New York City may be the city that never sleeps, but it's also the city that never stops eating. At all hours of the day you can snack on foods that are staples of this bustling city. Whether it's a breakfast sandwich or a 3 am hot dog, whether you want to sit down for a fancy steak or bite off pretzels as you walk around a park, New York City has something for every mood and taste. We've put together a list of classic New York City foods and experiences to try when you visit. We've also recommended places to eat traditional versions of them as well as modern iterations. One thing is sure: you won't leave hungry. Bon appétit!
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New York-Style Pizza
New Yorkers will tell you their pizza is the best in the world, and visitors agree once they try it. It's served as slices with very thin crust, so you can fold it in half and eat it like a sandwich. Because it's not carb-heavy, you can eat many slices in one sitting.
Typically New York City pizza simply has red sauce and mozzarella cheese. But now you can find slices with all sorts of ingredients from mushroom to pepperoni to barbecue chicken. Just order what you desire!
New York City has tens of thousands of places to buy pizza. Literally. So it can be hard to figure out where to go. But experts will tell you the best two places are located down the street from each other in Greenwich Village: Bleecker Street Pizza and Joe's Pizza. Locals and celebrities fight over which is better (you can see photos of famous patrons on the shop walls.) Order a slice from each and decide for yourself.
Bagel and Schmear
On Sunday mornings New Yorkers head to their local delis to get a bagel topped with schmear. On days when they are feeling fancy they add lox, capers, red onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Sometimes the cream cheese is flavored with lox, chives, or cinnamon raisins.
New York City bagels are different from other places in the world because they are soft, chewy, and doughy. When you take a bite, you'll feel like you're eating a cloud, not a hunk of cards. It's the water that makes them the way they are. That means it's impossible to recreate them anywhere else in the world.
For an authentic New York City experience head to Zabars on the Upper West Side. Wait in line to order your bagel and then grab a stool at one of the tables. Murray's Bagels in Greenwich Village is also a favorite. It's a little more upscale, but it's a great place to relax and read the paper on a weekend morning.
There is nothing like sinking your teeth into a bike of New York-style cheesecake. It's richer than other types because it's made with heavy cream. It's like a smooth bite of heaven in your mouth.
You can get a decent slice of authentic NYC cheesecake at any local bodega or bakery. If you want a deli-atmosphere look no further than Junior's Restaurant & Bakery that has multiple locations in midtown and Brooklyn. For something more inventive Breads Bakery in Union Square puts cheesecake in Babka. At Ferrara Bakery & Cafe in Little Italy you'll find ingredients like citrus peels mixed into the crust. While you can buy one slice at a time, it's so good you'll want to take home the entire pie.
Pastrami on Rye
There is nothing more New York than a pastrami on rye. This classic sandwich dates back to the late 1800s when kosher delis served it to their patrons. It is usually topped with spicy brown mustard and accompanied by a fat kosher dill pickle. Another signature is that it must be overstuffed, meaning meat flows out of the sandwich. Getting it all in your mouth with one bite is a fun challenge. Some sandwiches are served with coleslaw and Russian dressing.
There are two must-try places to consume the traditional pastrami on rye: Carnegie Deli at Madison Square Garden and Katz's Delicatessen on the Lower East Side, which has been a staple for over a century. You're going to be tempted by some other items on the extensive menu, but stay focused; pastrami on rye is the only way to go.
When walking around New York City it's impossible to miss the street vendors selling giant, soft pretzels. They are around Central Park, on street corners, outside of museums, and more. They seem to be in the exact place when you're starving and in need of a snack. This iconic food is usually sprinkled with large salt crystals and served with a side of spicy mustard for dipping.
While you can pick up one from a street cart there are also bars and restaurants that serve the giant, soft pretzel. Sigmund's Pretzels on the Lower East Side puts flavors into the pretzels like feta and olive. Celebrity chef Charlie Palmer serves a mean one at Crimson & Rye in midtown that comes with a side of sizzling beer cheese.
Bacon, Egg, and Cheese
New Yorkers regularly crave one thing: the classic bacon, egg, and cheese. It's perfect to replenish your calories after a long work-out or if you need fuel after staying out a little too late the previous night. Some people add hot sauce to their concoction. Others, avocado or Ketchup. You can get it on a roll, hoagie, croissant, bagel, or english muffin. There is only one rule: the greasier the better.
The best place to find it is a local bodega or deli. They will cook it right in front of you and package it so you can take it to a bench or the park. At many places you can get a free coffee with your sandwich in the morning. Stroll around to find the best place near you; it won't be far.
When the Cronut first emerged in 2013 it caused a huge amount of hype, even for New York City. People camped out in line just to buy this donut, croissant hybrid before it sold out of bakeries. Time Magazine named it the best invention of the year.
Now the lines are shorter, but the creation still tastes just as good! For the ultimate cronut experience head to the Dominique Ansel Bakery, where it originated. The flavor inside changes each month, and it is never repeated. That means you get crazy inventions like Peanut Butter Rum Caramel and Milk & Honey With Lavender. You still need to arrive early to get one before it's sold out. There will be a line, but it's well worth it.
New York City steakhouses are as classic and timeless as the city itself. They present the perfect evening. You snuggle into a plush booth, order a nice bottle of red wine or a martini, and ask for the special cut of the day. The meat comes with so many sides they can constitute an entire meal: baked potatoes, mac & cheese, asparagus, cauliflower, the list goes on and on.
One of the most quintessential New York City steak experiences is at Peter Luger's in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The meat is dry-aged to perfection in the restaurant's basement, and the venue looks like a German beer garden. There are no frills, and you wouldn't want it any other way.
Nothing says summer in New York City like a juicy, grilled hot dog. The city is even home to a hot dog eating contest, which takes place in Coney Island on Fourth of July. There are street vendors all over the city serving them with bright yellow mustard and as much relish as you want. Fancier restaurants and bars add toppings like kimchee, bacon, eggs, even spicy chili. Some dogs are served on fancy bread like pretzel rolls.
The most iconic frank in New York City is Nathan's Farmous Hot Dogs located in Coney Island. Grab your dog (don't forget your side of cheese fries) and then bring it to the beach or walk with it along the boardwalk. For a more hipster creation head to Crif Dogs in Williamsburg where you can have your snack wrapped in bacon, covered in coleslaw, and seasoned with extra spicy with chili sauce.
Black & White Cookie
Those with a sweet tooth can't leave New York City without trying the black & white cookie. The treat - made of a shortbread base and black and white fondant icing on different sides of the cookie - is thought to have been introduced to the city in 1902 by Bavarian immigrants who owned Glaser's Bake Shop in Yorkville. Now the cookies can be found in almost every deli in the city and have been portrayed in television shows like Seinfeld as well as movies. They vary in size and width. You can find some as big as cakes and some so small, you can eat them in one bite.
One of the most popular places to get a cookie is Russ & Daughters, a Lower East Side cafe that has been there so long it's now a landmark. Brooklyn locals love heading to neighborhood shop Joyce Bakeshop near Prospect Park to pick up the cookies for picnics.