New York City is packed with restaurants from around the world, from delis to diners, street vendors to celebrity restaurants, here are the top 10 things to try

Without a doubt, New York is the food (and foodie) capital of America. With each wave of immigration, the city adds new cuisines to its ever-expanding palate; the result is a melting pot of flavour and experimentation unlike anywhere else on earth. Read on to discover the top 10 things to try in New York City and where to find them.


New Yorkers love their bagels, and will passionately proclaim that theirs are the finest in the world. Popularized and perfected by Polish Jews who arrived in New York at the turn of the 19th century, the bagels here are undoubtedly good – soft, chewy and doughy, but not too doughy. This latter qualification may seem minor, but sets the New York bagel apart from its global counterparts.

Where to try:

Ess-a-Bagel (831 3rd Ave) is arguably New York’s most iconic purveyor. The hand-rolled bagels are huge with a chewy interior and a crisp crust – a must in NYC. Absolute Bagel (2788 Broadway), a long-time favourite for nearby Columbia University students, is another great choice. For both, just be prepared to wait in line!

New York seeded bagels
New York seeded bagels by littlenySTOCK / shutterstock

Hot Dogs

The simplicity and convenience epitomized by the NYC bagel may find its closest equivalent in the hot dog, a lunchtime staple for New Yorkers on the go. The “dirty water dogs” cooked by street vendors across the city often inspire dread for their dubious composition and method of cooking (in a vat of stagnant liquid). Rest assured, there are fantastic alternatives for the less adventurous.

Where to try:

Papaya King (179 E 86th St) is a tasty option, pairing sauerkraut and chilli frankfurters with their signature tropical drinks. Crif Dogs (113 St Marks Pl) is also a great option for those looking for an untraditional yet delicious hot dog. Pro tip: there may be nothing more New York than sitting in central park with a hot dog in hand.


Arguably New York’s finest creation, and distinct from its Italian predecessor, pizza has a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers. Many claim the city’s tap water – funnelled in from upstate reservoirs – is the secret to the slice’s flavour and texture; while others assert the city’s pizza ovens, often decades old, accumulate flavour that is absorbed by each “pie,” as pizza is often called here. While this debate is complicated, New York Pizza itself is simple and delicious.

Where to try:

Lombardi’s (32 Spring St), Joe’s Pizza (7 Carmine St) and Di Fara (1424 Ave J, Brooklyn) are time-tested legends. Incidentally, Lombardi’s is the first pizzeria in America.

Pastrami Sandwich

This classic lunch-time favourite of New Yorkers – with layers of kosher cured beef served on rye bread and accompanied by crisp gherkins– is another immigrant creation that has inspired intense competition between delis and their devotees over the years. Whether you’re a fan of pastrami or not, a trip to a family-run NYC Jewish deli is a great way to see New Yorkers in their element.

Where to try:

Katz’s Delicatessen (205E Houston) is the most famous in the city for good reason. A true New York landmark, it’s become a site of pilgrimage for sandwich connoisseurs around the world. 2nd Avenue Deli (1442 1st Ave) is another popular option.

Celebrity restaurants

Many Hollywood A-listers own restaurants in the Big Apple. Quentin Tarantino co-own Do Hwa, a sleek Korean restaurant where you can grill bulgogi before wrapping it with fresh lettuce leaves. Justin Timberlake’s Southern Hospitality serves up sticky ribs and crispy fried chicken. Robert De Niro is part-owner of Locanda Verde, a well-received Italian restaurant in the Tribeca district. The list goes on. Check them out and perhaps you will get a chance to spot their famous owners.

Where to try:

Do Hwa (55 Carmine), Southern Hospitality (645 9th Ave), Locanda Verde (377 Greenwich)

Soul food

Chicken and waffles anyone? Or some golden, buttery cornbread baked fresh in a family-owned restaurant? When it comes to soul food, follow the aromatic smell of fried chicken to Harlem and you won’t be disappointed. Tucked inside many of the 19th-century brownstones, you will find southern comfort food served with a big smile.

Where to try:

Amy Ruth’s (113 W 116th St), Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken (2461 Frederick Douglass Blvd).

Chicken and waffles with syrup on the waffles
Chicken and waffles with syrup on the waffles by Joshua Resnick / shutterstock


New York style cheesecake has become the de facto cheesecake for most of the United States and is characterized by its use of heavy cream and cream cheese to create a smooth consistency. While Junior’s Restaurant is the most famous, it also attracts the most tourists; there are better options available.

Where to try:

Eileen’s Special Cheesecake (17 Cleveland), Breads Bakery (18E 16th St).

Manhattan cocktail

New York’s namesake cocktail – parts bourbon whiskey, vermouth and bitters – is still going strong thanks to creative mixologists who can now offer you variations such as a Dry Manhattan (with dry and not sweet vermouth), a Perfect Manhattan (made with equal parts of sweet and dry vermouth), and a Brandy Manhattan (with brandy instead of whisky), among others.

Where to try:

The Long Island Bar in Brooklyn (110 Atlantic Ave) is a great option. Traditionalists should head to Keens Steakhouse (72 W 36th) for a pre-dinner drink at their classic bar.

Craft beer

Since passion for craft beer began sweeping America in the 1980s, New York has seen a boom in artisanal breweries producing time-consuming, labour-intensive beer that earn them die-hard fans. So take a break from your trip, relax in a tavern and enjoy a pint of fine New York craft beer.

Where to try:

Proletariat (102 St Marks Pl) is tiny but has one of the best selections in the city. A good alternative is Beer Culture (228 W 72nd St).

Egg Cream

Mentioning an egg cream outside New York usually raises some eyebrows. This carbonated milk beverage, which contains neither egg nor cream, is a delight.

Where to try:

Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop (174 5th Ave) has served the best egg cream around since 1929.

Chocolate egg cream with toasted marshmallows on top
Chocolate egg cream with toasted marshmallows on top by istetiana / shutterstock

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