The dishes presented here provide a taste of New York City. They have achieved a distinguished reputation and shaped our modern dining scene. Many originated long ago, while others appeared in recent years and are already local legends. Some are expensive, but most can be obtained for a few dollars. Together they contribute to what makes our city one of the most exciting places to eat right now.Read More
20 Iconic Dishes to Try in New York City
The most famous pastrami sandwiches, pizza slices, and soup dumplings
Cannoli at Madonia Bakery
Filled to order cannolis at this 100 year-old Sicilian bakery are a must, with its not-too-sweet ricotta and flaky shell. Don’t skip other regional favorites like the pane di casa, the ciccola (lard bread), or rainbow cookies, too. Be sure to get there early for plenty to choose from and good people watching.
Fried chicken at Charles Pan-Fried Chicken
Charles Gabriel first started selling his crispy, golden fried chicken on the sidewalks of Amsterdam Avenue before running a food truck and then a small storefront. An Upper West Side location debuted earlier this year, but Gabriel returned to his neighborhood, where he’s still firing up cast-iron skillets for his terrific namesake dish and an expanded menu that includes pulled pork and more sides.
Franks at Gray's Papaya
Snappy, all-beef hot dogs and gritty but somehow refreshing fruit drinks are the hallmarks of this Upper West Side old-timer founded by Paul Gray in 1973. It also reflects a distinctive New York City frankfurter that originated a century earlier in Coney Island. Topping choices are limited to mustard, sauerkraut, brown-stewed onions, and ketchup (though true New Yorkers would never use latter condiment).
Cheeseburger at JG Melon
JG Melon is not the best burger in New York — frankly, not even close. And yet, the old-school haunt is one of the most charming atmospheres — there’s melon-themed decor throughout — to eat a burger across the five boroughs, making this solid cheeseburger a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. The restaurant stays open late, most days until 3 a.m., but it’s the perfect spot to saddle up for dinner with a martini in tow any time of day.
Soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai
Plenty of restaurants serve good soup dumplings, but Joe's is the one that kickstarted New York's obsession with this delicacy when it opened in Flushing in 1994. Filled with a scalding broth, these purse-shaped dumplings became an immediate hit.
Manhattan clam chowder at Grand Central Oyster Bar
This New York institution is better than you remember it, tucked in the bowels of the city’s most comely train station. Try to get a seat at the bar, start with a dozen oysters alongside the city’s namesake soup, a lightly spicy chowder, chock with clams, potatoes, and vegetables.
Mutton chop at Keens Steakhouse
Keens, one of the oldest steakhouses in the country (it opened in 1885), is most famous for its mutton chop. This massive, flavorful cut is well worth a trip to the restaurant, especially with a wedge salad or a side of prime-rib hash. Part of the fun is the clubby, 19th-century ambiance, from the days when Keens was a meeting place for actors and other theater professionals.
Al pastor tacos at Los Tacos No. 1
Harlem’s Taco Mix may have popularized al pastor in New York City, but Los Tacos No. 1 perfected it. The small chain of Manhattan taquerias, often just called “número uno,” draws lines of tourists and office workers who often order its carne asada and chicken tacos. But pros know to skip those meats and stick to the adobada. The marinated pork is charred on a twirling spit, then sliced to order and hucked into a flour or corn tortilla (both equally good) with salsa, cilantro, onion, and a wedge of pineapple.
Egg cream at S&P
One of New York City’s most quizzical classic dishes is the egg cream, generally available in flavors that run to chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and sometimes coffee. What’s so unusual about it? Despite the name, there’s no egg and no cream in the recipe, just seltzer, whole milk, and a flavoring (U-Bet syrup is the default) titrated with seltzer in a tall glass as a long-handled spoon is twirled. It’s a refreshing beverage that’s all the more enjoyable at the new place that’s already a classic, S&P, the next iteration of the old Eisenberg Sandwich Shop, from the owners of Court Street Grocers.
Banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery
The cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery may have become famous from a cameo in Sex and the City, but locals know to go for the banana pudding instead. The pudding is packed with banana slices, lush vanilla pudding, and vanilla wafers that crumble and squish — the banana flavor is strong in every bite. Multiple locations.
Coal-oven pizza at John's of Bleecker Street
John’s of Bleecker Street was founded by John Sasso in 1929, making it one of the city’s oldest pizzerias, and one of the originators of the city’s original coal-oven style. The pies come in two sizes, smoking hot and dappled with char, with modest strews of ingredients that can be ordered individually, like black olives, ricotta, pepperoni, Italian sausage, crushed garlic, and sliced onions, in addition to very fresh mozzarella of pillowy softness.
Plain slice at Joe's Pizza
There are better slices of pizza in New York City, but are any as famous as Joe’s? The original slice shop opened on Carmine Street in 1975, and customers still crowd the small storefront for greasy slices of pizza with simple toppings like sausage and pepperoni. The restaurant now has five locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and two more in Michigan and Florida.
Falafel at Mamoun's
Mamoun's falafel is inexpensive, filling, and delicious. The original Mamoun's on MacDougal introduced the falafel sandwich to the city in 1971, and it became a mega hit, first with NYU students and hippies, but soon with the general public. Falafel also served as a wedge for the introduction of vegetarian dining in the city. With its abundance of fried chickpea fritters, nutty tasting tahini, and fresh greens, onions, and tomatoes, it redefined a quick bite for New Yorkers.
Pierogi at Veselka
Pierogi, or as the Ukrainians call them, varenyky, ranked among NYC’s most iconic foods long before the Russian war against Ukraine prompted diners to line up at Veselka. Besides this storied Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village, other Polish and Eastern European establishments have specialized in these stuffed half-moons of dough, which typically enfold ingredients like potatoes, sauerkraut, cheese, ground pork, and even sweet fruit fillings. Veselka has been serving them since 1954.
Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery
The Cronut has become quintessentially New York since its 2013 invention by French pastry chef Dominique Ansel in his Soho bakery. Soon after its birth, the croissant-doughnut hybrid became a viral sensation, spawned countless knockoffs, and attracted long lines. The flaky, layered dough comes filled with cream, and the bakery prepares a new flavor every month. Those in the know will order ahead to cut the line.
Bagel with lox and cream cheese at Russ & Daughters
NYC might have better bagels, but there is no better bagel and lox experience than the one at Russ & Daughters. Four generations of family ownership and over one hundred years of business give this place a certain gravitas, but it's the quality that keeps people coming back.
Pastrami on rye at Katz's Deli
Katz's serves New York's favorite pastrami sandwich, a meat central to the city’s carnivorous identity, and indeed it may have originated here. At Katz’s it's not just a humongous pile of pink cured beef, but one in which the flavor is richer and emphatically smokier than other popular versions served around town. It's a dish that New Yorkers have craved and relished for over a hundred years. And this is one of the few places that still cuts it by hand.
Brisket at Hometown Bar-B-Que
It wasn’t until the ’90s that New York got real Texas barbecue at Stick to Your Ribs in Long Island City. Since then, Hometown Bar-B-Que has stolen the show. The massive Red Hook restaurant is widely considered to be the city’s best barbecue joint, and fans swear by the fatty brisket. It runs at an eye-popping $40 a pound — we know, we know — but it’s plenty filling with a spice-rubbed crust that’s superior to the other smoked meats here and elsewhere.
Jerk chicken at Peppa's
Founded by Gavin Hussey (nicknamed Peppa) in the ’90s, this storefront produces some of the city’s best Jamaican jerk chicken. And while jerk pork was the standard dish back in Jamaica, jerk chicken is more popular in Brooklyn. Finished over flame, Peppa’s rendition has a charred exterior and vinegar tang. The jerk sauce adds fiery notes of allspice and scotch bonnet pepper.
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Roast beef sandwich at Brennan & Carr
Established in 1938 in Sheepshead Bay when the surrounding area was still farmland, Brennan & Carr provides NYC’s answer to LA’s fabled French dip sandwich. A flavorful pile of beef, awash in its steaming juices layers a kaiser roll. The beefy aroma arises from the sandwich like an early morning fog.