There’s a reason why I don’t like to watch films in movie theaters.
It’s because I’ll be distracted the whole time by the itching urge to flash open my smartphone and start googling. Whether it is an issue discussed on film, or the background/filmography/availability of a hot actor, or a random word I don’t understand, my mind will be bursting with the desire to research.
So really, it is to both the audience’s and my benefit that I stay at home and watch movies and TV shows on my laptop with a tab open on the Google search page. I take more than an hour to watch a 40-minute show because I’m pausing the scene to research something that strikes my curiosity. I guess I’m ever the journalist.
But anyway, I was watching an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” (great show, by the way) and the main character, Ted, was verbal dueling with his girlfriend Stella on why New York City is so much cooler than its suburban neighbor, New Jersey.
“The Empire Sta—
Papaya? What? My foodie sense were pricked. I paused the scene right there and immediately googled Papaya King.
My instincts were right—it was worth the research, because about a month later I had booked a flight to the East Coast and planning a NYC food itinerary with my friends, Tracy and Marilyn. And Papaya King, of course, was in our “What to Eat” list.
It’s not hard to come across a hot dog stand in New York City. I used to think L.A. was crazy about hotdogs (Pinks, anyone?), but NYC takes it up a step. I’m guessing because residents have to spend half their paycheck on rent, they balance their expenditure out with cheap grub like hotdogs and bagels.
For some reason, all the best hotdog places have the word “Papaya” in them. What’s that all about?
Well according to my research, Papaya King started out with a beverage stand that sold Hawaiian tropical drinks (hence the “Papaya” obsession) that later added hotdogs to the menu at the request of customers. Papaya King got super popular, and several copycat stores also sprouted all around the city. There’s Gray’s Papaya, Mike’s Papaya and Papaya Dog. Apparently there’s a Papaya King open in Hollywood, too.
So many papaya hotdogs! Obviously we had to grub in at least one of them. It just happened that we ran into Papaya Dog while on our way to Ess-a-Bagel store for breakfast.
Since we haven’t been around long enough to discriminate between the numerous papaya-themed hotdog stores, we just popped into Papaya Dog to see what the fuss is all about.
Papaya Dog just looks like some kind of fast food store. And I guess it kind of is, except it isn’t met with sniffs of food snobbery.
Nothing seems to be over three bucks though, which is awesome.
The interior of Papaya Dog is bright and honestly, really tacky. buttercup bathroom tiles and red and yellow paper lanterns? Not exactly trendy designing.
But I think that’s their gimmick. They aren’t some high-end organic, truffle-coated prime rib dogs, and they’re proud of it.
I guess the quintessential New York hotdog is made from a Sabrett’s natural casing all-beef frankfurter, grilled or bathed in salty hot water. I think Papaya Dog grills its dogs because I see the slight char on the casings.
Hot dogs for breakfast? Why ever not? What’s eaten in NYC, stays in NYC.
We had it with sauerkraut, and that perplexingly good red onion sauce or something.
Marilyn and I shared the hot dog, while Tracy got the original papaya drink—which was surprisingly good! The cool, nectar-sweet fruity drink somehow fit the salty-and-savory flavor profile of the hot dog.
We ate half the hotdog in the restaurant and ate the other half while walking towards our bagel destination. Walking in the streets towards a bagel store with a hotdog in my hand, I felt like I looked like a true New Yorker.
Okay, our second bagel shop of our trip:
Ess-a-Bagel. We received lots of recommendations from friends to visit this place.
The Ess-a-Bagel we visited was the first branch in Stuyvesant Town. It was established in 1976 and has been flipping out hand-rolled Kosher bagels ever since and causing New Yorkers to flip out over the chewy dough and tight, crisp skin.
I want to give mad props to Ess-a-Bagel for the awesome service. The service isn’t at all officiously polite—it isn’t even polite at all. But there’s this classic New York crassness that can either be interpreted as rude or chummy.
That guy behind the counter was just like that. I warmed up to him immediately, and within minutes he was glibly joking around with us.
We explained to him that we’re from Los Angeles, so he gave us a few more minutes to debate what we wanted. For other customers though? “Yo, you gonna order or not?”
We wanted the sesame seed bagel at first, but they ran out (at 10 in the morning?!) so we went with oat bran instead. Slathered with Almond Cranberry cream cheese.
Ooh la la. Just LOOK at the cream cheese between the bread. It’s just as thick as the bagel itself! I remember when I first moved to America, I was incredibly turned off by the brick-like layer of cream cheese they spread on bagels, but by now, the more the better.
It seems like a sandwich kind of morning, because our next breakfast stop was also at a sandwich place. And it was unplanned. We were walking towards Chelsea Market (because we missed it the day before), and we came across this fabulous store.
Since all of us are avid food news-readers, we knew what ‘wichcraft meant: TOM COLICCHIO.
If you watch “Top Chef,” you’ll know what I’m talking about, and why we knew in that instant that we just HAD to stop by. No questions. I’ve been wanting to visit forever, especially after taking a look at the interesting menu.
’Wichcraft is a very different feel from Colicchio’s fine dining restaurant, Craft. ‘Witchcraft is more a casual cafe, the type of open-aired place you visit to pick up a fresh-made sandwich to go or chill during lunch breaks.
If we had a bit more space in our stomachs, I would have liked to try one of their cookies too. Love that they are “sandwich” cookies too.
But we were here for the savory sandwiches, of course. ‘Wichcraft professes that it’s a sandwich service unlike any other…though I would argue that it’s very much like my favorite L.A. sandwich shop, Mendocino Farms.
There’s a full sandwich-packing assembly team that slaps things together to order.
After a quick deliberation, we honed down on the Goat Cheese sandwich.
Goat cheese, avocado, celery, walnut pesto, watercress on multigrain bread. Can you just see the freshness popping out of the screen?
Love the green-ness of this sandwich. It was wonderful, though pricier than what I would normally pay for sandwiches ($5 for a foot-long). Look at the mid-section of it:
Fat, full layers of cheese and vegetables, encased between two slices of nutty, oaty bread. It tasted like a salad. I loved the peppery watercress stuffed in there; the creamy slices of avocados, and that inch of tart goat cheese. I missed out on the walnut pesto though, but perhaps it was just in the background to boost the nuttiness of the bread.
We give it two thumbs approval.
And I guess that was part of our lunch as well. Next up: sweets, sweets and more sweets. It was a sugary kind of day.
Question of the Day: Hot dogs, bagel sandwiches, high-end sandwiches, lobster hoagies, ice cream sandwiches, or cookie sandwiches? What’s your favorite kind of ‘wich?