Papaya King Restaurant Reopens After Iconic New York Building Is Demolished for Luxury High-Rise Tower: ‘I’m in Tears’

The king is dead, long live the king.

Papaya King, the popular hot dog restaurant in New York City, has reopened its doors in a new location after the famous building that used to house it was sold and demolished.

“Now I cry when I see it back,” said a neighbor named Jamie Boone, 57, as she stopped by the new Papaya King location on the Upper East Side on Sunday.

“My sister couldn’t even walk past this place that was demolished,” added Jamie’s sister, CJ, 68, explaining how they were “born and raised” visiting the store with their parents.

Papaya King has reopened its doors on the Upper East Side with a new location across the street from its old spot. James Kevum

king of papaya It was once described as “the pinnacle of hot dog art” by Anthony Bourdain. It reopened Saturday, more than a year after its old fluorescent-lit location closed for good last spring to make way for a luxury tower.

The new location is located at the intersection of East 86th Street and Third Avenue — a huge relief for many who feared they wouldn’t see it reopen in the neighborhood where it has thrived for nearly 100 years.

“I have been receiving many phone calls every day for the past year and a half. Some people tell me I would die for Papaya King,” said restaurant manager Mohammad Alam.

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

The new Papaya King restaurant reopened on Saturday after being closed for more than a year. James Kevum

A steady stream of customers streamed into the new location on Sunday afternoons, loading up their red hot drinks with pickles and onions and serving them with Papaya King’s signature tropical drinks.

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“My dad grew up nearby and always loved the place, so when we visited New York as a kid he would always make us come over sometime,” said New Yorker Bill A., adding that he is now happy to continue the tradition with his children again.

“It’s great. “My daughters will be so happy. 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 visits.”

Customers flocked back to Papaya King over the weekend, some of whom hadn’t been able to get in before it closed last year. James Kevum

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

But she was forced out of her old home after the building’s owner sold it to developers in 2021 for $21 million.

The owner had promised to reopen the building in a location across the street, but negotiations with the new owner fell through in early 2024, leaving its future in doubt — especially after its original home was demolished.

The dogs at the new location were described as “excellent” by customers who stopped by on Sunday. James Kevum

“This is a New York institution and the old location should have been a landmark,” said Jill Schlesinger, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Papaya King founder Constantine “Gus” Poulos. “I’ve been to every board meeting to try to save this place.”

Alam said customer flow has not been as strong as it was since the opening yesterday, but he expects that to change as word spreads about the store’s reopening.

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

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The old Papaya King site, which the restaurant called home for nearly 100 years, was demolished in order to build a high-rise tower. James Messerschmidt

Even then, the new site has already attracted some new customers.

“We moved here about two years ago and started looking for food we should try here and everyone said this is why we are here,” said Eric Wang while eating a dog with his wife, Erin, and their daughter.

Although they were “a little late” to the old place, they said everything at the new Papaya King was “excellent.”

Additional reporting by David Propper.

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