Apartment Living BlogFood & Entertaining › 5 Classic New York Foods and the Best Places to Get Them

My first NYC culinary experience was terrible.

I was 16, fresh out of the California suburbs, standing in one of the best bagel shops in New York, completely overwhelmed. My eyes scanned the bins behind the counter, filled with more flavors than a Baskin Robbins – raisin, garlic, wheat, pumpernickel (pumperwhatel?), egg (what is “egg” flavor?), and more. I went with the first one I saw – raisin.

“Your smear?” asked the guy taking my order.

I looked at him blankly, and he gestured impatiently to rows upon rows of different cream cheeses, tinted all sorts of pinks and reds and greens and filled with mix-ins.

“Uh, green olive.” I said, again hurriedly going with the first one my eyes locked onto.

The man gave me a puzzled look and began to slice my bagel. Then I realized…

I’d just ordered a cinnamon raisin bagel with green olive cream cheese.

I found a table and bit into my first New York bagel. It was disgusting.

Luckily, I have since redeemed myself tenfold from my initial NYC faux-pas, and I’m here to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes with this handy guide to classic Big Apple grub (hold the apple, pile on the pastrami).

#5. Bagels

Ess-A-Bagel in Midtown East is famous for its extra plump, super doughy bagels. Some people just order them plain, no smear. They’re that good.

Russ & Daughters in the Lower East Side is the place to go for smoked fish, and you can’t leave NYC without a legendary lox bagel. The classic here is layered with cream cheese (go for plain or chive), fresh nova lox, tomato, and red onion. Add capers if you want, and get it on a poppy seed bagel.

The Bagel Shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the spot for fun, creative flavors, including the Instagram viral sensation: a rainbow bagel with funfetti cream cheese. I prefer their bacon and cheese cragel (croissant + bagel) with jalapeno smear.

#4. Pastrami

Pastrami, the most buttery, perfectly melt-in-your-mouth tender meat, was brought over to New York by Jewish immigrants. Few shops still serve up legit pastrami, and there’s no doubt about where you need to go to try your first mile-high sandwich with a side of pickles: Katz’s Delicatessen in the Lower East Side. They pile their hand-cut pastrami on rye bread and top it with spicy brown mustard — nothing else. The meat should be the star of the show. If you have room, top it off with a slice of cheesecake, another NYC staple that didn’t make the list.

NY-foods-hotdogs

#3. Hot Dogs

Nathan’s Famous out on Coney Island is well worth the trek, if only for nostalgic reasons (they’ve been around since 1916!). Just make sure you wolf these dogs down after you ride the Wonder Wheel.

Gray’s Papaya in the Upper West Side is an icon. You might not know what’s in your food and drink, but it’ll cost you less than five bucks for two dogs topped with sauerkraut and relish and a papaya drink.

Crif Dogs in East Village & Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the place to go if you want to try something a little more inventive (read: high calorie). Their best seller is a hot dog wrapped in deep fried bacon, covered in chili, coleslaw, and pickled jalapenos.

#2. Street Meat

Meat (usually kebabs, gyros, lamb over rice, halal food) served from carts on the street is the perfect quick lunchtime meal, and a tasty one if you know where to go.

Kwik Meal cart at 45th St & 6th Ave is the gourmet street food standard. The owner marinates the lamb in spices and green papaya, grills it, and serves it over rice.

Trini Paki Boys at 39th & 6th and 43rd & 6th is tasty and serves up some unique dishes for a street meat cart, including stew salt fish, jerk chicken, and tamarind sauce.

The Halal Guys pile on the meat and their signature white sauce. There are halal carts everywhere in NYC, but there’s only one Halal Guys (well, actually, they have multiple locations).

#1. Pizza

NYC is unquestionably the epicenter of American pizza (sorry, Chicago).

Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village is a classic hole-in-the-wall with some of the best paper plate slices you can get. I’m a pepperoni lover at heart, but their cheese pizza is where it’s really at.

Rubirosa in Nolita will have you savoring every last bite like it’s your last meal (and, if I’m ever on death row, this will be my last meal). Their ultra-thin, traditional Italian style pies are topped with the freshest ingredients, and their vodka pizza will leave you wanting to drink the sauce straight from the jar.

Prince Street Pizza in Nolita serves up thick square slices of Sicilian style pizza. Order the Spicy Spring and enjoy piles of thick, fresh mozzarella littered with tiny, crispy, grease-filled little pepperonis.

 

 

In case you haven’t had your fill, here are 10 more spots for the best pizza in New York City.

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About :

Elizabeth writes on arts and entertainment, travel and lifestyle, and finance and business. She has a knack (read: obsession) for finding the best deals, travel hacks, and hidden gems everywhere she goes, which she blogs about at Temporary Provisions. You can find her playing the urban romantic in NYC, downing Stumptown coffee in her hometown of Portland, OR, or retreating from the madness in the rain forests of Costa Rica. To see more of her work, visit her personal website.

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