New York City is a hive of activity, and visitors tend to get caught up in the experience, veering from famous stores to must-visit landmarks. But don’t let the vibrant momentum of the city stop you from sampling its unique gastronomic experiences. Where to begin? What parts of the city’s culinary world can you absolutely not afford to miss? In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the most essential New York dishes, so you can make the most of this unforgettable city.

Bagels

We start our New York food tour with one of its most characteristic meals: the bagel. You know what it looks like: a bread donut with stuffing. But what makes it so unique? The filling is made up of lox, mixed with cream cheese, tomato, and red onion. Certain variants add honey to the bread. Try one at:

  • Murray’s Bagels
  • Tompkins Square Bagels
  • Sadelle’s
  • Russ & Daughters
  • Ess-a-Bagel

Dumplings

These perfect soft pillowy parcels lovingly wrapped in dough and filled with a sweet or savory surprise are a staple in New York City and you can find the best ones at:

  • Joe’s Shanghai
  • Noodle Village
  • Mimi Cheng’s
  • Red Farm

Pizza

New York’s culinary world takes a back-to-basics approach to the humble pizza, but don’t mistake simplicity for blandness. Don’t expect extravagant toppings or fancy crusts: New York City pizza means a crispy yet flexible slice with a sauce that lingers between sweet and sour, covered in high-quality cheese. You can find it on every food tour, but the finest examples can be tracked down at:

  • Joe’s Pizza
  • John’s of Bleecker
  • Patsy’s
  • Williamsburg Pizza
  • Scarrs
  • Sauce

Pastrami

Take beef, duck, or turkey, prep with brine or salty water, add spices and leave it to smoke. The result is pastrami, a soft yet delicious New York ingredient. Those familiar with corned beef will see a similarity, although pastrami can include other kinds of meat. Try it with bread and mustard for a traditional sandwich, over at:

  • Katz’s Deli
  • Pastrami Queen
  • Sarge’s
  • David’s Brisket House and Deli

B.E.C.

Typically served as a sandwich, menus also refer to this dish as The Bacon Egg and Cheese served on a roll or a croissant. The add ons may vary, but bread, cheese, and eggs are mainstays. Everything else is up to you: fried or not, poached or scrambled eggs, additional toppings such as bacon, etc. You can find this delicacy on practically every street corner, but if you want the best, head to:

  • Daily Provisions
  • Local Bodega, Any Corner
  • Egg Shop

Cronut

This croissant-donut hybrid is making a name for itself in New York and elsewhere, often accompanied with a topping of icing and stuffed with cream. Intrigued? Visit the:

  • Dominique Ansel Bakery
  • ChikaLicious
  • Dessert Club

Black and White Cookie

Located in the liminal space between a pastry and a cake, this cake-based, cookie-shaped soft delicacy is equally split between chocolate and vanilla frosting. Everything else is up to you: chocolate-flavored bases and buttercream toppings are also available, as are black and white donuts! The best spots in town are:

  • Zabar’s
  • Nussbaum & Wu
  • William Greenberg Desserts
  • Leske’s Bakery,
  • Amy’s Bread

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich

Can’t decide whether you want something sweet and crunchy or something cold and sweet? Why not go for both, and get yourself an ice cream cookie sandwich? If you want to stick with the original recipe, try it with wafers and vanilla ice cream; all kinds of alternatives are available if not. Try it at:

  • Milk & Cookies Bakery
  • Melt Bakery
  • Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop
  • Russ & Daughters
  • Jacques Torres Chocolate.

Cheesecake

What makes a traditional New York cheesecake? Maybe it’s the extra yolk in the recipe that makes it dense yet smooth, its soft yet firm texture or its cookie crust – or maybe it’s the fact that New York cheesecake is served without any topping. Whatever the reason, no New York food tour is complete without a taste of the local cheesecake. Try it for yourself at:

  • Junior’s
  • Eileen’s Special Cheesecake
  • S&S Cheesecake

Baked Alaska

What do you get if you mix cake, ice cream, and meringue? This sponge-like cake contains a layer of ice cream and a vast flambéd meringue topping. While the recipe can vary to include fresh fruit, mousse or brownies, the most famous variation – the bombe Alaska – keeps the essential ingredients while adding some flambéed rum to the mix. Delmonico’s is the place to go to take a bite.

 

There is no better way to get to know New York City than through its food! Try to enjoy every bite on your culinary journey, and don’t miss out on other traditional stops, such as coffee shops (it is New York, after all!), ice cream parlors and all the street food stalls which the Big Apple has to offer.

Nastasia, originally a Labor & Delivery nurse turned travel blogger, has leveraged her passion for travel, photography and has founded Dame Traveler, a curated women’s travel blog where solo female travelers can inspire, and connect with, one another. Her eye for stunning travel visuals has helped build a large Instagram following, with over 600,000 followers on @dametraveler and 100,000 on her personal account, @nastasiaspassport, in addition to a large network of travel bloggers. Her hard work has led her to be featured in publications such as Travel & Leisure, Fodor’s, Vogue and more.

55+ countries into her journey, her passion for the world has led her to create a sizeable community of female travelers where her mission is to empower them to travel more, do more and be more. Whether sipping on chai in Istanbul or volunteering abroad in South Africa, Nastasia continues to find and share the beauty of this world, thus inspiring people to change the way they see and experience life.





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Tyler Cowan