4. Gray’s Papaya (1973)

Gray's Papaya on Broadway and West 72nd Street

In 1973, Nicholas Gray, former employee of Papaya King, opened the original Gray’s Papaya on Broadway and West 72nd Street. Once a mini-chain, the joint now only operates at its flagship location. It dwindled down to only its flagship store after its other locations closed due to rent hikes. Gray’s Papaya serves beef franks notable for their snapping bite, thanks to the use of sheep intestine, and tropical drinks in various flavors. The name “Gray’s Papaya” comes from the owner’s surname and from the tropical beverages on the menu. In bold red lettering the catchphrase “when you’re hungry, or broke, or just in a hurry” faces passersby. This slogan is not an empty promise.

The joint offers a “Recession Special” consisting of two hot dogs and a drink for a discounted price. The price of the specials have varied over the years. In the ‘90’s the “Recession Special” was only $1.95, while during the 2008 financial crisis the special cost $4.45. Today, the special costs $6.95. The “Recession Special” reflects a deep sympathy Gray has for his customers. Each time he raises a price, he expresses deep reluctance in doing so. In 2008, Gray told the New York Times that raising the prices is “very traumatic” for not only his customers but also for him.