When America's hot dog traditions are discussed, the Talmudic parsing of the Chicago dog and the Detroit coney and the Rochester white-hot, somebody will inevitably bring up the New York hot dog, as if it were an entity conforming to a single, Platonic ideal. And when you ask whether she is referring to a Katz's knoblewurst or the Wylie Dog from Criff, a Central Park dirty-water dog or a Nathan's dog by the sea, it always turns out that the weiner in question is the snappy, natural-casing dog found at one of the many stands with the word “papaya” somewhere in their names, noshed on the fly with a paper cup of mango drink or coconut champagne. It makes life easier for restaurant critics there, knowing that there will be a decent hot dog on the way home. In some dinner-going circles, a dog from Papaya King or the Greenwich Village apostate Gray's Papaya qualifies as an appropriate amuse-bouche.
Now Hollywood has its own Papaya King, a haploid from the mothership on East 86th Street, and although the new formica has yet accumulated neither graffiti nor grime, the cramped, juice-intensive storefront — hot dogs cooking on movie theater-style rollers, buns crisping on heated aluminum foil, Fort Knox security for the mustard, no real tables or chairs — already feels like a relic from Taxi Driver. What you get: a hot dog, maybe with kraut, maybe with chili, and cheese maybe with the sugary, orange goop beloved as “New York onions.” Curly fries? Not on your life. Potato knish? Why not. Papaya drink? It's good for you, the walls say; something to do with enzymes. Eat and get on with your life. And try not to slug the cop who is in the process of ticketing your car. That sort of thing is frowned upon in California.