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An overhead photograph of a yellow table with a greasy slice of pizza from Joe’s.
A slice of pizza from Joe’s.
Gary He/Eater NY

The Most Iconic Dishes in NYC

The most famous pastrami sandwiches, pizza slices, and soup dumplings

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A slice of pizza from Joe’s.
| Gary He/Eater NY

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.

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process. If you buy something or book a reservation from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Cannoli at Madonia Bakery

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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.

A woman in a blue apron fills a small pastry shell with a pastry bag.
Filling the cannoli at Madonia Bros.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Fried chicken at Charles Pan-Fried Chicken

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Charles Gabriel first started selling his crispy, golden fried chicken on the sidewalks of Amsterdam Avenue before running a food truck and, later, a small storefront. He opened this restaurant in Harlem in 2022, where the chicken is better than ever. He fries each piece in massive cast-iron skillets, and there’s a full menu of barbecued items, like pulled pork and ribs.

A chef at the stove making chicken in a cast-iron.
Making chicken at Charles’ Pan Fried Chicken.
Melanie Landman/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 never use the latter.

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

Cheeseburger at JG Melon

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JG Melon is not the best burger in New York. And yet, this old-school haunt with a watermelon theme is one of the most charming places to eat, making its solid cheeseburger a favorite among locals. 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 any time of day.

The open faced cheeseburger from JG Melon
J.G. Melon’s cheeseburger.
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 when it opened in Flushing in 1994. Filled with a scalding broth, these purse-shaped dumplings were an immediate hit.

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.
Eater NY

Manhattan clam chowder at Grand Central Oyster Bar

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This New York institution is better than you remember it, tucked in the tunnels of the city’s most beautiful train station. Try to get a seat at the bar, and order the city’s namesake chowder, a lightly spicy soup full of clams, potatoes, and vegetables.

The entrance to Grand Central Oyster Bar.
The entrance to Grand Central Oyster Bar.
Robert Sietsema

Mutton chop at Keens Steakhouse

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Keens, one of the oldest steakhouses in the country, 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. It opened in 1885.

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.
Eater NY

Al pastor tacos at Los Tacos No. 1

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Taco Mix may have popularized al pastor in New York, but Los Tacos perfected it. This small chain of Manhattan taquerias, often called “número uno,” draws lines with its adobada tacos. The marinated pork is charred on a twirling spit, then sliced to order and hucked into a tortilla with salsa, cilantro, onion, and a wedge of pineapple. The flour and corn tortillas are equally good.

An overhead photograph of tacos, chips, guacamole, and plastic sides of salsa.
Adobada is a cousin of al pastor.
Gary He/Eater NY

Egg cream at S&P

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One of New York City’s most quizzical 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 or cream in the recipe, just seltzer, whole milk, and syrup 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 S&P, a new restaurant with the feel of a classic.

Two halves of a sandwich with peanut butter and bacon are stacked against a forest green diner booth.
An egg cream next to a peanut butter and bacon sandwich.
Melanie Landsman/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. Each container is packed with banana slices, lush vanilla pudding, and vanilla wafers that crumble and squish — the banana flavor is strong in every bite. There are multiple locations.

A paper container of yellow pudding with fragmentary cookies embedded.
The banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery.
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.

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

Plain slice at Joe's Pizza

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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.

An overhead photograph of a yellow table with a greasy slice of pizza from Joe’s.
A slice from Joe’s Pizza.
Gary He/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, and later with the general public.

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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Open since 1954, Veselka is New York’s best-known Ukrainian restaurant. It’s revered for several dishes, including its stuffed cabbage, kielbasa, and borscht, but the pierogi are the most popular by far. The half-moons of dough are filled with ingredients like potatoes, sauerkraut, cheese, ground pork, and even sweet fruit.

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

Bagel with lox and cream cheese at Russ & Daughters

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New York might have better bagels, but there’s 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.

Bagel and lox sandwich from Russ & Daughters
Bagel with lox and cream cheese at Russ & Daughters.
Russ & Daughters

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.

A butcher chops up pastrami on a wooden block at Katz’s
Pastrami is king at Katz’s.
Eater NY

Rice To Riches

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Rice to Riches is the only dessert shop entirely devoted to rice pudding with cheeky flavors like “Fluent in French Toast” and “Sex Drugs and Rocky Road.” Since opening in 2003, the business — with its futuristic interior design — has become something of New York lore and was once featured in the television show Girls. There’s now a second location on the Lower East Side.

The exterior of Rice to Riches on the Lower East Side.
The exterior of the Lower East Side outpost of Rice to Riches.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Char Siu at Wah Fung No. 1

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While you can find similar char siu at other spots in Chinatown, Wah Fung No. 1 has remained a mainstay for its no-frills set-up and affordability: $5.50 for a big portion of roast pork over rice. There aren’t any seats at Wah Fung No. 1 itself, but New Yorkers know to take their tinfoil containers across the street to the park. Expect a long line.

Roast duck over rice at Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food.
Roast duck over rice at Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food.
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 vinegar 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 is New York’s answer to LA’s fabled French dip sandwich. A flavorful pile of beef, awash in its steaming juices, is layered 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

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.

A woman in a blue apron fills a small pastry shell with a pastry bag.
Filling the cannoli at Madonia Bros.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

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, later, a small storefront. He opened this restaurant in Harlem in 2022, where the chicken is better than ever. He fries each piece in massive cast-iron skillets, and there’s a full menu of barbecued items, like pulled pork and ribs.

A chef at the stove making chicken in a cast-iron.
Making chicken at Charles’ Pan Fried Chicken.
Melanie Landman/Eater NY

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 never use the latter.

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

Cheeseburger at JG Melon

JG Melon is not the best burger in New York. And yet, this old-school haunt with a watermelon theme is one of the most charming places to eat, making its solid cheeseburger a favorite among locals. 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 any time of day.

The open faced cheeseburger from JG Melon
J.G. Melon’s cheeseburger.
Eater NY

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 when it opened in Flushing in 1994. Filled with a scalding broth, these purse-shaped dumplings were an immediate hit.

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.
Eater NY

Manhattan clam chowder at Grand Central Oyster Bar

This New York institution is better than you remember it, tucked in the tunnels of the city’s most beautiful train station. Try to get a seat at the bar, and order the city’s namesake chowder, a lightly spicy soup full of clams, potatoes, and vegetables.

The entrance to Grand Central Oyster Bar.
The entrance to Grand Central Oyster Bar.
Robert Sietsema

Mutton chop at Keens Steakhouse

Keens, one of the oldest steakhouses in the country, 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. It opened in 1885.

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.
Eater NY

Al pastor tacos at Los Tacos No. 1

Taco Mix may have popularized al pastor in New York, but Los Tacos perfected it. This small chain of Manhattan taquerias, often called “número uno,” draws lines with its adobada tacos. The marinated pork is charred on a twirling spit, then sliced to order and hucked into a tortilla with salsa, cilantro, onion, and a wedge of pineapple. The flour and corn tortillas are equally good.

An overhead photograph of tacos, chips, guacamole, and plastic sides of salsa.
Adobada is a cousin of al pastor.
Gary He/Eater NY

Egg cream at S&P

One of New York City’s most quizzical 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 or cream in the recipe, just seltzer, whole milk, and syrup 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 S&P, a new restaurant with the feel of a classic.

Two halves of a sandwich with peanut butter and bacon are stacked against a forest green diner booth.
An egg cream next to a peanut butter and bacon sandwich.
Melanie Landsman/Eater NY

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. Each container is packed with banana slices, lush vanilla pudding, and vanilla wafers that crumble and squish — the banana flavor is strong in every bite. There are multiple locations.

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

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.

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

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.

An overhead photograph of a yellow table with a greasy slice of pizza from Joe’s.
A slice from Joe’s Pizza.
Gary He/Eater NY

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, and later with the general public.

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

Open since 1954, Veselka is New York’s best-known Ukrainian restaurant. It’s revered for several dishes, including its stuffed cabbage, kielbasa, and borscht, but the pierogi are the most popular by far. The half-moons of dough are filled with ingredients like potatoes, sauerkraut, cheese, ground pork, and even sweet fruit.

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

Bagel with lox and cream cheese at Russ & Daughters

New York might have better bagels, but there’s 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.

Bagel and lox sandwich from Russ & Daughters
Bagel with lox and cream cheese at Russ & Daughters.
Russ & Daughters

Related Maps

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.

A butcher chops up pastrami on a wooden block at Katz’s
Pastrami is king at Katz’s.
Eater NY

Rice To Riches

Rice to Riches is the only dessert shop entirely devoted to rice pudding with cheeky flavors like “Fluent in French Toast” and “Sex Drugs and Rocky Road.” Since opening in 2003, the business — with its futuristic interior design — has become something of New York lore and was once featured in the television show Girls. There’s now a second location on the Lower East Side.

The exterior of Rice to Riches on the Lower East Side.
The exterior of the Lower East Side outpost of Rice to Riches.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Char Siu at Wah Fung No. 1

While you can find similar char siu at other spots in Chinatown, Wah Fung No. 1 has remained a mainstay for its no-frills set-up and affordability: $5.50 for a big portion of roast pork over rice. There aren’t any seats at Wah Fung No. 1 itself, but New Yorkers know to take their tinfoil containers across the street to the park. Expect a long line.

Roast duck over rice at Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food.
Roast duck over rice at Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

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.