26 Unique New York Foods You Need To Try

New York is one of the culinary capitals of the world. This diverse metropolis (and the state in which it's situated) is visited as often for its museums, award-winning entertainment, and historic landmarks, as it is for its iconic food scene, which highlights the unique culture of New York and features dishes that are richly inspired by the thriving community of immigrants who call it home. Many of New York's finest foods have influences from every corner of the globe including China, the Middle East, Italy, and France. 

You may be familiar with some of the classic New York specialties on this list, like the New York slice and New York's legendary bagels, but have you heard of the mind-blowing creation that is the garbage plate? What about a chopped cheese? Some of New York's best foods can be enjoyed at your local bodega, while others are waiting for you in one of New York's fabled Jewish delis. The city street corners are lined with vendors selling New York hot dogs and pretzels, or you can head down to Chinatown and Little Italy for New York-Style Italian Ice or General Tso's Chicken. No matter what your taste, these are the New York foods you need to try.


While you can find bagels all over the country, you haven't really had a bagel until you've had a New York bagel. New York-style bagels are made by adding a unique step to the cooking process. Before being baked, New York-style bagels are submerged in boiling water, helping them achieve crispiness on the outside and a satisfyingly doughy inside. 

You can find excellent bagels throughout New York: in Harlem at Bo's Bagels, in the Upper West Side at Absolute Bagels, Zabar's or Barney Greengrass, or in the Lower East Side at Russ & Daughters. During your next visit, we recommend trying New Yorkers' favorite, the everything bagel with a schmear of cream cheese.

Bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll

The unsung hero of the New York food scene is the bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll. These heavenly breakfast sandwiches taste best when procured at your local bodega where the bacon and eggs are fried behind the counter and the cheese is generously melted atop a thick roll with everything wrapped in foil. The B.E.C. is the perfect pick-me-up after a long night and a wonderful way to welcome the weekend. 

Interested in an elevated breakfast sandwich experience? Head over to Daily Provisions, Egg Shop, or Court Street Grocers, where you can enjoy a gooey fried egg on a poppy seed roll, a broken yolk with pepper bacon, or soft scrambled eggs with cheddar and arugula.

New York slice

New York-style pizza is the must-try culinary experience for anyone visiting New York. Unlike personal pies found in Italian restaurants across America or Chicago's famous deep dish pizza, the New York slice is wide, hand-tossed, paper-thin, and glistening with cheese, sauce, and oil. The New York slice is available throughout the city, often served on paper plates, piping hot and fresh from the oven. 

To eat your pizza like a true New Yorker, fold your slice down the middle into a V and enjoy it on the sidewalk. For the best New York-style pizza, head to Joe's Pizza, one of the many locations of 99 Cent Pizza (for a slice that now costs $1.50), and Koronet in Harlem for an extra large New York slice.

New York City-style hot dog

Second in acclaim to the New York slice is the New York City-style hot dog, often affectionately referred to as a "dirty water dog." New Yorkers are among the top consumers of hot dogs across America, so it's no wonder that New York is famed for having delicious, cheap, reliable hot dogs available from street carts on almost every city corner. 

The New York City-style hot dog is beloved because of its simplicity — it's cooked in boiling water and served with classic toppings like ketchup, mustard, onion relish, and sauerkraut. Beyond street carts, the best spots for authentic New York City-style hot dogs are Gray's Papaya, Papaya King, and Nathan's Famous.


The cronut came onto the New York food scene a decade ago and has firmly cemented itself into the lore of the city. As its name suggests, a cronut is a luxurious cross between a croissant and a donut, which comes in a seasonal rotation of flavors. The cronut is at once flakey, buttery, rich, and creamy. 

The cronut was created by Dominique Ansel of Dominique Ansel Bakery, one of our favorite bakeries in all of New York. After its debut, lines spanned the blocks around the bakery where eager New Yorkers waited to try the famous pastry. Now, 10 years later, Dominique Ansel still sells out of cronuts every day.

Buffalo wings

One of America's sports bar favorites was invented in New York. As the story goes, in 1964 at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, owner Teressa Bellissimo had an extra shipment of chicken wings and a son who was ravenous for a midnight snack, so she fried up the chicken wings and slathered them in a spicy, buttery sauce of her own creation and served them with a side of celery and blue cheese. 

Now, Bellissimo's Buffalo wings are legendary for their savory combination of cayenne pepper, melted butter, and vinegar. While the very best Buffalo wings are still found at Anchor Bar, we also recommend visiting Blondies in the Upper West Side and Dan and John's Wings in the East Village.

Pastrami on rye

New York is the Jewish deli capital of the world, largely because of the Jewish immigrants who settled in Lower Manhattan in the late 19th and early 20th century. In Jewish delis across New York, you can find pastrami on rye, delicate slices of pastrami stacked high between two pieces of rye bread all slathered in spicy mustard and served with a side of pickles. 

Pastrami is made from brisket that's cured and then smoked, which contributes to the meat's intense flavor. For the best pastrami on rye, we recommend visiting Katz's Deli  (the oldest Jewish deli in New York), 2nd Ave Deli, and Pastrami Queen.

Chopped cheese

The chopped cheese is a bodega staple with deep roots in Harlem and the Bronx that has inspired chopped cheeses — also known as chop cheese — to spring up in restaurants across New York. The original chopped cheese brings together the wonder of a cheesesteak with the comfort of a classic burger. 

Chefs take ground beef, peppers, and onions and cook them on a grill top, then chop them all together and press down with a spatula. Next, they add layers of American cheese, then serve the sandwich on a hero with tomato, lettuce, and condiments. For an authentic chopped cheese, go to Hajji's bodega in Harlem (also known as the Blue Sky Deli) and Harlem Taste.

General Tso's chicken

We have New York's Chinatown to thank for the popularity of General Tso's chicken, which is a classic Chinese-American dish that can now be found all over the country. The original dish was invented by Chef Peng in Taiwan in the 1950s and was adapted by chefs T.T. Wang and David Keh in 1970 who were looking for Chinese food that could appeal to an American audience. 

The original General Tso's chicken is made with dark meat chicken marinated in vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, hot chilies, and a small amount of sugar. Wang and Keh's version removes the vinegar and increases the sugar to create the General Tso's chicken we know today.

New York-style cheesecake

Like New York-style pizza and New York-style bagels, New York-style cheesecake is renowned because of its ingredients and unique methods of preparation. When making New York-style cheesecakes, bakers add heavy cream or sour cream to the base to create a smoother and creamier cheesecake. The cheesecake is then baked in a springform pan to allow for even baking at a higher temperature so it can form a decadently rich crust.

To try some of the best New York-style cheesecakes, head to world-famous Junior's in Downtown Brooklyn and Times Square, or check out Breads Bakery or Lady M, both of which made the list of our favorite bakeries in New York.

Chicken and rice

In the 1990s in Midtown Manhattan, a food cart serving halal chicken and rice created one of the most iconic dishes in all of New York. The chicken and rice we know today was popularized by The Halal Guys, a food cart founded by three Egyptian-Americans — Mohamed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka, and Abdelbaset Elsayed — who originally sold hot dogs. 

Abouelenein is credited for The Halal Guys making the switch from hot dogs to serving plates of halal chicken, gyro meat, rice, and pita, which is now something of a New York obsession. Lines continue to form around the block for heaping portions of richly marinated chicken, yellow rice, lettuce, tomato, and their famous white and hot sauces.

Waldorf salad

The Waldorf salad was invented at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel by the hotel's first maître d', Oscar Tschirky in 1893. Tschirky's recipe was incredibly simple, as it included only three ingredients: apples, celery, and mayonnaise. In the years that have followed, the salad has been reinterpreted by chefs around the world, most notably to include walnuts.  

Chef Ina Garten transforms the Waldorf salad by omitting the mayonnaise and instead using her own vinaigrette and adding raisins and boiled egg. Although the Waldorf Astoria is still closed for a multi-year renovation, you can enjoy modern takes on Waldorf salads across New York.

Black-and-white cookie

The black-and-white cookie is a staple in many of New York's classic delis and bakeries. These iconic treats can be traced back to Bavarian immigrants, Ashkenazi Jews, and Italian-Americans, all of whom put their own spin on this sugar-based cookie topped with a thick fondant of chocolate and vanilla frosting. 

What makes the black-and-white cookie so unique is that the batter more closely resembles the ingredients for cupcakes rather than cookies. This leads to the density black-and-white cookies are known for as well as their satisfying cake-like taste. For delicious black-and-white cookies visit Russ & Daughters, William Greenberg Desserts, or Zabar's, one of our favorite gourmet grocers in New York.

New York-style Italian ice

If you're in New York and the weather is warm, there's no more refreshing treat than New York-style Italian ice. For the original New York-style Italian ice experience, head to The Lemon Ice King of Corona in Corona, Queens, where the Benfaremo family has been making fruit-based Italian ices for over 60 years. All of The Lemon Ice King's fruit ices are made from real fruit and feature pieces of real fruit in the base.

Not in Queens? You can also enjoy classic New York-style Italian ices from any number of street vendors throughout the city who serve it fresh from their freezers into small paper cups that you'll end up slurping the last of your ice from.

New York soft pretzels

New York didn't invent the soft pretzel, but soft pretzels are an essential part of the New York food canon. Available on any street corner, sometimes from multiple vendors, these addictingly salty snacks are served piping hot straight from a heated drawer in each vendor's cart and topped generously with coarse sea salt. 

The interior of New York soft pretzels are light and pillowy and the exteriors are crusty and perfect for dipping in yellow deli mustard. For a New York soft pretzel upgrade, head to Sigmund's Pretzels for specialty pretzels with everything seasoning, truffle cheddar, churro, or original all served with whole grain mustard.

Grandma pie

If you finish your New York slice and still find yourself jonesing for pizza, pick up a grandma pie, another signature Italian-American New York staple. A grandma pie is a pan-baked pizza with heaps of garlic-laced tomato sauce on top of slices of fresh mozzarella all cut into rectangular slices. Unlike Sicilian pies, grandma pies are thin and dense, a style that makes them immensely nourishing. 

Grandma pizzas can be traced to the early 20th century when Italians immigrated to New York. These pizzas were prepared by the matriarchs of the family with the supplies they had available: cookie sheets and standard ovens. Hence, the grandma pie was born and we are the luckier for it.

Manhattan clam chowder

As the name suggests, Manhattan clam chowder — also known as "Coney Island clam chowder" and "Fulton Market clam chowder" — was created in Manhattan. What makes Manhattan clam chowder distinct from classic clam chowders popularized in New England and Rhode Island is the addition of tomatoes, which is famously not to everyone's liking. World-renowned cookbook author and chef James Beard once described Manhattan Clam Chowder as a "rather horrendous soup" because of its tomato base. 

Fans of this variety find that tomatoes add a satisfying sweetness to the dish. Like many of New York's icons on this list, Manhattan clam chowder is the product of immigration, as Italian and Portuguese settlers made the clam chowder their own by adding tomatoes, bell peppers, and crushed red pepper flakes.


Bialys are closely related to bagels, but they're unique in their own right. Instead of the hole found in the center of a bagel, bialys have a small indentation that is filled with savory toppings like garlic, poppy seeds, or minced onions. Unlike New York bagels, bialys aren't boiled before they're baked, which makes them light and fluffy with air pockets that are perfect for slathering spreads like butter or cream cheese. 

The name comes from "Bialystoker Kuchen" of Bialystok, a town in Poland. Polish Jews who immigrated to New York are known for these savory treats. We recommend stopping at Kossar's for bialys or Russ & Daughters, where you can also pick up black-and-white cookies and bagels.

The garbage plate

The garbage plate isn't for the faint of heart. The origin story for this dish is reminiscent of the creation of another New York standout, Buffalo wings. In Rochester, New York, Nick Tahou of Nick Tahou Hots first made a "garbage plate" for college students interested in a late-night meal with "all the garbage on it". 

Now, garbage plates can be found throughout New York. When you order one, expect to be served a heaping platter of hamburger, cheeseburger, white or red hots, Italian sausage, chicken, or grilled cheese over a layer of french fries, baked beans, home fries, and/or macaroni salad. The plate is traditionally slathered in Rochester-style hot sauce with an option to add onions, ketchup, or mustard.


Another New York dish you may not have heard of is the spiedie — a sandwich made with cubes of meat in an Italian roll that's local to Binghamton, New York. The meat in spiedies ranges from beef, lamb, venison, chicken, veal, or pork, but the style of preparation is what unites it: your meat of choice is cubed, heavily marinated, and grilled for that satisfying taste of char. 

The name spiedie comes from the Italian "spiedo", which is a reference to a kitchen cooking spit. The sandwich is thought to have originated in the 1940s and can still be enjoyed today. Head to Spiedie and Rib Pit for an authentic New York spiedie. We recommend ordering yours with pork or chicken.

Chicken riggies

Chicken riggies, also known as Utica riggies, is an Italian-American dish that's native to Utica, New York. Chicken riggies is a plate of rigatoni pasta made with chicken and hot or sweet peppers in a spicy tomato and cream sauce. 

One of the delights of chicken riggies is that it's completely customizable. If you prefer your pasta a little spicier, you can amp up the heat, or you can damper it down with fewer peppers and a heartier portion of cream. Television personality and chef Rachel Ray popularized Utica chicken riggies with a segment on her show in 2007, bringing national attention to this local delicacy.

Egg cream

The egg cream is a portal into history most associated with old-fashioned diners. Among the many theories about the inception of the egg cream, which famously doesn't feature eggs or cream, is that it was the creation of Louis Auster, a European who immigrated to New York in the early 20th century and opened a candy shop in the Lower East Side. The egg cream became the most beloved item on Auster's menu, made with milk, soda water, and chocolate syrup. 

We may never know the true origins of the egg cream, but you can still enjoy this specialty today at the beloved Ukrainian restaurant Veselka in the East Village, Shopsin's in the Lower East Side, and Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain in Carroll Gardens.


Like bagels, bialys, and black-and-white cookies, challahs can be found in Jewish delis throughout New York. If you're unfamiliar with this New York specialty, challah is a type of bread, which is typically eaten on Shabbat and major Jewish holidays. But the appeal of fluffy, eggy, pillowy, delicious challah has made it a New York staple that is enjoyed outside of religious contexts and found all throughout the state. 

Challah is a braided bread that's known for its sweetness and rich egg wash. On Jewish holidays, you can find round challahs topped with savory seasonings. For superior challahs visit Silvermoon Bakery, Michaeli Bakery, and Breads Bakery.

Utica greens

Utica, New York has another acclaimed dish to its name: Utica greens. This New York classic originated at the Chesterfield restaurant in 1988 and has become an Italian-American staple across New York. Utica greens, also known as "greens Morelle”, after Joe Morelle who is credited with popularizing the dish, are an interpretation of the greens early Italian-American matriarchs prepared for their families. 

Traditional Utica greens, or greens Morelle, consist of sautéed escarole with hot cherry peppers, Parmigiano-Reggiano, bread crumbs, and fried prosciutto. Some variations mix up the greens by adding romaine, Swiss chard, or kale, as well as potatoes and pine nuts.

Mutton chops

One of New York's legendary steakhouses is known for mutton chops, making it a New York classic. Keens Steakhouse has been serving mutton chops in New York since the late 1800s. 

Keens Steakhouse remains a New York staple over 130 years later with its signature dish: the "Legendary Mutton Chop", which is a 26-ounce saddle of lamb featuring crispy lamb belly, aka lamb bacon. The mutton chop is seared at high heat, seasoned with salt, and covered in jus with shallots, garlic, and veal stock. Mutton chops are incredibly rich, fragrant, and delicious. Fortunately, this dish is currently experiencing a cultural renaissance.


Like its melting pot predecessors, the knish is a product of the diversity of New York thanks to Ukrainian, Polish, and Russian Jewish immigrants who settled in the city and helped popularize this flaky pastry. A knish is a ball of dough traditionally filled with mashed potatoes and caramelized onions. Now these savory snacks have modern fillings like mushrooms, cheese, and even pastrami. 

The knish is the ultimate comfort food that can be eaten quickly on the go. Head to Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, Pastrami Queen, Russ & Daughters, Zabar's, or Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery to try one for yourself.