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Traditional Food In New York City, USA - Updated 2020

traditional food in new york
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Trying new foods while traveling can be one of the best parts of a trip, especially when you head out to places as full of their own traditional foods as New York City. The sheer size of the city and long history make it one of the best places on the East Coast to take a foodie vacation; so many different immigrants brought their own foods that you’ll simply find no shortage of new foods to try. Try a traditional Jewish soup followed up by a sweet treat with a Bavarian background. If you are traveling to New York City, these are some of the traditional foods of the region that you absolutely have to try!

1. Pastrami and corned beef sandwich

Corned Beef and Pastrami Sandwich
Source: Photo by user Ron Dollete used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Both pastrami and corned beef tend to come from the same cut of meat, usually a brisket, though their methods of preparation are quite different. Pastrami is typically smoked after being cured with a dry rub while corned beef tends to be cured in a brine and is never smoked. Mix the two together with some rye bread. This, folks, gets you a delicious pastrami and corned beef sandwich.

Lienman's Kosher Deli

Address: 552 W. 235th St., Bronx NY 10463

Website: LIebman’s Kosher Deli

Price: 22.95 USD

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2. Matzo ball soup

Matzo Ball Soup - If the soup weren't surrounding it, this matzo ball would float away (9382466258)
Source: Photo by user City Foodsters used under CC BY 2.0

This soup is of an Ashkenazi Jewish origin, and the dumplings within the soup are made of matzah meal, eggs, water and some form of fat. The soup itself is typically chicken based and can include other additions such as carrots and celery. During preparation, the soup should be at a steady boil when adding the dumplings; lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, during which time the dumplings will swell in size.

Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop

Address: 174 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10010

Website: Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop

Price: 4.00 USD (small)

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3. Hot dog

Hot Dogs!
Source: Photo by user viviandnguyen_ used under CC BY-SA 2.0

You’d be hard pressed to find a more American entree than the hot dog. The traditional hot dog is comprised of a sausage situated in a length-wise bun, topped with various condiments, including mustard, ketchup, horseradish, and cheese. Try the New York hot dog which is typically dressed with mustard, sauerkraut and onions.

Liebman's Kosher Deli

Address: 552 W 235th St, Bronx, NY 10463

Website: Liebman’s Kosher Deli

Price: 4.75 USD

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4. Manhattan clam chowder

jordan's manhattan clam chowder
Source: Photo by user Krista used under CC BY 2.0

Manhattan clam chowder is a tomato-based soup (as opposed to a cream based Boston clam chowder) that will keep you warm on a cold New England night. The soup features spices like garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and parsley with staple ingredients that include potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and, of course, clams. It is interesting to note that while the dish carries the city Manhattan in its name, the chowder actually originated from nearby Rhode Island.

Randazzo's Clam Bar

Address: 2017 Emmons Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

Website: Randazzo’s Clam Bar

Price: 7.00 USD

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5. Fried chicken and waffles

Fried chicken and waffles with sriracha maple syrup and black pepper honey butter. It's a keeper! #StonewallKitchen #CookingSchool #nomnom
Source: Photo by user Dana Moos used under CC BY 2.0

While fried chicken and waffles may sound like a relatively new concoction of sweet and savory foods, the paired entrees actually have a much longer history than you might expect. Dating back to at least the 1860s, it was popular to serve the waffles with chicken and a gravy for the Sunday meal. These days, the dish has become known more like a soul food, with the waffle being served as you would normally take a breakfast waffle, with butter and maple syrup.

Sweet Chick

Address: 178 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002

Website: Sweet Chick

Price: 19.00 USD

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6. Black and white cookie

Black and White Cookies, Iced
Source: Photo by user sk used under CC BY-ND 2.0

A cookie known by many names, including half and half cookies or half moon cookies, these tasty treats are unapologetically delicious and can trace their roots to Bavarian immigrants to New York City itself. This cookie is always round, and it is half frosted with a chocolate icing while the other half is a vanilla frosting. Some variations include a cake base instead of a shortbread base, or having one side’s frosting being higher than the other.

Russ & Daughters

Address: 127 Orchard St, New York, New York 10002

Website: Russ & Daughters

Price: 2.50 USD

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7. New York style cheesecake

NewYorkCheesecake
Source: Photo by user sabotrax used under CC BY 2.0

While most cheesecakes rely on cream cheese and eggs as the primary ingredients, the New York style cheesecake uses heavy cream or sour cream, giving it a dense and creamy consistency. Making the cake in this manner allows for an ease in freezing the cake for future events or occasions. The New York style cheesecake can be served plain or with any number of toppings, including berry compotes or whole berries, chocolate Ganaches or caramel sauce.

Two Light Red Hens

Address: 1652 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10028

Website: Two Little Red Hens

Price: 29.00 USD

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8. Hamburger

Half open hamburger over checker paper
Source: Photo by user Marco Verch Profe... used under CC BY 2.0

While the true origins of the hamburger remain in dispute (many say it comes from Germany), one thing about the hamburger is not disputable: how delicious they are. The hamburger is made of a fried, grilled or flame-broiled patty of ground meat, usually beef, and is placed on a sesame seed bun. What makes the hamburger great is how customizable the topping can be: typical vegetable toppings include lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion, while condiments include mayonnaise, mustard or ketchup. Don’t forget to add some cheese!

JG Melon

Address: 1291 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10021

Website: JG Melon

Price: 11.50 USD

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9. Bacon, egg & cheese

Egg and cheese breakfast sandwich
Source: Photo by user John Verive used under CC BY-SA 2.0

While the name might not imply it, the bacon, egg & cheese is, in fact, a sandwich, and a rather infamous one at that. This versatile sandwich can be made in any number of ways, with a mixture of how the eggs are cooked (from two scrambled eggs to one egg over easy) to which bread keeps it together - bagels and rye toast are popular choices. Available sometimes simply as ‘the breakfast sandwich’ on some restaurant menus, the bacon, egg & cheese is the best way to start off a morning in New York City.

BEC NYC

Address: 148 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

Website: BEC NYC

Price: 8.50 USD

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10. Soft pretzel

NY Pretzel
Source: Photo by Flickr user cezzie901 used under CC BY 2.0

With it’s iconic, twisted shape, you’ll always know a pretzel when you see it. If you’ve never had a soft pretzel, you may be in for more of a treat than you realize. While crunchy pretzels are a great snack, there is something undeniably cozy and inviting about having a freshly prepared, warm soft pretzel. You can get these delicious snacks as a savory item or sweet, with common flavors being original (think crunchy pretzel flavored, except soft and warm), jalapeno cheddar or cinnamon sugar.

Harlem Hops

Address: 2268 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY 10030

Website: Harlem Hops

Price: 9.00 USD

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Eat like a New Yorker

Delicious food may seem like it’s around every corner in New York City - that’s because it is! For the most authentic food experience in the city, these are some of the absolute must-try foods.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Amber has enjoyed being an office manager at a geotechnical engineering firm for seven years and has a Bachelor's degree from Tarleton State University in Marketing. When not working or wrangling...Read more

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