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A person holds a bottle of carbonated water and pours some of it into a brown drink with white foam on top and a red and white straw sticking out of the side.
What could be more iconic that an egg cream?
Molly Tavoletti/Eater NY

New York City’s 30 Most Iconic Dishes

Where to find coal oven pizza, pastrami sandwiches, beef patties with coco bread, and thick slices of pork pernil

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What could be more iconic that an egg cream?
| Molly Tavoletti/Eater NY

The 30 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 more recently, and have rapidly blown up to legendary status. A few are expensive, while most can be obtained for a few dollars. All are worth trying, and together contribute to what makes our city the most exciting dining destination in the world.

For more information on NYC’s essential establishments, check out the Eater 38, critic Robert Sietsema’s list of inexpensive dining destinations, and guides to burgers, pizzerias, meats, and desserts.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it also poses a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Pernil at Los Primos

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Though it may have originated in Catalonia, pernil is a dish of tender roast pork with a burnished bronze skin that is common to both Puerto Rican and Dominican cuisines, although subtle differences distinguish the two versions. Typically, a leg or shoulder is marinated in garlic, vinegar, paprika, and salt, which endows the meat with pungent flavor. Pernil is usually served as a platter with rice and beans, and plenty of crisp skin.

Red beans, yellow rice, and meat, with a swatch of brown skin on top.
A generous serving of just-slliced pernil at Los Primos.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Beef patty at Concourse Jamaican Bakery

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This yellow closet of a space a few blocks east of Grand Concourse in Morrisania excels at classic Jamaican baked goods like hardo bread, bulla cake, and coconut totoes, but its premier product is its patties, probably the best in the Bronx. Laced with scotch bonnet peppers, the spicy beef is a favorite, and many opt to make it a full meal by putting the patty — as is conventional — in a puffy coco bread, like a fast ball hitting a catcher’s mitt.

A roll wrapped around a yellow empanada.
A beef patty in coco bread at Concourse Bakery.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Al pastor tacos at Taco Mix

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Many New Yorkers first became aware of the twirling vertical rotisserie of pork topped with pineapple called a trompo when it appeared in the window of Taco Mix in East Harlem, which originated as a cart owned by Jorge Sanchez in 1991. Now trompos are seen all over town, betokening excellent pork tacos assembled on the spot, using corn tortillas and simply garnished with cilantro and chopped onions. Squirt on the green or red salsa, or any of the other toppings like oiled red chiles displayed on the counter. Multiple locations.

Two tacos spread flat with meat, onions, cilantro, and red salsa.
A pair of al pastor tacos at Taco Mix.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Franks at Gray's Papaya

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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).

A pair of hot dogs on a red counter with an orange drink.
A pair of franks with a papaya drink at Gray’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Chocolate egg cream at Old John's Diner

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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, and a painstaking version is available at Old John’s, an old-fashioned diner near Lincoln Center that’s been recently revamped.

Two people stand behind the counter of a bar with blue stools and place settings at each stool
The bar at Old John’s Diner.
Molly Tavoletti / Eater NY

Hero sandwich at Sal, Kris & Charlie's Deli

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The hero sandwich was probably invented here a century ago, when long breads made larger sandwiches possible, and they were spectacularly overstuffed with domestic and imported cold cuts, a sandwich that came to symbolize the abundance of the New World. Sal, Kris & Charlie’s is typical of the city’s old Italian delis, turning out giant cold-cut sandwiches here called heroes, perhaps for their heroic size. This one, known as “the bomb,” features salami, ham, turkey, pepperoni, mortadella, provolone, and American cheese.

A hero sandwich piled high with meats and cheeses.
The bomb at Sal, Kris & Charlies.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai

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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, so that nowadays even neighborhood Chinese restaurants serve them. Various branches of Joe’s Shanghai have appeared in Manhattan, still owned by Mei Ping Matsumura, with chef Kiu Sang “Joe” Si.

A wooden steamer basked with white parchment at the base. Eight off-white soup dumplings sit on top of it.
Xiao long bao at Joe’s Shanghai.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

Spicy cumin lamb noodles at Xi'an Famous Foods

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Xi’an serves a variety of hand-pulled wheat noodles from northwestern China, but the spicy cumin lamb version rises above the rest. Shredded lamb gets mixed with rice wine, garlic, ginger, onions, chiles, and a whopping 30 different spices for a very fragrant finish. Though the original in the fabled Golden Mall, founded 2005 by David Shi, is now closed, you’ll find locations in three boroughs, managed by Jason Wang, the founder’s son.

Xi’an Famous Foods’ spicy cumin lamb noodles sit on a white plate as a person pulls them up
Lamb noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

Mutton chop at Keens Steakhouse

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Keens, one of the oldest steakhouses in the country (it opened in 1885), is famous not for its steak — though that's good, too — but for its mutton chop. This massive, flavorful cut, which is actually a saddle of lamb, is well worth a trip to the restaurant, especially when eaten with a wedge salad or a side of the famed 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.

A white plate placed on a marble table, a silver fork and knife on either side. There’s a salad and a piece of lamb on the white plate.
The mutton chop at Keens Steakhouse.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

Bibimbap at Han Bat

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Korean food started taking off here in the 1980s, and it was during that era that many of Koreatown’s oldest restaurants opened. Han Bat originated on its fringes in 1990, with a classic menu that highlighted such dishes as bulgogi, pajun, mandoo, and one that instantly excited the popular imagination: bibimbap. It came in a stone bowl as a carefully laid out collection of separate ingredients, which were deposited on rice and topped with an egg, and then mixed as the rice sizzled and the bottom layer turned crispy at the bottom of a piping hot bowl.

A black stone bowl with various ingredients topped with a raw egg.
Bibimbap at Han Bat.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery

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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 cupcakes are too sweet, with too much frosting). The pudding, by contrast, 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.

A paper container of yellow pudding with fragmentary cookies embedded.
The banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Khachapuri at Chito Gvrito

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The city first became aware of khachapuri a dozen years ago via Georgian cafes in Brighton Beach, and the phenomenon quickly spread. Who wouldn’t love a bread boat filled with molten cheese? We eventually learned that several regional varieties of this national bread existed, but the one called adjaruli khachapuri continues to be foremost in our affections, and Chito Gravito near Gramercy Park serves one of the best.

A round bread with two opposing bread handles and cheese and an uncooked egg yolk in a pool in the middle.
The khachapuri at Chito Gvrito.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Coal-oven pizza at John's of Bleecker Street

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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.

A pizza with sausage and black olives and red sauce
A coal-oven pizza from John’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Falafel at Mamoun's

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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.

The exterior of Mamoun’s Macdougal Street shop, with a brown-and-white striped awning.
The original Mamoun’s is on MacDougal Street.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Pierogi at Veselka

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Pierogi 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 (like Baba’s and Pierozek) have specialized in these stuffed half-moons of dough, which typically enfold ingredients like potatoes, sauerkraut, pot cheese, ground pork, and even sweet fruit fillings. Veselka has been serving them since 1954.

Pierogies—white crescent-shaped dumplings — that have been pulled out fresh from being boiled.
Veselka’s pierogies hot out of the boiler.
Daniel Krieger/Eater NY

Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery

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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.

Circular fried doughnuts sit side-by-side with frosting on top.
Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery.
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Bagel with lox and cream cheese at Russ & Daughters

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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 sense of gravitas, but it's the quality that keeps people coming back.

Pieces of salmon jut out of a bagel sandwich sliced in half, that’s placed on a white cermaic plate. A sign for Russ & Daughters hangs in the background.
Bagel with lox and cream cheese at Russ & Daughters.
Bess Adler/Eater NY

Pastrami on rye at Katz's Deli

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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.

Pastrami on rye is severed in a white bowl at Katz’s Delicatessen.
Pastrami on rye at Katz’s.
Daniel Krieger/Eater NY

Big tray chicken at Spicy Village

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The “big tray chicken” was introduced to New Yorkers at least a decade ago by Spicy Village. The dish’s origins trace back to the Uyghurs, and was popularized in Henan before it set down here at a restaurant run by Fujianese owners — illustrating the circuitous route by which many iconic dishes often undergo before landing in NYC. Owner Wendy Lian’s version features broad homemade wheat noodles, a fiery red broth laced with Sichuan peppercorns, and nuggets of dark meat chicken — bone-in for extra flavor. Spicy Village’s version is so good it has recently spawned copycats.

A wok brimming with red sauce, chicken tidbits, and pale noodles is served on a white surface.
Big tray chicken at Spicy Village.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Eggplant rollatini at Bamonte's

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Many of Brooklyn’s old-school Italian American restaurants serve classics of the genre — like baked ziti, stuffed clams, lasagna, and pork chops with cherry peppers — but king of these dishes is eggplant rollatini. At Bamonte’s, founded by Pasquale Bamonte in 1900, sauteed eggplant is rolled around a ricotta filling, thickly covers it in marinara. The eggplant rollatini is a combination that’s mellow and pungent at the same time.

Two big humps of red sauce-cloaked eggplant has  ricotta cheese oozing out at the edges.
Eggplant rollatini at Bamonte’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Porterhouse steak at Peter Luger Steak House

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Many meat lovers in the NYC area believe that Peter Luger's porterhouse is the greatest steak ever served — despite a brutal Times review. The beef hits the table in a pool of hot butter and red meat juices, with the tenderloin and strip pre-sliced. The beef has a prominent char on the exterior, and if ordered rare or medium-rare, each piece has a perfectly rosy interior. Although countless restaurants across the city now serve similar porterhouse steaks, Luger remains the best place in New York to eat dry-aged beef.

The steak at Peter Luger that’s sliced on the bone and placed on an oval plate. There are condiments on either side of the plate, placed on a wooden table.
Only one kind of steak is typically served at Luger.
Nick Solares/Eater NY

Hot fudge sundae at Eddie's Sweet Shop

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With its wooden fixtures and old-fashioned soda fountain, Eddie’s in Forest HIlls (founded 1909) is a delightful throwback to a much earlier era. The homemade ice cream is maybe not the very best in town, but it suffices, especially when made into the magnificent hot fudge sundae. This sundae has rich fudge and optional clouds of whipped cream, served in an antique tulip glass. It’s one of the best desserts in town, loved by young and old alike.

A hot fudge sundae sits in a tulip-shaped glass.
Hot fudge sundae at Eddy’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Burek at Burek’s Pizza

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No, there’s no actual pizza served at this Ridgewood stalwart. Instead, the place exclusively peddles bureks, the tire-size flaky Balkan pies filled with meat, cheese, or cheese and spinach, available by the slice or the entire pie. It’s proper accompaniment is the made-in-house yogurt, for dipping.

Spinach and cheese flaky phyllo pie are spread out so you can see the filling.
Burkek at Burek’s Pizza.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Rice ball at Ferdinando's Focacceria

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Other than the risotto of northern Italy, rice is not encountered too often in most Italian restaurants — but in Sicily it’s a staple, and became more so when Sicilian immigrants arrived here. With the ready availability of inexpensive rice, the rice ball ballooned in size, luxuriantly stuffed with ground beef and beef, and eventually smothered in tomato sauce and cheese. It is now found in pizza parlors and Sicilian restaurants all over the city.

A floral plate has a rice ball covered in red sauce and cheese in a bowl.
One rice ball is an entire meal at Ferdinando’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Fried chicken at Mitchell's Soul Food

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Founded in the 1970s by James “JB” Bromell and Johnsie Mitchell, this is one of the few remaining Black-women-run soul food destinations that once dominated Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Prospect Heights. The signature is fried chicken, cooked in the Carolina style, with only a light dusting of flour and a crisp, intact skin.

A drumstick and thigh along with green vegetables sits on a white plate with a blue and red rim.
Fried chicken with sides and cornbread at Mitchell’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Brisket sandwich at Hometown Bar-B-Que

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It wasn’t until the ‘90s that New York got real Texas barbecue at Stick to Your Ribs in Long Island City. But since then, the centerpiece smoked brisket sandwich has become one of NYC’s most iconic eats, taking its place beside pastrami and corned beef. One of the best barbecued brisket sandwiches is found at Hometown Bar-B-Que — overstuffed, spice rubbed, and smoky as hell.

A round bun is heaped high with blackened meat and a side of pickles.
Smoked brisket sandwich at Hometown.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Jerk chicken at Peppa's

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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 slight vinegary tang. The jerk sauce adds fiery notes of allspice and scotch bonnet pepper.

A hand wearing a white glove skewers pieces of charred jerk chicken on a grill.
Peppa’s jerk chicken.
Louise Palmberg/Eater NY

Roast beef sandwich at Brennan & Carr

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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 wad of beef, awash in its steaming juices, is deposited on a kaiser roll. The beefy aroma arises from the sandwich like an early morning fog.

A roast beef sandwich drenched with beef broth on a plate is photographed in a cross section.
Roast beef at Brennan & Carr.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Spumoni at L&B Spumoni Gardens

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Red-sauce restaurant and Gravesend institution L & B Spumoni Gardens comes alive in the summer. That’s because of its namesake spumoni, available in paper cups from the walk-up window. Chocolate, pistachio, and vanilla (with candied fruit) come together for a colorful, tri-colored treat that’s as photogenic as it is tasty. The spumoni is best enjoyed on a warm evening after a slice of the thick-crusted, rectangular Sicilian pizza.

A hand holds a white paper cup with three colors of ice cream in it, green, yellow, and brown.
A scoop of spumoni, and no you can’t have a spoon.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Fried calamari at Randazzo's Clam Bar

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This is the Randazzo’s hallmark, which the waterfront restaurant has been serving consistently since the 1960s. The squid at Randazzo’s is graced with a light, golden batter, and finished with a pour over of the restaurant’s equally distinguished red marinara sauce.

A gingham place mat is topped with a plate teeming with fried calamari, with a white paper napkin with a silver fork on the left, and a small dish with marinara sauce to the right.
Calamari.
Randazzo’s

Pernil at Los Primos

Red beans, yellow rice, and meat, with a swatch of brown skin on top.
A generous serving of just-slliced pernil at Los Primos.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Though it may have originated in Catalonia, pernil is a dish of tender roast pork with a burnished bronze skin that is common to both Puerto Rican and Dominican cuisines, although subtle differences distinguish the two versions. Typically, a leg or shoulder is marinated in garlic, vinegar, paprika, and salt, which endows the meat with pungent flavor. Pernil is usually served as a platter with rice and beans, and plenty of crisp skin.

Red beans, yellow rice, and meat, with a swatch of brown skin on top.
A generous serving of just-slliced pernil at Los Primos.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Beef patty at Concourse Jamaican Bakery

A roll wrapped around a yellow empanada.
A beef patty in coco bread at Concourse Bakery.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This yellow closet of a space a few blocks east of Grand Concourse in Morrisania excels at classic Jamaican baked goods like hardo bread, bulla cake, and coconut totoes, but its premier product is its patties, probably the best in the Bronx. Laced with scotch bonnet peppers, the spicy beef is a favorite, and many opt to make it a full meal by putting the patty — as is conventional — in a puffy coco bread, like a fast ball hitting a catcher’s mitt.

A roll wrapped around a yellow empanada.
A beef patty in coco bread at Concourse Bakery.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Al pastor tacos at Taco Mix

Two tacos spread flat with meat, onions, cilantro, and red salsa.
A pair of al pastor tacos at Taco Mix.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Many New Yorkers first became aware of the twirling vertical rotisserie of pork topped with pineapple called a trompo when it appeared in the window of Taco Mix in East Harlem, which originated as a cart owned by Jorge Sanchez in 1991. Now trompos are seen all over town, betokening excellent pork tacos assembled on the spot, using corn tortillas and simply garnished with cilantro and chopped onions. Squirt on the green or red salsa, or any of the other toppings like oiled red chiles displayed on the counter. Multiple locations.

Two tacos spread flat with meat, onions, cilantro, and red salsa.
A pair of al pastor tacos at Taco Mix.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Franks at Gray's Papaya

A pair of hot dogs on a red counter with an orange drink.
A pair of franks with a papaya drink at Gray’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

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).

A pair of hot dogs on a red counter with an orange drink.
A pair of franks with a papaya drink at Gray’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Chocolate egg cream at Old John's Diner

Two people stand behind the counter of a bar with blue stools and place settings at each stool
The bar at Old John’s Diner.
Molly Tavoletti / Eater NY

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, and a painstaking version is available at Old John’s, an old-fashioned diner near Lincoln Center that’s been recently revamped.

Two people stand behind the counter of a bar with blue stools and place settings at each stool
The bar at Old John’s Diner.
Molly Tavoletti / Eater NY

Hero sandwich at Sal, Kris & Charlie's Deli

A hero sandwich piled high with meats and cheeses.
The bomb at Sal, Kris & Charlies.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The hero sandwich was probably invented here a century ago, when long breads made larger sandwiches possible, and they were spectacularly overstuffed with domestic and imported cold cuts, a sandwich that came to symbolize the abundance of the New World. Sal, Kris & Charlie’s is typical of the city’s old Italian delis, turning out giant cold-cut sandwiches here called heroes, perhaps for their heroic size. This one, known as “the bomb,” features salami, ham, turkey, pepperoni, mortadella, provolone, and American cheese.

A hero sandwich piled high with meats and cheeses.
The bomb at Sal, Kris & Charlies.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai