Editor’s Note: Even if you can’t dine in New York City right now, you can still order many of these classic NYC dishes for home delivery. Enjoy!
There’s nowhere like New York City when it comes to dining options, fast food to fine dining and everything in-between. What makes the city so appealing, however, is how many of these choices are true New York City creations, with some pedigreed from the end of the 19th century.
These are iconic New York City foods that you shouldn’t miss during a trip to NYC with some available for shipment anywhere in the US.
Often, visitors crave dishes made famous in iconic New York City movies and TV shows. “I’ll have what she’s having,” trills the woman sitting next to Meg Ryan at Katz’s Delicatessen in “When Harry Met Sally.”
Everyone is familiar with that scene, but do they know what to eat? Absolutely not what Meg was eating in the movie, a turkey sandwich.
What gets my vote is the oversized hot pastrami sandwich, served on rye bread, perhaps with a little mustard or even Russian dressing. Have a side of pickles with it for the full experience.
Don’t love the smoky, peppery hot pastrami? The corned beef is equally ambrosial, and both hearken back to Katz’s opening in 1888. Free shipping nationwide. 205 East Houston Street at Ludlow St., Manhattan, 188.8.131.526. https://katzsdelicatessen.com/
Another deli with a specialty worth seeking out is Junior’s on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. While Junior’s has locations in Manhattan, it’s the Brooklyn one that causes me to drool. The must-order here is a piece of their phenomenal cheesecake. Junior’s New York style is rich and creamy, made with cream cheese rather than ricotta like the Italian version.
Order the strawberry cheesecake with glazed whole strawberries on top. You’ll love this so much, you’ll want to have a whole cake shipped home via Goldbelly. 386 Flatbush Ave. Extension, Downtown Brooklyn, btw DeKalb Ave. and Fleet St., 718.852.5257.
Delis and their offshoot cafes seem to have a hold on the city. Note Zabar’s on the Upper West Side. A food mecca for anyone who visits New York City, Zabar’s is the king when it comes to what we call “appetizing.” You could start with a tasting at their smoked fish counter, sampling Scotch cured salmon or a piece of smoked whitefish, and then finish with one of their rugelach, a sweet dessert that’s a pastry pinwheel encircling a chocolate or cinnamon center.
If you want to use your credit card, be sure not to mix up the checkout lines as Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks did in “You’ve Got Mail.”
Zabar’s Café next door gives you a chance to enjoy a bagel with nova and a schmear (of cream cheese) in a sitdown setting. 2245 Broadway btw W. 80th and W. 81st sts, Manhattan, 212.787.2000. Nationwide shipping. https://www.zabars.com/
Bagels in New York City
While we’re on the topic of bagels, bagels are a New York City staple and the best in the world are found in the Big Apple. True New York bagels have a crisp outside and chewy inside. Eat them plain or as a sandwich – they’re the perfect on-the-go carb loader.
And on a side note, if you’re looking for a vegan restaurant in New York City (there are many!), most bagels are vegan. And vegan tofu spreads with chives or veggies are popular options.
Where should you get bagels in NYC? H&H has been supplying the city with these gems for nearly 50 years. Homesick New Yorkers avail themselves of their overnight shipping, or you can visit their storefront and choose from 19 varieties of bagels that have just been boiled and baked on burlap-covered boards. Don’t trust any impostors! And, remember, a great bagel doesn’t need to be toasted. 1551 2nd Ave., btw E. 80th and E. 81st sts, Manhattan, 212.734.7441. Nationwide shipping: https://www.hhbagels.nyc/
Discussion is ongoing among city foodies as to where to get the truest, purest pizza. In my opinion, the prize goes to John’s Pizzeria of Bleecker Street. Baked in a coal-fired brick oven as has been done for 75 years, John’s perfect thin-crust tomato sauce and mozzarella pizza can be further enhanced with toppings like fresh garlic, sausage and basil. No slices. 278 Bleecker St., btw Morton and Jones sts, Manhattan, 212.243.1680. http://www.johnsbrickovenpizza.com/
Where to Get the Best Hot Dogs in NYC
Similarly, hot dog mavens debate the merits of Nathan’s original stand in Coney Island (a “Seinfeld” favorite), Gray’s Papaya or Papaya King. Each claims to have hot dogs as good as filet mignon. I’ll let you do the comparison.
Dress these all-beef dogs with sauerkraut, cooked tomato-based onions, and mustard. Pair them with the curious papaya drink offered, and you have a quick meal or snack. Nathan’s, 1310 Surf Ave., btw Stillwell Ave. and Schweikerts Walk, Coney Island, Brooklyn, 718.333.2202; Gray’s Papaya, 2090 Broadway, btw 71st and 72nd sts, Manhattan, 212.799.0243; Papaya King, 179 E. 86th St., at Third Ave., Manhattan, 212.369.0648.
Nationwide shipping for Gray’s Papaya and Papaya King via Goldbelly https://www.goldbelly.com. Nathan’s hot dogs are available is grocery stores or via Amazon.com.
But perhaps you’d like a more serious meal before you have a snack or dessert? Consider a visit downtown to one of New York’s most iconic restaurants, Delmonico’s, where dishes like Baked Alaska and Lobster Newberg were invented. Lobster Newberg, dating back to 1876, is shellfish set in a rich sauce of cream, sherry, cognac and pepper. Delmonico’s, 56 Beaver St. at South William St., 212.509.1144
You could sample the signature ribeye steak at Delmonico’s, or head to Brooklyn to another of the city’s iconic restaurants, Peter Luger, for their buttery sliced Porterhouse steak.
Sometimes gruff, always crowded and consistently delicious, Peter Luger’s is the real deal, founded in 1887. Be advised that credit cards are not always accepted. Peter Luger, 178 Broadway btw Diggs and Bedford aves, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 718.387.7400
Vegetarians have something to cheer about as well: the Waldorf Salad, created for a private party at the venerable Waldorf-Astoria on Park Avenue in the 1890s, mixes candied walnuts, apples, and greens with a delightfully light yogurt and crème fraiche dressing. Although the hotel is currently closed for renovations and will likely morph into more of a residential space than a hotel, you can make their classic recipe at home.
Grand Central Oyster Bar
I also suggest a visit to the 101-year-old Grand Central Oyster Bar, located down the ramp in the beautiful Beaux-Arts Grand Central Terminal. Walk to the bar area to the right, where their special oyster pan roast is prepared before you in original steam kettles.
A combination of butter, cream, sweet chili sauce and oysters in a soupy concoction, this makes for an indulgent lunch or dinner that pairs beautifully with a Bloody Mary or local brew. Grand Central Oyster Bar, 89 E 42nd St., btw Park and Vanderbilt aves, Manhattan, 212.490.6650.
King Cole Bar and Salon
Although the Bloody at the Oyster Bar is a worthy selection, you should really pay homage to the “temple” where the cocktail was perfected, the King Cole Bar and Salon at the St. Regis Hotel.
Once named the Red Snapper, the Bloody Mary was created 80 years ago by bartender Fernand Petiot and the original recipe of vodka, tomato juice, celery salt, pepper, lemon and Worcestershire Sauce is still served. While you’re there, take in the beauty of the mural that holds a secret only the bartenders can disclose. 2 E. 55th St., btw Madison and Fifth aves, Manhattan, 212.339.6857.
McSorley’s Old Ale House
Two other favorite libations in the Big Apple are the light and dark ales found at McSorley’s Old Ale House, with a heritage dating back to 1854. It is customary to order a side of saltines with Cheddar cheese, onions and mustard to accompany. 15 E. 7th Street, btw 2nd and 3rd aves, Manhattan, 212.473.9148.
But I prefer to drink my brews in the company of another of the city’s iconic foods, the pretzel.
Since you can’t imbibe outdoors in New York City, unless at a sidewalk café with a liquor license (and they rarely serve pretzels), grabbing a pretzel from one of the many food carts isn’t a good option for a glam night on the town.
However, Sigmund’s Pretzels in Alphabet City has you covered for this favorite. They ship their hand-rolled German pretzels nationwide. Following a recipe dating back more than a century but modernized with six flavor choices, the soft pretzels give you a nice reason to throw back a couple of cold ones as well. Be sure to dip them in some whole grain mustard to enhance their doughy center. 29 Avenue B at E. 3rd Street, Manhattan, 646.410.0333. https://sigmundnyc.com/
As long as you’re downtown, you should really stop by Yonah Schimmel’s for another of New York’s best, the knish. Baked fresh on-premises with a variety of fillings, the knish is a potato- or sweet cheese-based pastry-like finger snack.
Yonah Schimmel’s has been doling them out to hungry customers for more than 110 years. Ask for a Dr. Brown’s Cel-ray soda to wash them down. Nationwide shipping via Goldbelly East Houston St., btw Forsyth and Eldridge sts, Manhattan, 212.477.2858.
If your sweet tooth has started to rear its fangs, New York is long on treats it can call its own. The 90-years young Eisenberg’s on Lower Fifth Avenue is a luncheonette oozing history and tradition. Try one of their refreshing egg creams made with neither cream nor egg.
Choose from chocolate or vanilla – it’s a frothy drink made with Fox’s U-Bet syrup, icy cold milk and fountain seltzer, very much a New York original. 174 Fifth Ave., btw W. 22nd and W. 23rd sts, Manhattan, 212.675.5096.
Benfaremo Lemon Ice King of Corona
Many of you might remember the Italian ices in the opening credits from the TV show, “King of Queens.” Tucked behind Citi Field, Benfaremo Lemon Ice King of Corona scoops out 40 flavors of the slushy dessert that’s both portable and refreshing. 52-96 108th St., btw 52nd and 53rd aves, Corona, Queens, 718.699.5133.
William Greenberg Desserts
At the city’s bakeries, you’ll find a cookie distinctively New York that was made famous in “Seinfeld” when the bobka ran out.
Head to William Greenberg Desserts on the Upper East Side for a black & white, a cookie-cake combo that’s made from vanilla cake dough and frosted on one half with soft vanilla fondant and the other with chocolate fondant.
For the kids, there are even mini versions. Online shipping is available. https://wmgreenbergdesserts.com/ 1100 Madison Ave., btw E. 83rd and E. 84th sts, Manhattan, 212.861.1340.