New York Travel

The Most Iconic (and Delicious!) New York City Food

When you think of eating out in New York city, what comes to mind? The city is full of delicious options, from Michelin-starred cuisine to street corner hot dogs. New York city food includes everything from all-American favorites to ethnic delights from many other countries. There’s simply so much to choose from that it’s hard to know where to start!

So if you’re planning a visit to New York City, and want to know what to dine upon, keep reading. We have some can’t-miss options to truly make your NYC vacation’s food options as perfect as the rest of your trip.

Pizza

The most popular New York City food has to be thin-sliced pizza!
s My pizza at The Liberty turned out blurry, maybe because I was two vodka mules in…not sure. This is just a stock photo, sorry!

There are certain “food wars” between New York and other cities, but none is more heated than the great pizza debate. New York Pizza is pure heaven – thin but never limp or soggy. Perfectly melted cheese and delicious toppings. Truly, the Big Apple knows how to make a pie! Just do NOT get them started about Chicago deep-dish…if you can even find it here, you’re just missing out on what makes NY pizza special.

Now I’ve had many good slices of pizza, but my obsession with the movie Elf had me wanting to visit the “real Ray’s pizza on 11th”. That took some Googling…as it turns out there are tons of variations of Ray’s Pizza throughout the city, but none with that name on 11th! The reason is that the Ray’s pizza at that location was reopened under the name Roio’s Pizza. Unfortunately, that too, is closed.

So go find you some Ray’s Pizza elsewhere…there are tons of different restaurants using the name. Or try almost any other place. My photo above is from The Liberty, and it was excellent. It would be hard to find a bad slice in the city, unless you’re going to some chain like Pizza Hut. Another great option is Sal and Carmine on the Upper West Side.

Toppings? Keep it simple with the classic extra cheese, or maybe a single topping like pepperoni, so your topping don’t overpower the taste of the pizza itself.

Bagel

My perfectly=-oasted sesame seed bagel at Andrew’s – not sure why they brought jelly. It went to waste!

OK guys, I live in Florida, and we have a lot of residents who relocate here from New York. Many of them are from the city, but no matter where they came from, they all miss one thing – New York City bagels! Apparently there’s something about the water there that makes the bagels taste better. I’m not sure of that, but I do know that you can get an excellent bagel in the city.

The best bagel is boiled before baking. It gives it the classic shiny finish and darker color. (Same with soft pretzels, if you’re curious.) Boiling also helps the bagel keep its shape as the dough cooks.

Top your bagel with plain or flavored cream cheese, or for a true culinary experience, go for the combination of cream cheese, chopped red onions, capers, tomatoes, and lox. If you’re not familiar with it, lox is a deliciously smoky uncooked (but cured) salmon that is incredible!

My favorite place to grab a bagel is Andrew’s Coffee Shop on 7th Avenue between 35th and 36th street.

New York Cheesecake

My cheesecake didn’t last long enough for a photo because I wolfed it down too fast! I hope Junior’s won’t mind my “borrowing” this one from their website.

You know how, when you look at a restaurant menu pretty much anywhere, you’ll often see the cheesecake described as New York Cheesecake? Yep, that’s just how much the city and the dessert go hand-in-hand!

What makes New York cheesecake special, you might ask? I’m happy to answer that! Here’s a few reasons why New York cheesecake is the best:

  • It’s denser than other cheesecake varieties
  • It’s extremely smooth and creamy
  • It’s made with a cream cheese base, not ricotta or another kind of cheese
  • It often has an addition of heavy cream (or sometimes sour cream) and eggs
  • It generally has a rich browned edge around the top, if not the entire top itself, because it’s initially cooked at a high temperature which is then lowered for the remainder of the cooking time
  • It has a graham-cracker crust

Many places in NYC are known for excellent cheesecake, but my favorite one is Junior’s, just off Times Square. It’s in a great location, the food in general is delicious, and they have several varieties of cheesecake to suit any taste. In fact, if you simply don’t like cheesecake, they have other delicious desserts too!

For the purest experience, order the plain cheesecake. You’ll get to understand the nuances of the flavors and texture that make New York cheesecake so extraordinarily delicious. Of course, strawberry-topped, raspberry-swirled, and chocolate throughout are good choices too, but you’ll lose some of the uniqueness of cheesecake among the other flavors.

Hot Dog Stand

New York City hot dog stand

The hot dog stand is the quintessential to-go fast food in New York City. You’ll see them in many TV shows and movies that are set in the city…and on every single corner throughout the Big Apple! Sabrett is one of the most popular brands.

Not into hot dogs? You can get so much more from these street vendors too! Sausages, falafel, dosas, tacos…even breakfast. We grabbed an egg-and- cheese breakfast sandwich at Hudson Yard after walking the High Line on our most recent village. After a 2-mile walk and still another mile to the hotel, it was the PERFECT break.

Residents of New York are often busy with their careers, and tourists are busy trying to pack in as much as they can, so a quick on-the-go meal from the corner vendor fits in perfectly for either group!

Like their cheesecake, New York’s hot dogs are known for a specific style too – simplicity. They are usually topped with only mustard and either onions or sauerkraut. Of course, you’re welcome to customize your New York dog to your heart’s content!

Korean Food (or other international cuisine)

Bulgogi at Han Bat on 35th Street

New York is amazing because of the diversity of the people who call the city home. They come from all walks of life, and nations around the world. So it’s no surprise that you can find delicious ethnic cuisine from almost anywhere. (I had my very first taste of Ethiopian food in NYC back in 1990!) And if you find yourself in Chinatown or Koreatown, you know you’ll find some of the most authentic dishes outside of those actual countries.

Dim Sum is a popular choice, but I decided to include Korean food. On our most recent trip, we visited Han Bat. It’s actually north of Koreatown, on 35th street, but don’t think that makes it any less authentic because you’d be wrong! Among our family we had: yaki mandu (a filled dumpling similar to the Japanese gyoza) to start, plus soju, a Korean alcohol served neat. For entrees we had bibimbap, bulgogi, kimchi chi gae, and gal ghe. It was all incredible!

Bibimbap at Han Bat in New York City

So if there’s a cuisine you’ve never tried, but want to give it a whirl, look for it in New York City. You’d be hard pressed not to find whatever you wanted. And if you’re not sure what might be good, visit Han Bat and order the bulgogi. It’s an easy dish to start with if you’ve never tried Korean food before, as it’s a marinated barbeque-like beef.

New York City Good Choices

There you have it! Of course, you could eat out for every meal and never exhaust your options for New York City food. But if you’re looking for the quintessential dining experience that only New York City can offer, this is a great list to start.

I’m sure I’ve missed some. What’s your favorite NYC dish? (I’m betting the first comment will be “pastrami”!) Drop a note and let me know your recommendations for either New York City food or restaurants you like.test

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