New York City is like no other place on the planet. If you are a New Yorker, you cannot imagine wanting to live anywhere else. Tourists arrive by the millions every year. If you ask them why they come, you will likely get a long list that includes Broadway shows, the Statue of Liberty, carriage rides in Central Park, the Museums, going to the top of the Empire State Building and other favorites. When they go home, though, what they will remember and tell their friends about is the food!
The variety of cuisine in New York City is unparalleled. Whether it is noon or 3 o’clock in the morning, every type of food imaginable is available. Hail a cab, hop on the subway or just stroll down the street, and you can find offerings from all over the world. You could start with Algerian couscous and work your way through the alphabet to a steamy bowl of Ukrainian borscht or Vietnamese pho.
Maybe beet soup (borscht) isn’t on everyone’s list of food to try on vacation or there just might not be enough time to eat everywhere you would like — so much food, so little time! No matter how limited you time might be, there are New York classics that are a must. These are loved by natives and visitors, alike.
You can find lists of the 100 most popular foods in New York and, of course, they don’t agree. Some of the standards, though, in addition to that slice of cheese pizza, include:
Bagel – first brought to the city in the late 19th century by Jewish immigrants, the bagels made here are not easily duplicated. All over the country, former NYC residents buy their bagels and bemoan the fact that “they just aren’t the same”. Some like to say it’s the water but others believe that it’s the process. To get that shiny crust with just the right little bit of hardness and the proper glaze, it requires the traditional boiling, not steaming like so many others places do. That first bite of a true New York bagel can be worth the airfare!
Pizza – there’s so much to do in the city that, inevitably, there ends up being a lot of rushing around. That builds an appetite even when there isn’t time to actually sit down an eat. Not to worry! You’re in New York! Rarely will you be far from that delicious little “slice” of heaven; New York style cheese pizza. They are big, cheesy and cheap. Not only do they practically melt in your mouth, but they’re foldable so that you can eat and keep on walking.
Black and white cookie – made famous by an episode of Seinfeld, The Dinner Party, these are round, cake-like cookies with vanilla frosting on one half and chocolate on the other.
Cronut – this newcomer, which looks like a doughnut, was introduced in Soho in 2013 and is made from croissant-like dough, filled with flavored cream and fried in grapeseed oil. Wildly popular, TIME magazine named it as one of the best “extremely fun” inventions of 2013, but don’t let the “fun” part fool you: the cronut process can take up to three days to complete.
Falafel – where can you find vegans and meat-lovers united? At falafel carts all over the city. These pita-wrapped deep-fried balls of chickpea, parsley and spice are believed by some to be life-changing, especially right around the time the last bar closes…
Nathan’s hot dog – you don’t have to get your dog at the same location where Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker first started selling his famous hot dogs for a nickel: you can find them throughout New York City and pretty much all over the country, although, no longer for a nickel. But there is something about that first incredible bite mingling with the sounds of seagulls and oceans breezes at the original landmark Nathan’s on Coney Island that will always stay with you.
Cheesecake – New York-style cheesecake is not for the faint of heart. “Light” and “airy” are not adjectives that will ever be called into service to describe this dessert that was gifted to the world by the early Greeks. Rich and dense, creamy and smooth, this favorite is always made with cream cheese, never ricotta. Other versions really should be called something else.
We’re really just getting started. Pastrami sandwiches. Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches from the local bodega, ordered like a native in one word “baconeggandcheese”. Cupcakes from Magnolia with flashbacks of the “Sex in the City” girls. We could go on. And on.
There are so many things to love about New York City, and none of them rival the food. When you come, just make sure you come hungry!