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 city’s sheer size and significant background portrayed in its historic hotels 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 culinary mainstays of the region that you absolutely have to try! Read on to discover traditional food in New York City, USA.
1. Cronut (Dominique Ansel Bakery)
The cronut, a delectable pastry that melds the flakiness of a croissant with the shape and sweetness of a donut, has an intriguing history that unfolds in the heart of New York City. Created by pastry chef Dominique Ansel in 2013 at his eponymous bakery in the SoHo neighborhood, cronut became an instant sensation.
Its popularity can be attributed to a perfect storm of factors: a city that thrives on culinary innovation, the power of social media, and the sheer novelty of the hybrid treat. As lines formed outside Ansel’s bakery each morning, the cronut craze exploded, attracting locals and tourists alike who were eager to experience its unique taste and texture. The limited daily production only fueled its exclusivity and allure.
Cronut’s rise to fame in New York City exemplifies the city’s reputation as a global food trendsetter and its penchant for embracing innovative and indulgent creations.
Dominique Ansel Bakery
Address: 189 Spring St, New York, NY 10012, United States
Website: Dominique Ansel Bakery
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 8am - 7pm; Fri - Sat: 8am - 8pm
2. Porterhouse steak
The porterhouse steak’s origins trace back to the city’s bustling 19th-century meatpacking district, where butcher shops thrived. The porterhouse, a cut from the rear end of the short loin, encompasses both the tenderloin and the larger top loin, offering a marriage of textures and flavors that make it a true carnivore’s delight. Its connection to New York City’s tradition stems from the city’s prominence as a meat distribution hub, as well as its early steakhouse culture.
The porterhouse steak’s reputation as a staple of New York City’s culinary scene was solidified by iconic steakhouses such as Peter Luger, which opened in the late 19th century and continues to serve its famous porterhouse today. The enduring popularity of this cut in the city is a testament to its unparalleled succulence and the city’s appreciation for robust flavors and classic, hearty fare.
Peter Luger Steak House
Address: 178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211, United States
Website: Peter Luger Steak House
Opening hours: 11:45am - 9:30pm (daily)
3. New York-style pizza
Almost everyone loves pizza. It is crafted in unique ways around the world, allowing different locations to lay claim to specific styles. Pizza has been among the food specialties in New York and is characterized by a thick outer crust and thin crust underneath the toppings. It is also hand-tossed. These pizzas are cut into the traditional triangle shape and are designed to be folded in half when you eat them. Make sure to grab an authentic slice in one of the pizza places while you’re here!
Address: 1435 Broadway, New York, NY 10002, United States
Website: Joe's Pizza
Opening hours: Sun - Wed: 10am - 3am; Thu - Sat: 10am - 4am
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Bagels were introduced in the early 1800s, being brought as a traditional food from Poland by Ashkenazi Jews. A kind of food that has influenced the entire American culture, the influence of bagels as a staple food item spread rapidly especially after the 1950s. Although it might be something you’ve already tasted, make sure to try a fresh-baked New York-style bagel while here. You won’t go wrong with adding lox to your bagel, authentically New York-style!
Russ & Daughters
Address: 179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002, United States
Website: Russ & Daughters
Opening hours: 8:30am - 4:30pm (daily)
5. Pastrami and corned beef sandwich
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
6. Matzo ball soup
This soup is one of the best foods to try while you’re in New York City. Having an Ashkenazi Jewish origin, the soup’s dumplings 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)
7. Hot dog
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. This typical food in New York is commonly dressed in 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
8. Manhattan clam chowder
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
9. Fried chicken and waffles
While fried chicken and waffles may sound like a relatively new concoction of sweet and delicious 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.
Address: 178 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002
Website: Sweet Chick
Price: 19.00 USD
10. Black and white cookie
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
11. New York-style cheesecake
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
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. A staple in the cuisine of New York City, a typical 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 it 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!
Address: 1291 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10021
Website: JG Melon
Price: 11.50 USD
13. Bacon, egg & cheese
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.
Address: 148 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10011
Website: BEC NYC
Price: 8.50 USD
14. Soft pretzel
With its 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 this popular food in New York as a savory item or sweet, with common flavors being original (think crunchy pretzel flavored, except soft and warm), jalapeno cheddar, or cinnamon sugar.
Address: 2268 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY 10030
Website: Harlem Hops
Price: 9.00 USD
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. There are also other fancy restaurants and sushi restaurants to check out for more dining options.
Frequently asked questions about the traditional food in New York City, USA
1. What are some of the best food items for dinner in New York?
If you’re into filling and hearty meals for dinner, you can never go wrong with the essential delicacies in New York City such as these: i) Porterhouse steak, ii) Pastrami and corned beef sandwich, iii) Manhattan clam chowder, and iv) Fried chicken and waffles.
2. What are some of the most unique food items that one can try in New York?
Those who are after food choices that leave a statement and are authentically from the “city that never sleeps” can try these traditional eats: i) Cronut (Dominique Ansel Bakery), ii) New York-style pizza, iii) Black and white cookie, and iv) Soft pretzel.
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