Top 10 Street Food You Must Try In Manhattan, New York

street food in manhattan
John Cedrick
John Cedrick 
| 5 min read

New York City — the epitome of fast-paced, cosmopolitan lifestyle and modern living is home to Manhattan Borough. It’s the most well-known borough of New York City mainly because it’s the center of business, shopping, entertainment, food, and much more. Plus, Manhattan is home to an array of the top restaurants, hotels, and skyscrapers in the world. It’s also a melting pot of numerous cultures that gives birth to various street foods of foreign origin, tweaked slightly with local influences. Foodies and food-lovers will definitely fall in love with Manhattan. Why? Because irresistible foods are virtually in every block in pushcarts and outdoor stalls. So if you can’t wait to have a bite, we’ve prepared some of the top street food that you must try in Manhattan, New York.

1. Lamb rice

Lamb souvlakia (3397292947)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Geoff Peters used under CC BY 2.0

Lamb rice is perhaps the most common street food you’ll encounter in Manhattan. You’ll notice the apparent number of people — both locals and tourists in long queues for a lamb rice stall. The typical lamb rice in Manhattan consists of either long-grain basmati or yellow rice served with chopped chicken or lamb gyro which is then mixed with fiery hot sauce, lettuce, tomato, and pita bread. It’s also served halal in Manhattan. What started as a late-night snack has now become the most common street food craved by locals and tourists alike.

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2. Dirty water dogs

Dirty water dogs
Source: Pexels

Manhattan’s one of the most iconic street food is dirty water dogs. But don’t be fooled by its name, it has nothing to do with dirty water. In fact, you’ll eventually fall in love with this street food right after you taste it. We know because a million New Yorkers eat them yearly. Dirty water dogs are basically hot frankfurters bathed with warm and salty liquid and dropped on a soft bun. Then, it is complemented by add-ons of your choosing. Add-ons are typically sauerkraut, chili, and condiments but if you want to try the classic Manhattan street food, opt for the famed tomato or onion mixed add-ons. They are usually served in iconic pushcarts with blue-and-yellow striped Sabrett umbrellas.

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3. Kati rolls

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Vivekpat30 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Delectable, greasy, and succulent is exactly what kati rolls are. This street food with Indian origins somehow found its way to Manhattan as the go-to street food. This easy-to-get and appetizing rolls are the perfect choice for those who are in a rush but want their meals to be convenient and tasty. Kati rolls are mostly served in outdoor stalls but you can also find them in restaurants which are usually served as a side dish in a bigger platter. Even though kati rolls evolved to many variants through the years, not much is changed from its traditional recipes served in Manhattan. It’s still the usual kati kebab wrapped in paratha bread complemented by a number of add-ons — usually egg, chilies, and various sauces.

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4. Falafel

Falafel 1
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Miansari66 used under CC0

Many of the best falafels of Manhattan are quite customized depending on the immigrant neighborhoods of the place — albeit not completely distinct from the traditional recipes originating from the Middle East. In a nutshell, falafels manifest both tastes from Lebanese, Turkic, and other Middle Eastern origins depending on which part of Manhattan you are in. Nevertheless, the difference is quite negligible and can only be noticed by astute food enthusiasts. What is apparent is the flavorful nature of falafels when eaten. These deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both, added with spices and onions made into a doughnut-shaped dish will surely fire up your taste buds.

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5. Tacos

Tacos (1)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user jeffreyw used under CC BY 2.0

Tacos are perhaps the most well-known street food in Manhattan and the whole USA as well. It’s a traditional Mexican snack dish that exploded to fame due to its mouthwatering taste. Not to mention that it’s convenient to serve, making it readily available for those who are in a rush who just wants to have a tasty meal immediately. It gives an authentic Mexican taste. In fact, tacos are the go-to street food in Manhattan. They even have the trademark “Taco Tuesdays”, although this phenomenon exists across the USA. Tacos are basically wheat tortilla topped with an array of fillings such as beef, pork, seafood, chicken, and cheese. To make it tastier — which is what it’s known for, dip it in guacamole, queso, or salsa. Don’t miss tacos while you’re in Manhattan if you want to fire up those taste buds right on the get-go.

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6. Waffles

Source: Pexels

Waffles started as a beloved breakfast meal originating in Belgium which has transformed into the delectable dessert and street food that we love today. You’ll find waffles in virtually every block of Manhattan and most breakfast or snack-themed restaurants have it in their menu–which is why waffles are perfect for those people always on the go where they can just grab a handful and be on their way. Although waffles nowadays are customized in a variety of ways, their very essence is never removed. It’s basically made from leavened batter or dough cooked between two plates, giving it its iconic patterns.

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7. Dosa

Dosa à Pushkar
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ji-Elle used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Similar in looks to a French crepe — dosas are the South Indian version of crepes, with a twist. What might look like a sweet-tasting treat, dosas, on the contrary, are sour-tasting pancakes that are crisp and thicker than the average crepe. Manhattan’s dosas were brought over by Indian immigrants in the early 2000’s and have now become one of the most popular street food choices.

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8. Tamales

Tamales calientitos
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Nancy Denisse Men... used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Tamales is a traditional Mexican dish made from masa (corn dough) stuffed with various recipes such as meat, fruits, vegetables, or cheese. This cluster of recipes will then be steamed in corn husks or banana leaves and then amped up with Mexican salsa verde, which is quite spicy. The Manhattan version of tamales is a toned-down version specifically made for locals’ preferences. Outdoor stalls are frequented by hundreds of customers daily which is evident in the long queues.

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9. Lamb gyros

Preston Berman Lamb Gyro and Seasoned Fries
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Preston Berman used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Gyros are traditionally made from meat cooked in a vertical rotisserie. Gyros are categorized depending on the type of meat used, whether pork, chicken, or beef gyros–and in this case, lamb. Lamb gyros are usually served in hand with only a tissue and plastic wrappings. This succulent street food overflows with spices such as tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce of foreign origins. Although local spices are used in Manhattan, the overall taste is basically the same with only a minor tweak in spices to satisfy the taste buds of the local patronizers.

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10. Pretzels

Wursthall pretzel
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user J. Kenji López-Alt used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

This iconic, knot-shaped food delight famous for all ages needs no introduction. Pretzels have been in New York since the 1820s and since then, it evolved to be one of the most well-known and appetizing street food in Manhattan. Today, they are served in ubiquitous metal carts and stalls found virtually everywhere. Due to its easy-to-get nature, locals and tourists alike never miss an opportunity to have a bite of pretzels to spice up their day. Manhattan’s pretzels are usually served with mustard and sweets.

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Explore an array of palatable street foods in Manhattan today

While it’s quite overwhelming for those not accustomed to the extreme city life of Manhattan, you’ll be surprised that a way to de-stress and relax while you’re here is to explore the rich culinary diversity of Manhattan, starting with its street food. This place is the melting pot of many cultures which is a testament to the number of world-renowned restaurants that call the borough their home — truly a haven for food enthusiasts. Don’t forget to include street-food tasting in your itinerary while you’re here.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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Based in Manila, Philippines, and born and raised there, John Cedrick is a Civil Engineer by profession with a deep-seated passion for writing. He aspires to establish a renowned blog while...Read more

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