One of the coolest parts of visiting a new place is trying the local cuisine, and the best foods in NYC will satisfy any craving you have. With its rich history and mix of cultures, the Big Apple is full of delicious foods and famous places to try them.
There are so many options when it comes down to choosing where and what to eat in NYC, so I’m here to help you out. In this guide, I’ll share the 15 most famous foods in New York, as well as where to find them. Eating your way through the city is one of the top things to do in NYC, especially with friends or family, so make a day of it!
Besides, most of the food New York is known for is quick and cheap, so you can sample lots of different things. If you’re looking for a more elegant and satiating meal, check out my article on the best New York City restaurants.
Ready to take a bite out of the Big Apple? Let’s dig in!
1. NY-Style Pizza, one of the best foods in NYC
New Yorkers often boast about having the best pizza outside of Italy, and I can’t argue with that! If you want the best New York-style pizza, you’ll need patience since the lines usually wind around the block. What did you expect?
One place to check out is Lombardi’s, which opened in 1905 and was the first pizzeria in the U.S. Over in the West Village, John’s of Bleecker Street serves some of the best Italian food in NYC. If you’re in Brooklyn, head to Lucali or Di Fara Pizza, which was founded by Dom De Marco, who came to NYC from Caserta, Italy.
I should also mention Patsy’s Pizzeria, which opened in 1933 and got into a dispute when one of the owner’s nephews opened a pizza shop in Brooklyn under the same name. The original Patsy’s ended up keeping the name, while the new shop in Brooklyn became Grimaldi’s Pizza.
However, the saga continued when the owners of Grimaldi’s had a falling out, leading to another new shop called Juliana’s. To this day, the rivalry between Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s ensues, so try both and see which one you like the best!
If you can’t decide where to go, take this pizza tasting tour, and try them all. It’s one of the best food tours in NYC.
2. Hot Dogs, one of the foods in New York City you must eat
The hot dog is another famous New York food that you can find at food carts throughout the city. That said, there are a few places that serve the best New York hot dogs, and their history may surprise you.
Back in the 1930s, Gus Poulos opened Papaya King on the Upper East Side. His offering of tropical drinks and papaya smoothies was inspired by his recent vacation to Cuba, but the German immigrants in NYC weren’t interested in fruity concoctions. To entice them, Poulos added frankfurters to the menu, sparking a city-wide phenomenon and tons of imitators.
One of those rivals is Gray’s Papaya, which opened in Greenwich Village in the mid-1970s. It ended up being even more popular than Papaya King and also serves delicious drinks with tropical coconut, banana, and papaya. Their franks, which are served with ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, onions, and relish, are one of the most iconic NYC foods you must try.
Of course, one of the most recognizable hot dog shops in NYC is Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island. The hot dog stand opened in 1916 and dealt with stinging competition from Papaya King. That said, Nathan’s is still wildly popular and hosts a famous hot dog-eating contest every 4th of July. The current record is 76 dogs in 10 minutes!
3. Pastrami Sandwiches, one of the best NYC foods for lunch
New Yorkers love their on-the-go foods, and one of the most famous is the pastrami sandwich. Many would argue that the only place you should go for mouth-watering pastrami is Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side.
Lots of tourists come here because the deli was referenced in the film When Harry Met Sally. However, once they bite into one of Katz’s sandwiches, they’re hooked. The pastrami here is pickled for three weeks in a secret brine, then rubbed in a blend of spices before getting smoked low and slow over three days. It’s typically served on rye with cheese and pickles and is a typical lunch in New York City, although the corned beef and brisket are also popular.
Not only is this deli known for having some of the best cheap food in New York City, but it also serves Jewish specialties like matzoh ball soup, knishes, latkes, and kugels. It’s a great place to try something you wouldn’t normally eat, and if you’re interested in the immigrant history of NYC, you’ll love this Lower East Side food and culture tour.
4. Hamburgers, the best fast food in New York City
A great hamburger isn’t always easy to find, especially in a huge metropolis like NYC. So, for the best fast food in New York City, I have a few places to check out.
First, the Burger Joint is tucked away in the Thompson Hotel near Central Park and has amazing hamburgers, veggie burgers, and milkshakes. I also recommend Minetta Tavern on MacDougal Street, near Washington Square Park. This is a more upscale place where you can sit down with a glass of wine and a delicious burger with caramelized onions.
If your craving for a juicy burger just can’t wait, you can find various Shake Shack locations throughout the city. The popular burger chain is known for its crinkle-cut fries and thick milkshakes, plus you can find a variety of burgers from bacon cheeseburgers to vegetarian-friendly ‘shroom burgers.
5. Bagels, another food in NYC you must eat
There isn’t a more famous quick bite in NYC than a bagel, and if you want the best bagels in New York, I’ll tell you where to go.
First, Russ & Daughters has all kinds of different bagel flavors and cream cheeses, although the classic bagel and lox is wildly popular. The café has locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn and serves other famous New York foods like black & white cookies, babka, and blintzes.
Another place to check out is Absolute Bagels on Broadway, which serves delectable egg bagels and salmon cream cheese. They’re a cash-only establishment, so arrive prepared (and hungry!)
Two other spots in Manhattan that serve awesome bagels are Ess-A-Bagel and Murray’s Bagels. The former has incredible bagels, sandwiches, and salads, although I recommend the bagel with nova, scallion cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, and capers. The whole-wheat bagel with salmon salad, tomatoes, and muenster cheese is also very good.
As for Murray’s, their hand-rolled bagels are perfection and come in flavors ranging from bialy and pumpernickel to onion and everything.
6. NY-Style Cheesecake, one of the most delicious dessert foods in NYC
For those who have a sweet tooth, a New York-style cheesecake is the perfect ending to a great meal. This famous New York food is replicated everywhere, but if you want the best of the best, go to Junior’s on Broadway.
Home to the “world’s most fabulous cheesecake” since 1950, Junior’s offers traditional flavors like the original plain cheesecake, as well as specialty and seasonal flavors. Depending on when you visit, you may be able to try strawberry, raspberry, apple crumb, brownie marble swirl, and other scrumptious varieties.
For those wondering what makes a cheesecake “New York style,” it’s all about the preparation. New York cheesecake has more cream cheese in it, creating a denser texture and richer flavor. So, if you go to Junior’s, bring a friend to share your slice with!
7. Black & white cookies, the best sweet treat to eat in NYC
Don’t worry if cheesecake isn’t your thing, because the famous black & white cookie never disappoints. This sweet treat is one of the most iconic things to eat in NYC, and you’ll find these cookies all over cafes, shops, and restaurants.
The black & white cookie originated in Glaser’s Bake Shop, a Bavarian bakery in Manhattan. These thick, cake-like cookies are half-covered in chocolate icing, while the other half is coated in vanilla icing. In other words, they provide the best of both worlds!
For black & whites and all kinds of fresh-baked cookies, go to Levain Bakery on the Upper East Side, next to Central Park. Along with their signature chocolate chip cookies, you can try oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip walnut, and dark chocolate peanut butter chip.
Besides cookies, there are some other desserts that are popular New York foods. For example, the cronut (a croissant-donut hybrid) was invented by French pastry chef Dominique Ansel, owner of Dominque Ansel Bakery in SoHo. Moreover, the banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery is impeccable, and Doughnut Plant has several NYC locations serving traditional, vegan, and gluten-free donuts.
For those who can’t decide where to go, this cupcake and bakeries tour through Greenwich Village is a top-rated food tour in NYC.
8. Brunch, a meal with some of the best foods in New York
When you’re spending a weekend in the Big Apple, one of the best things you can do is go out for brunch. You could splash out on a brunch cruise, or visit some of the best breakfast spots in the city.
For example, the Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant on the Lower East Side is well-known for its delectable brunch menu. Here, you can indulge in stacks of pancakes, thick slices of French toast, and classic eggs benedict. They also serve some southern-style plates like cheese grits, chicken and waffles, and fried green tomatoes.
Another place to get great brunch food in Manhattan is Russ & Daughters. Besides its famous bagels and lox, Russ & Daughters offers sweet treats like cheese blintzes and babka French toast. It’s one of the best places to eat in NYC if you want a quick bite to eat, but don’t want to skimp on quality.
9. Chinese food and the best Asian food in NYC
While you can get Chinese food anywhere, New York City has a delicious variety of authentic Asian cuisines, so you can’t miss out. Of course, you’ll find the best food in NYC’s Chinatown, including ramen, dumplings, and dim sum.
In particular, Xi’an Famous Foods is a chain serving great food from western China. Among the menu items, the spicy and sour dumplings are a best-seller, and you can order them with lamb, pork, or spinach. It’s also worth trying the hand-ripped noodles with stewed beef and Xi’an’s incredible chili oil.
I also recommend visiting Joe’s Shanghai and trying their famous soup dumplings. Located in the Bowery, Joe’s Shanghai offers everything from fried rice to beef noodle soup, as well as vegetarian options.
Besides Chinese food, New York is home to awesome Korean BBQ and Japanese sushi. Love Korean BBQ and Rib No. 7 have some of the best Korean food in NYC, with grilled meats, kimchi fries, noodles, and hot stone bibimbap.
For the best Japanese food in NYC, head to Sushi Noz or Sushi Yasuda for sushi, sashimi, pickled veggies, and of course, sake.
10. Fine dining, the best way to enjoy famous foods in New York
In addition to the Big Apple’s food carts and casual eateries, you must treat yourself to some fine dining at one of the best New York City restaurants. Enjoying a multi-course gourmet meal is one of the best couples things to do in NYC, so if you’re visiting with your partner, check out one or two of these places.
First, Daniel is a Michelin-star French restaurant on the Upper East Side with incredible seafood and classic dishes like escargot and foie gras. Marea in Midtown Manhattan has some of the best food in New York, and it’s a must-do if you love Italian cuisine. Finally, Dhamaka on the Lower East Side serves flavorful Indian food, so it’s the perfect place to go for a spicy dinner in New York City.
11. Tacos, another delectable food in New York you must try
Tacos are favorite comfort food for many people, so if that’s you, then it’s one of the top New York foods you should try. Trust me, the tacos you’ll get here will be so much better than anything you could get from the store or a fast-food chain.
For the best Mexican food in NYC, I recommend Los Tacos No. 1, which has several locations in Manhattan. Los Tacos No. 1 serves authentic Mexican food that you’ll fall in love with at first bite. In addition to the mouth-watering tacos, you can order tostadas and quesadillas with pork, chicken, or nopal (cactus.)
This place may be small, but it offers big flavors. Be sure to pair your meal with an agua fresca or a side of chips and guac!
12. Steak, one of the best foods in New York City for dinner
For a special night out, dig into a juicy steak at one of NYC’s best restaurants, like Peter Luger in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s a favorite among foodies in New York City, thanks to its USDA prime meats and strict preparation guidelines.
The steakhouse has long been a popular meeting place for locals and tourists alike, luring them in with mouth-watering steaks and burgers. You can find all cuts of meat here, and the chef will prepare it exactly how you like it. Peter Luger also has delicious sides to go with your steak, such as fried potatoes and creamed spinach. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best places to enjoy dinner in New York City.
13. Italian Ice, another quick food in NYC you should try
Italian ice is an East-Coast favorite that you can savor year-round, and it’s one of the best cheap foods in New York City. To sample the tastiest Italian ices in the Big Apple, head to Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices. The chain has locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond, so you won’t be far from a delicious frozen treat.
Ralph’s has been going strong since 1928 when Ralph Silverstro came to Staten Island from Italy. He began making and serving his soon-to-be-famous Italian ice, and the rest is history. Today, Ralph’s serves other sweet treats like ice cream and milkshakes, but its Italian ices remain irresistible.
Ralph’s serves over 36 flavors of Italian ice, including some sugar-free options. Fruity flavors like black raspberry and cherry are perfect for a hot New York day, while flavors like chocolate and cotton candy are ideal for satisfying your sweet tooth. With so many choices, you’re sure to come back for more during your trip!
14. Bacon, Egg & Cheese, one of the best foods in NYC for breakfast
For those who want to eat like a local, a bacon, egg & cheese is a typical breakfast for a busy New Yorker, and it’s the best New York food to start your day with.
The bacon, egg & cheese is the perfect quick bite in NYC since it’s portable, easy to make, and of course, delicious. Consisting of bacon, a fried or scrambled egg, and American cheese on a kaiser roll, it’s a deceptively simple breakfast. Yet, it’s a comforting, warm food that you can always count on to fill you up until lunchtime.
For the best bacon, egg & cheese in NYC, head to Sunny & Annie’s Deli in the East Village. Along with this signature food, you can find other breakfast sandwiches, as well as bagels and croissants. Sunny & Annie’s also serves unique menu items like Korean BBQ-inspired wraps, chicken teriyaki sandwiches, and green chili tofu wraps, so it’s worth coming here more than once.
15. Street food, an iconic food in New York to eat
It’s no surprise that NYC is crowded with food carts and street vendors. From roasted peanuts to grilled hotdogs, you can get almost anything on the go. However, I recommend saving room for the best street food in New York.
First, The Halal Guys are a staple of NYC street food, and now have a storefront as well as vendor carts throughout Manhattan. Their crispy falafel is delicious in a rice platter or wrap while their beef gyros have patrons lining up time and time again.
While The Halal Guys have some of the best food trucks in NYC, it’s also worth ordering a chopped cheese at a nearby bodega. It’s similar to a Philly cheesesteak, featuring ground beef, onions, and cheese on a hoagie roll. Some places add lettuce and tomato or other condiments, so it depends on where you go. Some places to check out include Blue Sky Deli in East Harlem, Smith Gourmet Deli in Brooklyn, and Cheeky Sandwiches in Chinatown. They serve some of the best grab-and-go foods in NYC!
That’s it for the best foods in New York. If you’re hungry for any of these famous foods, here is a map of all the places to eat in NYC that I mentioned in this guide.
Don’t hesitate to leave me any questions below, or to share your favorite thing to eat when you visit the Big Apple. Until then, have a great trip!