New York has an estimated 67 million visitors every year, on top of this the Cities population is over 8 million residents and every one of them is hungry! This makes the food and beverage industry in New York Callosal. Overflowing with hungry mouths and restaurateurs and vendors all too happy to fill them. And while most visitors will have no trouble finding things and places to eat the question always comes up of what to eat in New York City.
Such a Large and Diverse City has developed its own unique cuisine similar, but quite diverse from the rest of the country. While the City is overrun with chain restaurants, like most places in the USA, there are plenty of unique and interesting Culinary styles of New York cuisine.
This Guide takes a look at the unique cuisine and delicacies of the City. The Dishes, foods, and Cuisine that define this great City. Some of America’s most iconic dishes hail from the great streets of New York where the huge cultural melting pot has created some real iconic dishes.
Our guide lets you know all the things you have to try to fully understand the city. This not only lets you understand the diet of the city but is also a real adventure for your taste buds as you try some of New Yorks’s great dishes. Some of which will be very familiar to you, but with an NYC Twist, and others that are more exotic and unique to the City.
New York Hot Dogs
We think… you have probably tried a hotdog before. There really cannot be many people on the planet who are still to sample this simple and highly available staple. However, New York is “possibly” the origin of the Hot Dog we know and love today, so sampling them in their home city is essential.
While the exact origin is debatable, what isn’t is the fact that New York turned the idea into an everyday staple. Hot Dog Carts flooded the Streets of the City. New York may not have created the Hot Dog but the Hot Dog created New York. These cheap, accessible food carts fueled the workers as the Manhatten skyline reached for the sky.
Grabbing a Hot Dog from one of these iconic Hot dog carts should basically be on top of everyone’s must-do’s in the city. However, don’t expect too much. After all the hype, a New York Hot Dog is pretty basic. It is a Cheap Sabrett Frankfurter in a usually stale bun, with a dousing of ketchup and mustard, and maybe some onions. There really isn’t much to the dish. But it still HAS to be done.
Every tourist area (and quite a few non-tourist areas) will be littered with the famous New York Hotdog carts. Over 3,000 licenses are issued yearly, sometimes for over $200,000 each for prime locations and nearly all of them sell exactly the same thing. The Prices are sometimes listed as low as $1, however, these prices are incredibly fluid and we find the whole process is based on barter and how touristy you look and where the cart is.
Bait and switch is an issue as the sign reads $1 but the tasty grilled sausages are not the advertised product, instead, you receive a small shriveled dog from the depths of the cart. The best prices and dogs come from the Carts away from the Prime tourist spots. Any cart in Times Square or Central Part is a license to print money and caring for their customers is secondary. A Cart in a less prime location that relies on local customers will have the best prices and products…but really they are all pretty much the same, it is definitely the experience here over the product.
Another option that guarantees a better product and less gambling with the price is the iconic Gray’s Papaya for an inexpensive high-quality Hotdog washed down with delicious “fresh” fruit juice, hence the “papaya”. Having done the whole cart thing many times over, we now head here to actually enjoy the food rather than the experience.
Of Course, if you head over to Coney Island, we think it’s possibly illegal to not have a hot dog at some point! Coney Island dogs are far better than their street food relatives.
Bagels and Lox
New York Bagels have long since made the Jump from NYC Staple to worldwide Consumer items. However, it’s still required eating to sample them in their home of origin. Where they spread from their Jewish roots to the mainstream diet.
The Classic way to enjoy them in New York is with Lox. Cured salmon is similar to Smoked Salmon (only without the smokiness) and a “schmear” of Cream Cheese. These delicious bready delights are best enjoyed for breakfast, but don’t let me stop you from eating them whenever.
You shouldn’t have much trouble tracking one down just about every breakfast joint in town will offer Bagels and Lox, you will even find them on food carts and plenty of Jewish delis on just about every street in the City. You can even have them as part of Breakfast at Tiffany’s if you want to be super posh!
Of course if Uncooked Salmon is not your thing then feel free to lose the Lox and just grab a bagel and “Schmear”. You really can’t come to New York and not try one of its most famous foods, though.
Pizza by the Slice
Ah Pizza the Italian Classic, popularised in the City by the huge Italian population who helped build the City in its early days. They naturally brought Pizza with them and like all things in New York it was made bigger and brasher, to the point that the pies got so huge no one person could eat them. NYC Pizza by the slice was born. A slice in NYC is about the equivalent of a regular small Pizza, making a slice a hearty snack, and two slices a complete meal!
Giant Pizza Pies sold by the Slice are not just New York Tourist food. But while locals will be fiercely loyal to the best Pizzarias, the tourist dollar often goes to the most convenient. This makes tracking down the best can be difficult.
“There are, like, thirty Ray’s Pizzas. They all claim to be the original. But the real one’s on 11th“Santa Claus – Elf
Of course, a bad pizza slice in New York is no bad thing, It’s still Pizza, Right? But with a little searching, you can find the absolute best. Joes Pizza is one of the Classic New York Joints. While being very busy they know how to serve Pizza and will have you in and out with your slice in no time! Famous Amadeus is probably our favorite shop, just off Times Square on 8th Avenue.
For the most budget Conscious try 99 Cent Fresh Pizza, which offers pizza for, er, 99cents. You can get a whole pie here for $8! It’s not the BEST Pizza but unbeatable on price! there are over 8 locations in Manhattan so you are never far from a tasty slice of New York for pennies!
There are also some incredible Pizzerias in New York. Not the Cheap and Cheerful by the Slice type joints but real coal and wood-fired oven-baked pizzas. Try Patsy’s Pizzeria on 1st street for coal-fired Pizza by the slice or head to Brooklyn to witness the Pizza Wars between Juliana’s and Grimaldi’s. Choose your side and indulge in possibly the best pizza you will ever eat…just don’t say that to an Italian.
New York Cheesecake
It can be argued long and hard where Cheesecake originated, However, The commercial Cheesecake we all know and love was discovered and popularized in New York. New York Style Cheesecake is incredible. Rich Creamy and dense. It’s utterly Divine whether you have it plain as intended or with delicious fruit toppings.
Available all over the City Diner and Patisserie windows will be filled with this culinary delight in all flavors and varieties. It’s also the dessert of choice on most restaurant dessert menus but we rarely have room!
Juniors Cheesecake is a New York icon and well worth checking out…Not just for the Cheesecake! They offer amazing Stuffed Deli Sandwiches and other classic American fares. One of the few Chains we love in NYC. the Huge portions may require you to choose the Cheesecake as a takeaway for later though.
Hamburgers are an American Institution. And Shake Shack is currently the BIG name in Burgers on the East coast of America. While California has its In and Out Burger New York has the Shake Shack. This post is not about which is best (It’s Shake Shack!), this post is about telling you to grab one anytime you are in New York.
Shake Shack started as nothing more than a food cart at Madison Square Gardens and has now grown into an international franchise. Its Burgers are fantastic and we love the Crinkle cut fries. For a fast-food restaurant, it’s rare in that it serves alcohol. But its Shakes and Concretes are what separate it from the crowd.
The Burgers are less fast food and more gourmet style and are some of the best burgers we have tried. The Smoke Stack served with lashings of thick smoked bacon, is possibly the best burger in the world! While there you simply have to try the Concretes. A super-thick milkshake ice cream cross with chunks and sauce. Just amazing.
There are several locations and the food is excellent in all. But nothing beats the Brooklyn outlet, underneath the Brooklyn bridge with the epic Manhattan skyline over the east river! Possibly the most instagramable location on the planet!
General Tso’s Chicken (or Shrimp)
New York’s China Town is a thriving and populous part of the City that only seems to grow in both size and numbers. Combined with the American love of Chinese food and it’s easy to see why Chinese food is big on New Yorkers’ appetites. The City has some fantastic Chinese restaurants both in and out of China Town.
One of the most popular and localized Dishes is General Tso’s Chicken. This Sweet, Salty, Spicy Dish is the most renowned Chinese dish in the City. There are competing stories as to who invented the Dish but we know It was invented by Chinese immigrants to New York many years ago.
Chicken is First Deep fried in batter and then coated in a rich sweet soy sauce-based chili sauce. Despite the use of large whole dried chilli’s the dish isn’t very spicy as long as you avoid eating the Chillies. Although Chicken is the Proper ingredient most restaurants offer variations and the King Prawn (Shrimp) Variation is our favorite.
The Chicken bites are reminiscent of Chicken Wings and the sweet, spicy sauce adds to that sense. This is the kind of dish we just can’t get enough of, it has real addicts appeal to it and is incredibly moreish!
Almost every Chinese restaurant in New York will have its version of General Tso’s Chicken on the menu.
Check out our list of the BEST Chinese Restaurants in New York Here
Alternatively head to China Town for some of the best Dim Sum outside of China. Dim Sum restaurants are where the Chinese residents of the City go to eat daily, these are inexpensive, inauspicious, and utterly delicious.
$10-15 pp will leave you stuffed with an array of dumplings, potstickers, wontons, and spring rolls. All are served with complimentary Chinese Tea for that authentic experience. The perfect lunch, or even breakfast if you are suffering from Jet Lag!
What do you get if you cross a Croissant with a Donut?
A true food phenomenon. The Cronut crashed onto the New York Map when Bakery owner Dominique Ansel sold his first cream-filled Croissant-donut hybrid. Within days the news had spread and Large lines formed outside his Bakery, attempting to snaffle one of his creations.
The only place to get your hands on a real Cronut in New York* is Dominique Ansel’s Bakery in Soho. However, Many Ripoff products have popped up across the city. Even Dunkin Donuts has a version. Although the non-cream-filled flaky donut offered by the budget Donut shop leaves a little to be desired…actually it’s amazing, just not the real deal.
The popularity of this indulgent cream-filled delight means queues start well before the store opens and unless you are there in plenty of time you are unlikely to get your reward! Scalpers have been known to offer disappointed customers pre-bought Cronuts for exorbitant prices!
So is it all worth it? Well, they certainly provide an incredible sugar rush. Custard-filled and iced on top they are super sweet and delicious. To be honest, it’s all a bit much hype for a fancy French pastry, But it’s all good fun. So feel free to get there early and snag one of life’s little mysteries. Or maybe try Dunkin Donuts Not-A-Cronut to give you a taste of what people are going so mad about.
*there are also locations in London and Tokyo but that’s not really helpful if you are planning a New York trip! You can even land Cronuts in Disney parks now the success is so universal.
NYC Deli Sandwiches
New York Deli sandwiches are Meat filled Wonders of the world. While in most sandwich shops you end up with more bread than filling, New York’s delis have been stuffing the bread to bursting point for years. New York Delis are much-copied around the world but they never get it right.
A real New York Deli isn’t the fancy upmarket sandwich shop most Rip-offs try to be, but simply corner shops selling all types of everyday things. At the same time, the sandwich operation will be putting inordinate amounts of meat, often sold by the half-pound, between bread and selling them at low prices. Great everyday food for New Yorkers and we tourists are welcome to dig in too!
Pastrami is one of our favorite fillings but Corned Beef and Turkey are fantastic too. These are absolutely on the must-try list, but more than that they are on the absolute-crave-all-the-time list too! We just don’t get why imitations the world over are just so much poorer than the real thing!
Best NYC Deli’s
So far we have mainly focused on everyday cheap eats but most people will be wanting at least one splurge meal during their trip. For many people, the very idea of a splurge is a fantastic Steak Dinner.
New York is synonymous with great Steaks and even has a cut named after it, the New York Strip (thick-cut sirloin).
Peter Luger’s Brooklyn-based Steakhouse is the most famous and with good reason the steaks are truly phenomenal.
Wolfgang Zwiener, Peter Luger’s head waiter decided he could do better and launched his own Steakhouse, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse. He now has several excellent locations throughout Manhattan and is probably more successful than his mentor. We also love the fact we don’t have to trek to Brooklyn (or Long Island) for a Steak.
Keens Steakhouse is another New York Icon. The 130year old Historic Steakhouse is something from another Era but the steaks are up there with anything the city has to offer, along with its long-term, Rival Gallaghers Steakhouse.
A more modern Steakhouse is the Chain Establishment Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. It may lack some of the warmth and charm of the classic New York Joints but the Steaks are every bit as tasty and the decor is modern and clean.
Expect any Steak Dinner in New York to be extremely pricy. For two people a bill well over $200 is to be expected and while there are many cheaper ways to dine in the City, New York’s Steakhouses are really something special and well worth choosing as your special meal while in the City.
New York lies 5th in the list of cities with the most Michelin Stars (behind Tokyo, Paris, Kyoto, and Osaka). Closing in on 100 Stars and a total of 5 3-Star Restaurants, it’s safe to say New York is the Fine Dining Capital of the States!
If you are looking for money no object dining the City has some simply mind-blowing restaurants.
Per Se – Thomas Keller – French – 3 Stars since 2006 this is the quintessential Fine Dining establishment. $350 Pre-Fixed Tasting Menu featuring high-end ingredients in a modern french American Style.
Le Bernardin – Eric Repert – Seafood – Another Titan of New York Restaurants. Again it has gained and held its three Stars since 2006. “Only” $215 per person – $365 with wine pairing per person for the Tasting Menu Featuring ultra-fresh high-end Seafood prepared with the highest levels of skill.
Masa – Masa Takayama – Japanese – Japanese restaurants hold more Michelin Stars than any other type of cuisine, not surprising seeing as the Japanese Style of cooking was embodying everything the French Food critics were looking for without even knowing it. Masa is the most expensive restaurant in America, and possibly the world. The Omakase tasting menu is an earth-shattering $595 per person. We are afraid our Wall Street Picks need to perform a “little” better before we dine here next!
Eleven Madison Park – Daniel Humm – Contemporary American – in 2017, Eleven was rated as the Best Restaurant in the World, Quite an accolade and has held 3 Stars since 2012. As you expect the menu is a multi-course tasting menu, costing $355. Expect highly artistic and stylized food that can be more pleasing on the plate than in the mouth, which says more about how good it looks rather than a criticism of flavor.
Chefs Table at Brooklyn Fare – César Ramírez – Japanese inspired – $395 for a 24 Tasting Menu by the head chef inspired by Japanese and French techniques. This is an evening of culinary exploration where the chef prepares and explains his dishes before watching the guests enjoy (hopefully). The Guestlist is extremely long and reservations are booked weeks in advance, partially due to the popularity and partially to the very small number of covers per evening.
Have Your Say
Have we missed Something out? There are so many food options in New York and so many different tastes I’m sure lots of you will have something to add? Did We miss your favorite off my list? Feel free to drop me a comment below and we will look into it next time we’re there!