—In the Gray’s Papaya vs. Papaya King battle, today is the day for the King. It’s the 85th anniversary of the business, which means today and tomorrow, three New York locations are offering 32 cent hot dogs, with onions, ‘kraut, and relish — curly fries are regular prices. This week owner Wayne Rosenbaum announced he’s franchising. He “can’t wait to share New York’s finest hot dog with the rest of America," he says.
Papaya King got the name from founder Constantine “Gus” Poulos from Athens, who missed tropical fruits from home. Having worked in, then buying a deli, by 1931, he apparently figured out how to import the fruit he missed. He sold his deli and opened his first tropical juice store called Hawaiian Tropical Drinks and no one came — until he hired women to dress in hula skirts and give away drinks. He later fell in love with a German-American woman, who introduced him to franks, which he liked so much he started selling them (and married the woman). The story goes that a Brooklyn Dodger was addicted to the place and coined the name Papaya King. Poulos changed the name in 1960 and Rosenbaum bought the place in 2010.
— Grab a (free) drink at Mother of Pearl (95 Avenue A) on Monday. The bar is celebrating a win at “The Art of Tiki” at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival, where Beet on the Brat, a blend of dark rum with absinthe, green apple juice, cinnamon, passion-fruit and beet root powder, was the cocktail of the event.
— In other landmark birthdays, The Ear Inn (326 Spring St.) is 200 years old, one of the greatest bars in the city a stone’s throw from Manhattan’s original water’s edge. Martin Sheridan who’s been operating the place since 1977, talks “On Burgers and the Ear Inn’s History”in the archives.
— After its 30 year run in the CBS Black Rock Building, China Grill is popping up at sister-restaurant Asia de Cuba (415 Lafayette St.)Sunday thru Tuesday nights for dinner. Previews are March 5 through 7 and official opening is March 12. It’ll serve Sunday through Tuesdays.
— Bowery Boogie reports that Maman shuttered its cafe at the International Center of Photography earlier this week. The menu is removed from the wall and bakery cases left empty and the location has been scrubbed from the website.
— Sugar Freak, the NOLA-themed restaurant in Astoria is moving across the street in April, into the space that had been MexiBBQ at 37-11 30th Ave. The move will givethe restaurant a larger kitchen and double the size of the dining room. The menu will be similar, with additions like seafood boils, and an expanded baked goods section.
— West Side Rag cites five closings this week: Gina la Fornarina (73rd and Amsterdam); Dan Japanese Restaurant (69th and Broadway); Maille mustard shop (68th and Columbus); Szechuan Garden (98th and Broadway); and Melbas Restaurant (Central Park West and 114th Street).
— Battery Park City’s El Vez Burrito, housed within El Vez (259 Vesey St.) will transform on March 7 for a mezcal tasting and a seven-course menu from husband and wife team, chefs Darren Carbone and Sue Torres, formerly of Sueños. Look for tostones with guacamole, mezcal-cured salmon tostadas, and duck confit flautas with pumpkin seed mole. It’s $80 per person, reservation only.
— For the month of March, the three locations of Breads Bakery is offering savory Hamentaschen for Purim, with a choice of roasted beets and potato with caramelized onion, along with sweet flavors like poppy, chocolate, apple and prune. Prices are two for $4, 6 for $10, and 12 for $18.
— Last for your Friday, one from the vault: Jerk chicken from Sietsema’s Secrets: