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10 Classic NYC Foods And Where To Find Them

Picture of Emma Hoffman
Emma Hoffman
Updated: 12 November 2016
New York is and always has been a city for food connoisseurs. Therefore, foodies can rejoice in classic NYC staples from huge pizza slices to bagels and knishes. We’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite places to grab classic New York food.

Pizza: Di Fara and Juliana’s

Pizza is arguably the most notable New York food. From dollar slices to culinary masterpieces, there are millions of places to grab a slice. For the classic, somewhat unpredictable Brooklyn slice, a Di Fara slice by Dom DeMarco is worth it. There’s usually a line, but that just makes it more valuable and more New York. Juliana’s is the place to go if you’re looking for a more traditional pie, or a pie voted ‘World’s Best Pizza,’ with a view of the Manhattan skyline from DUMBO Brooklyn. Although there’s usually a line, it moves quickly. The crisp, light crust is paired with light, flavorful sauce and quality toppings. This, as well as the engaging and attentive service makes for a delicious and welcoming environment.

Di Fara, 1424 Avenue J, New York, NY, USA + 1 (718) 258-1367

Juliana’s, 19 Old Fulton St, New York, NY, USA + 1 (718) 596-6700

Bagels: Russ and Daughters and Absolute Bagels

Russ and Daughters is the classic Lower East Side institution for New York Jewish fare that’s been around for more than 100 years. Their bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon is hard to beat, and although it’s not cheap, it’s worth it. This sandwich is so traditional, it’s called ‘The Classic’ on their menu. There are tons of other bagel, cream cheese, and lox combinations and all are amazing. The only down side is the inevitable wait. Absolute Bagels is a small shop on the Upper West Side that filled the void left by H&H. This small, cash-only bagel store is perfectly balanced with a chewy interior and a crunchy exterior. It may not be as charming or classic as Russ and Daughters, but Absolute is an overlooked gem.

Russ and Daughters, 179 E Houston St, New York, NY, USA + 1 (212) 475-4880

Absolute Bagels, 2788 Broadway, New York, NY, USA + 1 (212) 932-2052

Hot Dogs: Bark Hot Dogs

This Brooklyn-based hot dog joint has reinvented the classic New York hot dog in the best way. Bark Hot Dogs aren’t just casually turned on a griddle. They’re based in Peter Luger porterhouse and housemade smoked lard butter. Are you drooling? All the pickles, relishes, and sauces are made in-house, and they have burgers, salads, and wings, too. The hot dog to topping ratio is always on point.

Bark Hot Dogs, 474 Bergen St, New York, NY, USA + 1 (718) 789-1939

Pork Buns: Momofuko and BaoHaus

David Chang’s pork buns, served at all the Momofuku restaurants, have been an NYC favorite for more than 10 years. In fact, they put this now-celebrity chef on the map. The components are simple and perfect: a steamed bun, roasted pork belly, Hoisin sauce, quick pickled cucumbers, scallions, and some Sriracha if you dare. This simple dish is delightful and consistent in all variations at the Momofuku restaurants. Because the dish is so simple, it is in the ingredient quality and preparation that this bun shines. BaoHaus is another local Bao hot spot, with small buns that pack a punch. BaoHaus is a small hole-in-the-wall in the East Village featuring bao with many different fillings. The atmosphere is great for a late-night snack. There’s a sense of humor in dishes like the Chairman Bao, which is their twist on the pork bun with braised pork belly, Haus relish, crushed peanuts, Taiwanese red sugar and cilantro. There’s also the Uncle Jesse, a fried tofu bao with peanuts, Taiwanese red sugar, cilantro, and Haus sauce.

Momofuku, various locations around NYC

BaoHaus, 238 E 14th St, New York, NY, USA + 1 (646) 669-8889

Pastrami on Rye: Katz’s Delicatessen

Katz’s Delicatessen is the place to go for an authentic New York pastrami sandwich on rye. The walls are filled with photos of famous people who’ve noshed on the classic dish. This place is all about craftsmanship. The slicers build your sandwich in front of you, offering a juicy slice to try while you wait. It can get hectic, but a messy bite of the perfectly cooked, falling apart sandwich is so worth it that it will make you wish you were having what she’s having.

Katz’s Delicatessen, 205 E Houston St, New York, NY, USA + 1 (212) 254-2246

Soup Dumplings: Joe’s Shanghai

Joe’s Shanghai is home to arguably the best soup dumplings, or xiao long bao, in the city. They have crab and pork soup dumplings, and each meal comes with eight hot, soupy dumplings made to order. The crab variety are packed with crab and spice. The pork is moist and flavorful as well. The atmosphere is what you would expect from an old-school Chinese restaurant, from the dated styling and carpets to the smell and humidity.

Joe’s Shanghai, 9 Pell St, New York, NY, USA + 1 (212) 233-8888

Black and White Cookies: William Greenberg’s Dessert

These famous, or infamous, black and white cookies are amazing and huge. Don’t be fooled by the plastic wrapping, these babies are fresh. William Greenberg’s Dessert is a tiny bakery just blocks from the Met. These heavenly cookies are moist and cakey with a perfect fondant icing with the clear vanilla and chocolate flavor that a black and white cookie should have. They also do custom cookies online, and sell them with sprinkles.

William Greenberg’s Dessert, 1100 Madison Ave, New York, NY, USA + 1 (212) 861-1340

Halal: Mamoun’s

This beyond affordable street food is also beyond delicious. The friendly service and the huge line somehow make Mamoun’s falafel smothered in hummus and white sauce and lettuce even better, if that’s possible. The vegetarian and meat sandwiches are off the charts, and Mamoun’s is open late. Don’t skimp on the red sauce.

Mamoun’s, 119 Macdougal St, New York, NY, USA + 1 (212) 674-8685

Knishes: Yonah Schimmel

Knishes are dumplings of dough stuffed, usually with potatoes, and then baked or fried. They’re eastern European staples, and Yonah Schimmel’s are the best. These giant potato and buttery pastry hockey pucks are fantastic, and Yonah Schimmel’s has been around since 1910. This institution is so important that they can do well with just a faded sign that can’t be seen from across the street. They have all the classic knishes: potato, kasha, mushroom, and spinach, and some more innovative, seasonal ones like sweet potato, jalapeño and cheese. They also have par baked knishes that you can cook at home.

Yonah Schimmel’s, 137 E Houston St, New York, NY, USA + 1 (212) 477-2858

Cheesecake: Eileen’s Special Cheesecake

New York cheesecake is classic, and there’s no better place to find a slice than at Eileen’s Special Cheesecake, which has so many toppings and size options. Although New York cheesecake is classic, this isn’t the classic. Eileen’s is soft, creamy, light and fluffy, like a creamy cloud. The service is friendly and they will help you navigate through all the cheesecake options.

Eileen’s Special Cheesecake, 17 Cleveland Pl, New York, NY, USA + 1 (212) 966-5585