New York City’s impressive list of cuisines, cultures, markets and specialty purveyors makes it a global leader on the food scene. If you want to see what’s trending on menus worldwide, chances are you’ll spot it first in the Big Apple. Mixed with the latest flavors are restaurant stalwarts that have held their ground for the past century and take pride in serving foods that don’t need to be trendy — they’re simply good. Here’s where you can catch foodie fever in this city that never sleeps.
One of the most iconic New York City foods is pizza, and you’ll see every corner joint slinging slices claiming they’re the “best.” If you ask a New Yorker where their favorite pizza joint is located, you’ll likely get a different answer from every person you poll. Start your NYC pizza journey with authenticity. Lombardi’s claims to be the first pizzeria in America. Located in Little Italy, this pizzeria has been in operation since 1905 and does it in classic Neapolitan style — coal oven, thin crust, smoky edges, San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil. They are known for simple, old-school flavors and techniques that never go out of fashion, much like the restaurant’s “cash only” policy.
Ever heard of a “grandma pie”? It looks nothing like what you picture a classic New York slice looks like, but any real pizza eater knows that this version is where it’s at. The grandma pie is a crispy square slice and heavy on sauce, and found at Di Fara in Brooklyn, where this family-run business has been slinging ‘za since 1965.
If you’re a slave to Instagram, you have to visit Emily. Who is she? Not a “she” but rather a chic pizza eatery that focuses on unique, regionally-sourced ingredients and an ever-changing menu. You’ll find unique toppings and sauces that include pistachios, peppadews, honey and Szechuan chili oil. The pretty products that come out of their wood-fired oven will make your Instagram photos ignite envy among all of your followers.
New York Specialties
True New Yorkers claim that there are some items that can’t be replicated outside of the city limits. First up is an authentic New York bagel from Russ and Daughters, topped with a cream cheese “schmear,” red onions, capers and lox. Locals believe that the city’s tap water is the secret ingredient to making their bagels the best on earth.
If your only experience in a deli is the brightly lit counter at your grocery store that sells sad bologna, then you have to put an NYC deli on your must-see list. Delis are their own style of restaurant in the city, thick with tradition and history. The famed Katz’s Delicatessen has been around since 1888 for good reason — its sandwiches are iconic towers of lovingly-carved meats. It takes a whole month for the deli to properly cure the corned beef and pastrami that they use on their sandwiches, and one bite will assure you that you can’t rush perfection.
Corner bodegas are a classic NYC staple that shouldn’t be overlooked. Yes, you can grab some quick grocery items, but look closer and you’ll likely find a sandwich menu that’s pretty tasty. Check out Sunny and Annie’s deli in the East Village and try their take on pho. No, you won’t be sitting down to tuck into a steaming bowl of soup. Instead, Sunny and Annie’s deli have created a playful twist on Vietnamese comfort food with their pho sandwich. Take a bite of a sandwich that perfectly captures the melting pot of NYC cuisine.
Looking for a five-star experience? New York has its share of Michelin-starred restaurants that are perfect for an evening dedicated to spoiling yourself with an exceptional meal. Eric Ripert’s flagship restaurant Le Bernardin provides the quintessential New York experience — effortless cool mixed with top-notch ingredients and flawless service. The restaurant’s specialty is seafood, creating dishes that highlight screamingly-fresh ocean delights prepared with expert touches.
If you’ve ever watched the TV program “Top Chef,” you’re familiar with host Tom Colicchio. However, before he became famous on TV, he first made a name for himself at Gramercy Tavern. Even though he’s no longer behind the stove, the restaurant continues its tradition of excellence and now has partnered with locals farms such as Blue Hill to create new American classics in a stunning setting. The “farm to table” movement is a mantra followed at Gramercy Tavern, which prides itself on showcasing the freshest local ingredients at the peak of their growing season.
The newest addition to NYC’s food scene is mobile. You’ll find food trucks camped out on corners, in parks and at street festivals. Food trucks have the advantage of playing with new cuisines and combinations more regularly, as the size of their cooking space doesn’t allow for long-term food storage. A perfect example of this concept is Kimchi Taco Truck, a fusion of Korean and Mexican cuisine. The corn tortilla houses a variety of fillings such as Korean barbecued short ribs, spicy Korean fried chicken and crispy fish. The resulting product is a combination of textures and flavors that you have probably never experienced before, but now know work in perfect harmony.
When you think of traditional Polish food, the word “trendy” probably doesn’t come to mind. However, the team behind Old Traditional Polish Cuisine food truck have found a way to put some pierogi back on your plate. The menu is small, but the handmade varieties of pierogi and crispy grilled kielbasa will have you wondering why you don’t have these foods more often.
Food trucks have a way of serving food that you never thought could be produced and prepared in a small space. Ever had a fresh Maine lobster roll from a food truck? At Luke’s Lobster, you’ll find seafood rolls that are sourced from sustainable Maine fisheries. The owner, Luke Holden, grew up in coastal Maine and was tired of seeing eateries charge exorbitant prices for watered-down lobster rolls. He prides himself on the connection with his Maine fishermen and serves affordable, yet densely-packed sandwiches that are filled with lobster likely caught that same day.
Old and new, local and global, trendy and never-changing — New York City’s food scene is ever-evolving while still holding true to its classic roots.