clock menu more-arrow no yes
Bill Addison/Eater

New York City’s 30 Most Iconic Dishes

From premium pastrami on rye to spicy cumin lamb noodles

View as Map

For a taste of classic New York and the dishes that shaped the current dining scene, here's a place to start. The 30 dishes on this map have all achieved varying degrees of legend status. Some originated long ago, while a few were created in the last few years. Some are expensive, while others can be obtained for a few dollars. All of them are worth trying once to see what makes this the most exciting dining city in the world.

For more information on NYC's essential and iconic establishments, check out the Eater 38, critic Robert Sietsema's list of 60 cheap eats destinations, and guides to iconic burgers, pizzerias, and meat dishes.

Note: This is an updated version of a map originally published in 2013.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Fried chicken at Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken

Copy Link
2461 Frederick Douglass Blvd
New York, NY 10027
(212) 281-1800

This Harlem soul food institution serves up tender, crispy chicken cooked in a cast-iron pan instead of a deep fryer — and while the chicken has grown a serious following, the restaurant remains humble, with cafeteria-style ordering. It’s one of the last old-school fried chicken shops still standing, and chef Charles Gabriel continues to deliver some of the city’s best.

2. Nova Scotia lox and scrambled eggs at Barney Greengrass

Copy Link
541 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024
(212) 724-4707
Visit Website

Barney Greengrass itself is an NYC icon, but the Novia Scotia lox egg scramble is a favorite. The Upper West Side Jewish deli was an Anthony Bourdain favorite — he once called it the “quintessential New York City breakfast” — and his go-to order was that Novia Scotia lox egg scramble, plus some bagels. In its 110 years of breakfast service, the restaurant has earned its title as a New York mainstay.

3. Chocolate chip cookie at Levain Bakery

Copy Link
167 W 74th St
New York, NY 10023
(212) 874-6080
Visit Website

Many consider these softball-sized cookies the city's absolute best, with their gooey interior and chocolate- and walnut-loaded dough — and daily lines show it. Other versions include chocolate chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin.

4. Fusilli with octopus and bone marrow at Marea

Copy Link
240 Central Park S
New York, NY 10019
(212) 582-5100
Visit Website

Although the precise origins of this dish are unclear, it’s certainly Michael White’s most famous pasta, and it's the plate to try to understand why he’s considered one of the city’s great chefs. Fresh octopus is braised in red wine and tomato sauce, then pasta is tossed in and chunks of bone marrow are added to the mix. The noodles are finished with a sprinkling of bread crumbs. There’s a lot going on here — a kick of acid from the wine and tomatoes, a pop of umami from the bone marrow — but it all comes together in each bite.

5. Soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai 鹿鸣春

Copy Link
13621 37th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 539-3838
Visit Website

A lot of restaurants serve good soup dumplings these days, but Joe's is the one that kickstarted New York's obsession with this delicacy. Eater critic Robert Sietsema notes: "Filled with a greasy, scalding gravy, these mushroom-shaped dumplings became an immediate hit, so that nowadays even neighborhood Chinese restaurants feature them. What constitutes a good soup dumpling? Well, the skin should be thin, so that the liquid inside bulges but does not erupt, until you nip off the top and suck it out."

Nick Solares

6. Combo over rice at the Halal Guys

Copy Link
W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019
(347) 527-1505
Visit Website

Office workers and tourists alike line up day and night for the chopped lamb and chicken over rice at the Halal Guys cart on 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue. Don't forget the white sauce. Note: The Halal Guys opened an East Village restaurant a few years ago where the lines for meat are considerably shorter than in Midtown.

7. Chicken hash at 21 Club

Copy Link
21 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 582-7200
Visit Website

This dish — a mixture of cubed chicken, cream, Worcestershire sauce, eggs, butter, and sherry — is a real throwback to a different era. It’s pure, pull-no-punches comfort food. And it’s the perfect thing eat after a martini or three in the clubby dining room of this Midtown classic. Long live the '21' Club and its chicken hash.

8. Spicy cumin lamb noodles at Xi'an Famous Foods

Copy Link
41-10 Main St
Flushing, NY 11355

Xi'an serves a variety of hand-pulled wheat noodles from northwestern China, but the spicy cumin lamb ones rise above the rest. Shredded lamb chuck and shoulder get mixed with rice wine, garlic, ginger, onions, peppers, and a whopping 30 different spices for a very fragrant finish. Though this is the original location, there are many other options throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn to pick these noodles up, including the newest one in FiDi.

Photo: Nick Solares

9. Gray's Papaya

Copy Link
612 8th Ave
New York, NY 10018

Gray’s and its rival, Papaya King, both serve snappy-grilled dogs that are reliably delicious. During a 2016 hot dog crawl, Robert Sietsema remarked: “We found the Gray’s Papaya weenie a bit less assertive than those at Papaya King, with a little less garlic and a little less salt. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — we thoroughly enjoyed the franks at Gray’s Papaya. We found the onion topping a little more tart than on the Upper East Side, and the sauerkraut just about the same.” Head to the Midtown location on Eighth Avenue for the Recession Special, which includes two dogs and a papaya drink (or soda) for $4.45. (The price goes up to $6.45 at its UWS location on 72nd Street.)

Nick Solares

10. Oyster pan roast at Grand Central Oyster Bar

Copy Link
89 E 42nd St
New York, NY 10017
(212) 490-6650
Visit Website

The oyster pan roast is a love-it-or-hate-it dish if there ever was one. But like the '21' Club chicken hash, it's a touchstone to a different era of New York City. The soup is made with clam juice, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, Heinz chili sauce, celery salt, and half & half, plus six Blue Point oysters from the Long Island Sound. The dish is cooked in a stainless steel steam-jacketed kettle, and it's served with white toast.

11. Mutton chop at Keens Steakhouse

Copy Link
72 W 36th St
New York, NY 10018
(212) 947-3636
Visit Website

Keens, one of the oldest steakhouses in the country, 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 with a wedge salad, or a side of the famed prime rib hash.

12. Uni panino at El Quinto Pino

Copy Link
Read Review |
401 W 24th St
New York, NY 10011
(212) 206-6900
Visit Website

Alex Raij and Eder Montero run what is surely the city’s finest collection of Spanish restaurants, and by many orders of magnitude their most famous dish is El Quinto Pino’s uni panino. The preparation is simple: cool uni pressed between two halves of a warm baguette, with a whisper of mustard oil to cleanse the palate of all the indulgent maritime funk.

13. Chicken for two at the NoMad Restaurant

Copy Link
1170 Broadway
New York, NY 10001
(212) 796-1500
Visit Website

New York City is overrun with chickens for two, but this is the bird to beat. Daniel Humm stuffs a mixture of foie gras, black truffles, and bread crumbs between the skin and the meat. The cavity is filled with lemon and rosemary, then the bird is trussed and roasted. Once its skin is brown, the chicken, garnished with a bouquet of fresh herbs, is presented to the diners. The bird is then returned to the kitchen so that it can be carved and the leg meat can be sautéed with shallots, morel mushrooms, stock, and herbs. The breast is plated with potato puree and some seasonal vegetables, with a crock of the leg meat fricassee on the side.

14. Shackburger at Shake Shack

Copy Link
11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600
Visit Website

The secret to the Shackburger's ever-lasting popularity is the patty, which has big beef flavor and just a hint of funkiness. It packs more of a meaty wallop than the similar menu item at West Coast favorite In-N-Out Burger. The Shackburger might very well be New York's favorite hamburger.

15. Pollo al forno at Barbuto

Copy Link
775 Washington St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 924-9700
Visit Website

This is Johnathan Waxman's "untouchable" dish. After a revisit a few years ago, critic Robert Sietsema wrote: "Served with an Italian salsa verde redolent of anchovies and capers, the half chicken is every bit as good as it ever was, perhaps better."

16. Banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery

Copy Link
401 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 462-2572
Visit Website

Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes may have become famous from a cameo in Sex and the City, but locals know to go for the banana pudding. It’s packed with banana slices, lush vanilla pudding, and slightly softened vanilla wafers, and banana flavor is strong in every bite.

17. Tuna tartare at Gotham Bar and Grill

Copy Link
12 E 12th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 620-4020
Visit Website

Alfred Portale first put the tuna tartare on the menu at Gotham Bar and Grill in the late '80s. Back then, it was not easy to source the sushi-grade tuna that he wanted for the dish. But he eventually found the right purveyor, and he's been going to him ever since. A lot of restaurants now serve tuna tartare towers like this one, but as is the case with many of the dishes on this map, the original is still the best.

Photo: Eater

18. Falafel at Mamoun's

Copy Link
119 Macdougal St, New York
NY, 10012
(212) 674-8685
Visit Website

At $4 for a sandwich, Mamoun's falafel is cheap, filling, and delicious. Robert Sietsema notes: "The original Mamoun's on MacDougal introduced the falafel sandwich to the city in 1971. It was 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 luxuriance of fried chickpea fritters, nutty tasting tahini, and fresh greens, onions, and tomatoes, it redefined a quick bite for New Yorkers. And the shawarma, Middle Eastern pastries, and Turkish coffee are worth snacking on, too."

Photo: Robert Sietsema

19. Black label burger at Minetta Tavern

Copy Link
113 Macdougal St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 475-3850
Visit Website

NYC's love of the hamburger reached a fever pitch when chefs Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr unleashed the Black Label on an unsuspecting city in 2009. With a custom dry-aged rib steak blend from Pat LaFrieda, the Black Label represents the zenith of classic hamburger architecture — no truffles, no foie gras, no cheese even. Just beef, onions, and bun.

Photo by Nick Solares

20. Pierogies at Veselka

Copy Link
144 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 228-9682
Visit Website

Veselka has been serving a mix of Ukrainian home cooking and American diner grub 24 hours a day, seven days a week for several decades. A plate of pierogies with sour cream and caramelized onions is the essential order — they're made in house and the restaurant goes through a lot of them, so they're always fresh.

21. Pork buns at Momofuku Noodle Bar

Copy Link
171 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 777-7773
Visit Website

David Chang absolutely did not invent the pork bun, but his elevated iteration of this snack quickly became one of his signature dishes, and it inspired countless knock-offs across the country. Chang's version of this dish has big, plump slabs of pork belly sticking out from the bun like a cartoon tongue, with clean cucumbers and earthy hoisin sauce between the meat and the dough. These never get old. Check out how they're made here.

22. Bone marrow at Blue Ribbon Brasserie

Copy Link
97 Sullivan St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 274-0404
Visit Website

Eric and Bruce Bromberg's signature dish at Blue Ribbon pairs rich, gooey bone marrow with a mixture of salty braised oxtail, vegetables, and herbs. It's an especially popular destination dish after a night out.

23. Bagel and lox at Russ & Daughters

Copy Link
179 E Houston St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 475-4880
Visit Website

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. Check out how the bagel and lox are put together here.

24. Pastrami on rye at Katz's Delicatessen

Copy Link
205 E Houston St
New York, NY 10002
(800) 446-8364
Visit Website

Katz's serves New York's favorite pastrami sandwich. It's not a sloppy pile of beef, and as Robert Sietsema notes, "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.

25. Pancakes at Clinton St. Baking Co.

Copy Link
4 Clinton St
New York, NY 10002
(646) 602-6263
Visit Website

This abiding brunch magnet has been serving its iconic flapjacks since opening in 2001, and they are wonderfully simple, impossibly fluffy (made with egg whites), and essential to a meal at Clinton Street. Whether wild Maine blueberry, banana walnut, or chocolate chunk, each short stack is served with maple butter that should find its way into every bite.

Photo: Robert Sietsema

26. Porterhouse at Peter Luger Steak House

Copy Link
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 387-7400
Visit Website

Many meat lovers in the New York area believe that Peter Luger's porterhouse is the greatest steak ever served by man. The beef hits the table in a pool of hot butter and blood, with the filet and sirloin 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 many, many restaurants across the city now serve similar porterhouse steaks, Luger remains one of the best places in New York to eat dry-aged beef.

27. Eggs Benedict at Delmonico's

Copy Link
56 Beaver St
New York, NY 10004
(212) 509-1144
Visit Website

Allegedly created at the city's oldest restaurant — the menu says 1860 — this classic dish has become a nationwide brunch staple. An interplay of poached eggs and Canadian bacon on an English muffin topped with hollandaise, it’s enhanced when paired with a bloody mary, followed by a Sunday afternoon nap. The dish was named after Delmonico's regulars Mr. and Mrs. LeGrand Benedict.

Photo: Delmonico's

28. Pizza at Di Fara Pizza

Copy Link
1424 Avenue J
Brooklyn, NY 11230
(718) 258-1367
Visit Website

Dom DeMarco is the most legendary pizzaiolo in New York, if not the entire country. His pies are topped with a three cheese blend, snips of fresh basil, and a thin layer of olive oil. The typical Di Fara experience involves confusion at the cash register and a long wait for your food, but the sight of Dom fussing and fiddling with his pizzas usually makes up for any hassle.

29. Fried calamari at Randazzo's Clam Bar

Copy Link
2017 Emmons Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11235
(718) 615-0010
Visit Website

This is the Randazzo’s hallmark, which the waterfront restaurant has been serving consistently since the 1960s. The fried calamari at Randazzo’s is graced with a light, golden batter, and finish with a pour over of the restaurant’s equally iconic red sauce. Servers will politely suggest a portion if for some reason diners "forgot" one.

Photo: Randazzo's

30. Pizza at Totonno's Pizzeria Napolitano

Copy Link
1524 Neptune Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11224
(718) 372-8606
Visit Website

For over 90 years, this storied Coney Island pizzeria has been serving thin crust pizzas topped with a simple tomato sauces and patches of silky fresh mozzarella. The crust has a char that may surprise diners who have never tasted real coal-oven pizza before, and the toppings are delicately applied. In a post about the history of New York pizza, Robert Sietsema notes: "This place is simply the best pizzeria in the world, and well worth the sojourn on a whole host of trains to Coney Island."

Photo: Bill Addison

Loading comments...

1. Fried chicken at Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken

2461 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10027

This Harlem soul food institution serves up tender, crispy chicken cooked in a cast-iron pan instead of a deep fryer — and while the chicken has grown a serious following, the restaurant remains humble, with cafeteria-style ordering. It’s one of the last old-school fried chicken shops still standing, and chef Charles Gabriel continues to deliver some of the city’s best.

2461 Frederick Douglass Blvd
New York, NY 10027

2. Nova Scotia lox and scrambled eggs at Barney Greengrass

541 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024

Barney Greengrass itself is an NYC icon, but the Novia Scotia lox egg scramble is a favorite. The Upper West Side Jewish deli was an Anthony Bourdain favorite — he once called it the “quintessential New York City breakfast” — and his go-to order was that Novia Scotia lox egg scramble, plus some bagels. In its 110 years of breakfast service, the restaurant has earned its title as a New York mainstay.

541 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024

3. Chocolate chip cookie at Levain Bakery

167 W 74th St, New York, NY 10023

Many consider these softball-sized cookies the city's absolute best, with their gooey interior and chocolate- and walnut-loaded dough — and daily lines show it. Other versions include chocolate chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin.

167 W 74th St
New York, NY 10023

4. Fusilli with octopus and bone marrow at Marea

240 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019

Although the precise origins of this dish are unclear, it’s certainly Michael White’s most famous pasta, and it's the plate to try to understand why he’s considered one of the city’s great chefs. Fresh octopus is braised in red wine and tomato sauce, then pasta is tossed in and chunks of bone marrow are added to the mix. The noodles are finished with a sprinkling of bread crumbs. There’s a lot going on here — a kick of acid from the wine and tomatoes, a pop of umami from the bone marrow — but it all comes together in each bite.

240 Central Park S
New York, NY 10019

5. Soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai 鹿鸣春

13621 37th Ave, Flushing, NY 11354
Nick Solares

A lot of restaurants serve good soup dumplings these days, but Joe's is the one that kickstarted New York's obsession with this delicacy. Eater critic Robert Sietsema notes: "Filled with a greasy, scalding gravy, these mushroom-shaped dumplings became an immediate hit, so that nowadays even neighborhood Chinese restaurants feature them. What constitutes a good soup dumpling? Well, the skin should be thin, so that the liquid inside bulges but does not erupt, until you nip off the top and suck it out."

13621 37th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354

6. Combo over rice at the Halal Guys

W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

Office workers and tourists alike line up day and night for the chopped lamb and chicken over rice at the Halal Guys cart on 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue. Don't forget the white sauce. Note: The Halal Guys opened an East Village restaurant a few years ago where the lines for meat are considerably shorter than in Midtown.

W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019

7. Chicken hash at 21 Club

21 W 52nd St, New York, NY 10019

This dish — a mixture of cubed chicken, cream, Worcestershire sauce, eggs, butter, and sherry — is a real throwback to a different era. It’s pure, pull-no-punches comfort food. And it’s the perfect thing eat after a martini or three in the clubby dining room of this Midtown classic. Long live the '21' Club and its chicken hash.

21 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019

8. Spicy cumin lamb noodles at Xi'an Famous Foods

41-10 Main St, Flushing, NY 11355
Photo: Nick Solares

Xi'an serves a variety of hand-pulled wheat noodles from northwestern China, but the spicy cumin lamb ones rise above the rest. Shredded lamb chuck and shoulder get mixed with rice wine, garlic, ginger, onions, peppers, and a whopping 30 different spices for a very fragrant finish. Though this is the original location, there are many other options throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn to pick these noodles up, including the newest one in FiDi.

41-10 Main St
Flushing, NY 11355

9. Gray's Papaya

612 8th Ave, New York, NY 10018
Nick Solares

Gray’s and its rival, Papaya King, both serve snappy-grilled dogs that are reliably delicious. During a 2016 hot dog crawl, Robert Sietsema remarked: “We found the Gray’s Papaya weenie a bit less assertive than those at Papaya King, with a little less garlic and a little less salt. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — we thoroughly enjoyed the franks at Gray’s Papaya. We found the onion topping a little more tart than on the Upper East Side, and the sauerkraut just about the same.” Head to the Midtown location on Eighth Avenue for the Recession Special, which includes two dogs and a papaya drink (or soda) for $4.45. (The price goes up to $6.45 at its UWS location on 72nd Street.)

612 8th Ave
New York, NY 10018

10. Oyster pan roast at Grand Central Oyster Bar

89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

The oyster pan roast is a love-it-or-hate-it dish if there ever was one. But like the '21' Club chicken hash, it's a touchstone to a different era of New York City. The soup is made with clam juice, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, Heinz chili sauce, celery salt, and half & half, plus six Blue Point oysters from the Long Island Sound. The dish is cooked in a stainless steel steam-jacketed kettle, and it's served with white toast.

89 E 42nd St
New York, NY 10017

11. Mutton chop at Keens Steakhouse

72 W 36th St, New York, NY 10018

Keens, one of the oldest steakhouses in the country, 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 with a wedge salad, or a side of the famed prime rib hash.

72 W 36th St
New York, NY 10018

12. Uni panino at El Quinto Pino

401 W 24th St, New York, NY 10011
Read Review |

Alex Raij and Eder Montero run what is surely the city’s finest collection of Spanish restaurants, and by many orders of magnitude their most famous dish is El Quinto Pino’s uni panino. The preparation is simple: cool uni pressed between two halves of a warm baguette, with a whisper of mustard oil to cleanse the palate of all the indulgent maritime funk.

401 W 24th St
New York, NY 10011

13. Chicken for two at the NoMad Restaurant

1170 Broadway, New York, NY 10001