it is served with fries. The dog is modeled on one from New Jersey, which created a connection between origin and destination for this trip. It’s described as:

Our tribute to the Rutt’s Hut “Ripper” in Clifton, NJ – the greatest hotdog of all time. Deep fried until it splits wide open, served crispy in a fresh bun with french fries and a side of caramelized onions

So, I couldn’t resist: I ordered the “Ripper,” sipping a glass of the house Cabernet Sauvignon while I waited for the delicacy (of sorts) to arrive. What I saw impressed me immediately. The Wildcat’s Ripper was not small. It stretched passed the bun on both ends but was still thick. It was cooked well, with a blackened exterior to prove that whatever it had been was now ready for consumption.

The first bite was incredible … and not because I had seven hours of road trip in my not-too-distant past. It snapped crisply. The blackened exterior enhanced the flavor within, almost sealing it for an explosive initial chomp. Since it was so large, the dog could be consumed in large bites without leaving you feeling as though the experience was over before it started. Well-prepared and tasty, it was an unexpected delight while on the road.

Sure, the other menu items on the Wildcat Inn’s menu are tasty and enjoyable. It’s certainly worth trying the pizza while you kick back and listen to the local band, the White Mountain Boys. But, you should definitely make room for the hot dog – it’s one you won’t want to miss.

[photos by Laurie DePrete]

Japadog: The hot dog of choice in Vancouver

Fortunately, this delicacy isn’t far from the convention center. So if you’re in Vancouver on business, you can duck out easily for the best hot dog the city has to offer. Japadog, lauded by Anthony Bourdain, has no walls or roof. Rather, it consists of two hot dog stands – each with different menu items – on Burrard Street. I visited both stands, on Smythe and W Pender – and ultimately decided to dine at the latter. After all, the location on Burrard and Smythe didn’t have hotdogs made from the laziest animal known to man.

Kobe beef is interesting. If you order a hamburger made from it, you’re probably getting scammed. The fat, which is what makes the difference, burns off in the process, and you’re eating a burger that might as well have come from an athletic cow. I generally approach a kobe beef hot dog with this healthy skepticism, but time an again, I find that it just doesn’t fit with dogs the way it does with burgers. At minibar in Boston, I had a fantastic kobe beef hot dog, and the one I downed at Japadog in Vancouver just confirms it.

%Gallery-122843%The difference is flavor. These beef hot dogs don’t have the same snap as the pork-based dogs you find at places like Crif Dogs and Grays Papaya, but the explosion of flavor more than compensates. Tasty and rich, these thick hot dogs, served on sesame seed buns, are nothing short of delightful – and they live up to the $10.25 price tag. I was a bit concerned to let Japadog adorn my hot dog with spicy mustard and ketchup, as I didn’t want to bury the flavor of the dog itself, but everything came together perfectly. When you visit, don’t modify the menu items!

Though the Japanese influence is obvious, Japadog makes a concerted effort to connect with its Canadian home. Before munching on your hot dog, take a look at the decorations atop it. The kobe beef dog comes with three Canadian maple leaf shapes on it … a unique touch on an already unique hot dog.

The Japadog kobe beef dog was the perfect break from the conference I was attending with Corporate Secretary magazine. Even with plenty of free food available, as is always the case at a conference, it seems, it’s definitely worth walking a few blocks up the street for a memorable hot dog.

So, that’s the top hot dog in Vancover. Take a look at the best dogs in Montreal, below.


SkyMall Monday: Products rejected by Skymall

Obviously, we love SkyMall and celebrate it every week right here in this space with SkyMall Monday. We enjoy everything that SkyMall has to offer (with only one exception). It’s no wonder, then, that I was recently quoted in a article about SkyMall. Despite being a world-renowned expert in all things SkyMall, even I can learn a thing or two about our favorite in-flight catalog. As such, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the article included a few examples of products that SkyMall has rejected. What horrific inventions would offend SkyMall’s sensibilities so much that they would refuse to peddle such wares? This week, SkyMall Monday takes a look at these rejected items to determine if they truly deserved to be exiled from the skies.

The Frank Former

Pictured above, the Frank Former “turns your favorite hot dog into a smiling “hot dog man” that comes to life before your eyes.” Firstly, I once saw a film entitled “Hot Dog Man” and, let me tell you, nothing about that movie was appetizing. Secondly, unless Dr. Frankenstein is cooking these hot dogs in his laboratory, I highly doubt that they will come to life. Lastly, people love hot dogs because they are simple. Throw one in a bun and eat it with your hands. Cut them up into bite-sized pieces for the kids. No muss, no fuss. The Frank Former appears to be mussy, fussy and full of lies.

Chuck the Yuck

It’s never fun to get airsick (or seasick, for that matter). Thankfully, airlines still provide barf bags for passengers who can’t handle the turbulence and/or “chicken” with “cream sauce.” In fact, those airsickness bags might just be the last free items that airlines still provide. Why, then, would you want to spend your own money on Chuck the Yuck? Perhaps if you wanted to show your style with a “hip line of barf bags, designed to dispose of all pregnancy and kid-related garbage and yuck.” At $4.95 plus $1.25 for shipping for a five-pack, the total works out to more than one dollar per bag. That’s a lot of money to literally throw in the garbage.


Ladies, how often have you envied the fact that men can urinate standing up? We pee on the side of the road when rest stops are unavailable, in the woods on camping trips and in alleys when the line at the bar is just too long. Sure, you can squat in all of those places, but that’s a risky maneuver. Thanks to GoGirl, however, you can now urinate standing up, too! As we typically do, let’s take a look at the product description:

GoGirl is easy to use. Just lower your panties, and put GoGirl against your body, forming a seal. Aim and, well, pee. Pretty simple, huh? GoGirl fits easily in your purse, pocket, or glove compartment…While the concept may be new to you, European women have used female urination devices for years.

So much wrong there. Sure, when you first purchase it, you’ll be caring around a clean GoGirl. After you use it? Why yes, that is a pee-soaked funnel next to your unfinished bag of Combos in the glove compartment (or worse, your purse – as if you don’t already have enough stuff in there). Also, Europeans have done plenty of things for years – ignored personal hygiene, expressed racism openly, kept the mullet alive – that I don’t recommend we embrace as Americans.

The upside to GoGirl? They created a promotional video. Their product may not be good enough for SkyMall, but their video (and the woman in the blazer with some epic 1980s shoulder pads) sure did make my day.

So, at least we have that. And, thousands of products that SkyMall does sell so that we can improve our lives. These products might not have made the cut, but we’re all better off because of it.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

A London hot dog worth eating!

I was skeptical at first. The hot dogs I’d eaten previously in the United Kingdom uniformly failed to impress. This wasn’t terribly surprising, of course: I’d never have pegged the country as a dog destination. So, when a friend suggested a spot in London, I took the recommendation while eating my (rather low) expectations.

I’m drawn to hot dogs. I’ve eaten them around the world, and I’m always on the lookout for something unique – which often matters more to me than the actual quality of the dog. The United States is obviously the top spot for hot dogs, though I have had good luck in Iceland, Sweden, South Korea and Canada. There’s no regional bias to cloud my judgment, and I walked to London’s Portobello Market with an open mind.

Despite my initial doubts about the recommendation I’d received, I was heartened by the name: Banger Bros. A hot doggery should carry a slightly pornographic appellation, lest it be accused of taking itself too seriously. Once inside, I surveyed the rather extensive menu (which includes burgers and even some baked goods) before placing the order on which I’d decided well before entering: two plain dogs that I’d enhance on my own with ketchup and mustard.

%Gallery-115889%The staff was good for a laugh, balking at my attempts to take pictures though giving fellow blogger Laurie DePrete a pass. I forgot about the folks behind the counter completely, though, when my dogs arrived.

They were big. Very effing big. Intimidating.

The fare, it seems, is susceptible to the same humor that could be applied to the establishment’s name, especially when you try to wrap your mouth around one. These hot dogs are big and thick, requiring an act of will for each bite. They are coked well, snapping when you bite into them, though the burst of flavor that comes with a dog from Crif Dog, Gray’s Papaya or even Popo’s is missing. Still, the hard work of Banger Bros. surpasses that of the other dog establishments I’ve visited in the United Kingdom.

Banger Bros. is a local chain, though the food and style are not reminiscent of the fast food joints in the United State If you’re curious, be patient: I hear that there are plans to bring the dog shop to tour side of the Atlantic.

[photos by Laurie DePrete]