It seems every national fast-food favorite has made its way to Las Vegas in recent years, if it wasn’t here already. But while locals clamor for the likes of Chick-fil-A (coming soon to Henderson), an 80-year-old New York City icon quietly crept into our desert dining scene.
Papaya King opened November 14 across from the Hard Rock Hotel just east of the Strip, bringing its deliciously decorated dogs and fruity tropical drinks to Las Vegas. Papaya King is known as the first juice bar in NYC and might have pioneered the smoothie—check out its interesting history at papayaking.com —but most importantly, Julia Child claimed it served the best hot dog in New York. That should be good enough for Vegas.
On my first visit, I experienced the refreshing papaya tropical drink ($3 for 16 ounces up to $12 for a half-gallon, to take home I guess?) along with: the Southern Comfort, a frank with coleslaw, chili and raw onions; the Onion Crunch, with crispy onions and cheddar cheese sauce; and the Hula Hula, a dog covered with jalapeños, pineapple, sweet peppers and sautéed onions. All these dogs are just $4 and they’re all tasty, built upon an all-beef, naturally cased frank crisped up on the grill. The spicy-sweet Hula Hula was my top pick, but I need to try the Bullseye, topped with onion rings, barbecue sauce and cheese sauce, and the Homerun dog with “New York” onions and sauerkraut.
The non-dog dishes are just as satisfying, including the Kings Tots ($6), tater tots topped with cheese, chili and onion crunch, and deep fried Oreos and Twinkies ($4). Once Papaya King Vegas starts serving booze, you’ll be able to spike your papaya or piña colada or Strawberry Fields fruit drink, which is very Vegas.
Papaya King 4503 Paradise Road, 702-685-8769. Daily, 10 a.m.-3 a.m.