There is every kind of food in New York City, reflecting the melting pot of nationalities. Italian is the number one choice of New Yorkers, but when visiting the Big Apple, try some foods that are unique to the city. Of course, there are some first class, world famous restaurants, but you don’t have to visit them to taste some of the best dishes. Here are a few foods that are closely related to the city.
Manhattan Clam Chowder – It is like the New England variety, except it’s made with tomatoes instead of cream. It also contains potatoes, onions, clams and sometimes oyster crackers.
New York Strip Steak – This is a boneless sirloin and is cut from the tenderest portion of the beef. It is serves traditionally with creamed spinach and potatoes (fried or oven roasted).
New York Cheesecake – This is a rich, dense baked cake that uses creamed cheese instead of ricotta.
New York Style Pizza – Whether it’s thick or thin crust, a real NY pizza is baked in a coal-fired oven (like the ones used by the Italian immigrants). You will find hundred of pizza places in New York named Ray’s. No one knows why this name has caught on as the best name for a pizza place, but you can’t go wrong on pizza in NYC. It’s a quick, simple meal and inexpensive.
Deli Classics – Because of the large Jewish population, some of the best deli are in NYC. Try the overstuffed corn beef or pastrami sandwiches, matzo ball soup, blintzes and bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon. A New York bagel is different from the ones you will find in most of America. It is shaped by hand, the dough is boiled before being baked and the texture is chewy. The best are found at H&H Bagels. There’s a location on Broadway at West 80th Street, where you will also find Zabar’s in the next block at 2245 Broadway. This world famous deli has everything you might want to try and the prices are very good on cheese, coffee, pastries and prepared foods.
In case you don’t know, a blintz is a crepe filled with a sweetened white cheese and served with fruit. Chopped liver is chicken liver mashed with onion, hard-boiled eggs and chicken fat. Knishes are soft dough shells filled with mashed potatoes and onion. Rugelach are pastries filled with jam, chopped and raisins. Some of the best delis to try are Katz (on the Lower East Side at 205 East Houston Street), and The Carnegie Deli (at 854 7th Avenue) and the Stage Deli (at 834 7th Avenue) are both in the Times Square area. The portions are huge and the prices aren’t cheap at these last two and they will not let you share a plate. The absolutely best place to try lox and bagels or chopped liver is Barney Greengrass, at Amsterdam Avenue and West 86th Street. Another really wonderful and colorful place to try is the Café Edison in the Edison Hotel at 228 West 47th Street. You will find deli food here, but most of all you will run into some of the most colorful characters in the city. Neil Simon used this place as an inspiration for one of his plays.
Street food is a big favorite in New York City. There are hot dogs vendors all over and you should try their fare, especially when you are in Central Park. A NY dog is usually eaten with sauerkraut, or if you ask for onions and what you will get is a tomato/onion mixture that is delicious. Add mustard if you like. There are other famous hot dog places in the Big Apple. Nathan’s was born on Coney Island and there’s an outlet at the South Street Seaport. Gray’s Papaya is a real bargain since you can get two hot dogs and a drink for $3.50. There’s one at Broadway and 72nd Street and their hot dogs are my personal favorite. At South Street you will pay ten dollars for the same meal you can get at Gray’s for one-third the price.
Another street food that is very popular is pretzels. These are giant ones and are traditionally eaten with mustard. You can also find wonderful roasted chestnuts being cooked on the street around Christmastime. Street vendors are all over the city and look for the ones with a license. You can get every thing from falafel to Indian to BBQ. Many of the best vendors are on Avenue of the Americas, which is the same at 6th Avenue. Look around Rockefeller Center for many of the best ones who serve the lunch crowd from the neighborhood office workers. They like to get something from the vendors and then sit outdoors during their noon break.
Don’t forget to go to Chinatown for authentic Chinese food and Little Italy for some good Italian. Wherever you go, you find block after block of interesting food stores and cafes. The best idea, in my opinion, is to try something you’ve never had before and something you can’t get back home. Don’t miss having a hot dog, a real deli sandwich, a bagel and a slice of NY cheesecake (but not all at the same time). For an extra treat, go to the Magnolia Bakery at 401 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. Made famous by Sex And The City, people line up for cupcakes from here day and night. They have another location on Columbus Avenue near Lincoln Center, but the bakery downtown is the best for people watching.