It's been about 85 years since Greek immigrant Gus Poulos started selling snappy hot dogs and tropical drinks at the corner of 86th Street and Third Avenue in New York.
That restaurant would eventually change its name from Hawaiian Tropical Drinks to Papaya King in the 1960s, and those hot dogs would earn the praise of Julia Child and Martha Stewart, cementing a place in New York's dining scene.
Over the decades, Papaya King has made some attempts to expand -- outposts in Upper Darby, Pa. and Milford, Conn., a store in Philadelphia, a spot at a Long Island food court -- but it's never gone the way of other fast-food chains, infiltrating cities across the country, opening up in every strip mall and shopping center. New York, and that original 86th Street store, has always been Papaya King's heart.
The Hula Hula Dog served by Papaya King, which opened near the Strip.
But this past summer Papaya King made its way to Brooklyn, N.Y. Then in the fall, the decidedly East Coast institution did something unprecedented in its 85-year history: It went west.
In November, Papaya King opened its first Western outpost in Las Vegas. The restaurant is on Paradise Road, across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Just east of the Strip, it spans 1,558 square feet, almost three times the size of the New York locations.
Like its New York brethren it serves snappy, all-beef hot dogs, tropical drinks and deep-fried accompaniments, such as curly fries, fried Oreos and Kings tots covered in chili, onions and cheddar-cheese sauce. The menu includes classic combos that pair basic franks with a fruity beverage as well as a full lineup of 14 specialty dogs, topped with ingredients including jalapenos, fresh pineapple, fried pickles and pastrami.
And like its New York outposts, the Vegas Papaya King is open late, until 3 a.m. seven days a week, because sometimes after a long night out on the town, all you really need is a New York hot dog smothered in chili, a glass of papaya juice and a handful of napkins to wipe up all the drippings.