Pastrami on rye is about as “New York” as it gets, second only to Katz’s Delicatessen. The world-famous Jewish deli serves the city’s best pastrami sandwich, complete with a pile of hand-carved beef pastrami, yellow mustard, and freshly baked rye bread.
Carb connoisseurs from around the world travel for a taste of an authentic New York bagel. Grab yours at another New York classic, Russ & Daughters. The 103-year-old appetizing shop still serves up one of the city’s best bagels and all the traditional toppings (lox, smoked fish, cream cheeses, etc.) you could want.
The bodega-made bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, or “BEC” as it’s known colloquially, is how the New Yorker ensures themselves a great morning. The best part of this cheat day (or any day, nobody will tell) delicacy? You can find it at just about any deli in the city.
The local’s pick for the best cheap meal in the city is the “dollar slice,” or a piece of pizza priced at $1 or less. While there are many fast-casual eateries dedicated to the dollar slice, the most consistent slices can be found at local chains 2 Bros. Pizza or 99¢ Fresh Pizza.
When in New York, drink as New Yorkers do. In-the-know bean-fiends flock to local coffee roasters for unfussy drinks brewed with care (and maybe a little harmless pretension). Home to what’s been described by some as the city’s best latte, Abraço in the East Village is a great place to begin your coffee education.
No, we’re not referring to the “dirty water dogs” peddled on sidewalks across the city. A true New York hot dog should be crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and, ideally, secured from local institution Gray’s Papaya. The Recession Special at this famous 24-hour spot includes two franks and one soda for “when you’re hungry, or broke, or just in a hurry.” In truth, though, there’s never a wrong time to eat at Gray’s Papaya.
Falafel, or fried chickpea fritters, are a favorite amongst locals, who often enjoy the Middle Eastern dish alongside tahini, fresh veggies, and pita. The 1971-established Mamoun’s Falafel, New York’s oldest falafel restaurant, is still the best place in the city to try these exotic eats.
No disrespect to the dollar slice, but sometimes (read always) it’s worth springing for a piece of traditional New York-style pizza. Where better to sample a classic city-style slice than at Lombardi’s, the United States’ first pizzeria serving up a taste of history.
A city of food snobs, New Yorkers don’t do chains. Unless, of course, that chain is Shake Shack, a Madison Square Park hot dog cart-turned-international burger joint. Since this New York-born business first opened in 2004, its Shackburger, featuring Pat LaFrieda beef, a Martin’s potato roll, and top-secret ShackSauce, has become as much of a local classic as the other items on this list.
Meat over rice
Meat over rice, also known by the unfortunate name of “street meat,” is a simple yet popular dish sold by sidewalk carts across the city. However, you’re going to want to get yours specifically from The Halal Guys, a sidewalk stand whose famous white and hot sauces and platters featuring gyro, falafel, and more have earned nearly 9,000 Yelp reviews and reliably long lines of hungry customers.
New York cheesecake
Consider yourself warned: once you’ve tasted true New York-style cheesecake, the imitations you’ll find across the globe won’t be able to compare. After 67 years, the best spot to sample the city’s richest dessert is still Junior’s, where fresh fruit, homemade purees, and more accent creamy slices with sponge cake bottoms.
Black and White Cookie
Comprising a cake base and half-chocolate, half-vanilla frosting, the black and white cookie is not a cookie at all. It is, however, a New York City staple, and a delicious one at that. For generations, Manhattan institution Zabar’s has been serving the homemade sweets with a side of New York nostalgia.