One of the biggest tourist attractions in New York City is the food. If you’re headed to the City that Never Sleeps, there are plenty of restaurants where you can refuel. To get the most out of your trip, be sure to check out the city’s diners, street carts and bodegas.
Thanks to a multitude of movies and TV shows filmed in the city, everyone knows New York is known for its diners. Some of the most authentic, old-school diners include:
Junior’s Restaurant & Bakery
This 1950s-style Brooklyn diner is known for its cheesecake. You can head to the original location on DeKalb Ave. or visit the Times Square outpost. If you’re looking for a little libation to go with your cheesecake, the piña colada is darn good here too.
Lexington Candy Shop
The egg cream may not have been invented at the Lexington Candy Shop, but they make one of the best in Manhattan. They’ve been serving up this mixture of flavored syrup, cream and soda water since they opened back in 1925.
New York City never stops. Which means you might miss something if you decide to break for lunch. Luckily, the city has hundreds of street carts that serve up some of the best fast food in the five boroughs.
One of the best food carts in the city, the original Halal Guys draws hundreds of locals and tourists to its W. 53rd St. location every day. You’ll find a line wrapping around the block at lunchtime (especially on weekdays), and hungry customers are always waiting for the gyros and chicken platters. Luckily, they’ve opened a few additional locations in case you don’t want to travel all the way to Midtown for Middle Eastern eats.
Hot Dog Carts
New Yorkers fondly refer to the hot dogs sold in Manhattan carts as “dirty water hot dogs” (though they’re not actually dirty thanks to the city’s strict food safety standards). Most carts sell these bare-bones hot dogs for around $2 a pop. If you’re paying more (which many tourists do), you’re getting ripped off. You’ll find these carts all over Manhattan, but most of them are located in Midtown.
The Arepa Lady
One of New York City’s food icons, arepas are a corn pancake that is stuffed with cheese, veggies and meat. Originally hailing from Venezuela and Columbia, these starchy little morsels are the star of the Arepa Lady’s menu. This famed food cart originally opened in Queens, became a popular brick-and-mortar restaurant in the same borough and is now living a third incarnation in the food hall in the DeKalb Market Hall in Brooklyn.
You absolutely can’t visit New York without grabbing at least a snack at a bodega. According to Food and Wine, “it’s hard to define what exactly a bodega is, but, as the saying goes, you know it when you see it.” These corner stores have been a part of the city’s fabric since the 1800s. You’ll find them on just about every corner in the city, but one of the best is Blue Sky Deli.
Blue Sky Deli
No trip to the city is complete without trying a chopped cheese. Originally from the Bronx, the chopped cheese is New York City’s answer to the Philly cheese steak. The chopped cheese is a chopped hamburger covered in melted cheese and fried onions. It’s usually served on a hoagie roll and dressed with shredded lettuce. One of the best chopped cheeses in the city can be found at Blue Sky Deli in Harlem. The best part? This delicacy will only set you back around $4.50.
Visiting New York without trying one of its famous bagels is frankly…just wrong. Just like with the pizza and pastrami, New Yorkers claim the bagels made in the five boroughs are superior because there’s just something in the New York City water. Yet not all bagels in the city are created equally. You can’t leave the city without heading to one of these famed bagel counters.
While the star of the show at Kossar’s is clearly a bialy (close un-boiled cousin of the bagel), the bagels are some of the best in the city. Crunchy, chewy and flavorful, these rounds of dough are best eaten with one of Kossar’s inventive schmears or used in place of bread on a sandwich. You can’t go wrong with the scallion schmear on a plain bagel with lox, tomato and thinly sliced red onion.
Once you try one New York City bagel, you won’t be able to stop yourself from trying as many as possible. It’s okay, vacation carbs don’t count.
Before heading to the Statue of Liberty in the morning, stop by Leo’s for one of their hand-rolled bagels. These little beauties are the perfect size and have the ideal level of fluffiness (yes, fluffiness is a thing when it comes to bagels). Order a Jewish rye with sablefish for the full New York immigrant experience.
New York’s delis seem to be closing at a rapid rate, so you better get here while they’re still around. These establishments sell simple, classic, New York-style fare.
Katz’s may not be kosher any longer (they’re hot ticket item is a Reuben sandwich, stuffed with pastrami and cheese and defies kosher law), but this kosher-style deli is still one of the most popular spots in the city to grab a pastrami or corned beef sandwich. Made famous by its 16-ounce sandwiches, this New York icon gained worldwide celebrity status in the movie When Harry Met Sally (the “I’ll have what she’s having scene” was filmed here). If you don’t want to wait in line to get in, the Brooklyn outpost offers less of a wait.
Mile End Deli
Hipsters and trendsetters rejoice! Yes, it’s possible to get a classic New York pastrami sandwich in stylish digs. Mile End is a Jewish-style delicatessen that serves up some of the tastiest smoked meats in two boroughs (Brooklyn and Manhattan) and does it all in a trendy–yet classic–atmosphere. Since this eatery originally hails from Montreal, you can have your smoked meats and a little poutine on the side too.