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The Best New York Foods: A Bucket List

BY: Editors | Oct 18, 2017

There is an endless array of delicious, iconic, and even historic dishes to sample in NYC. But which New York foods should you consider a must-eat when visiting? What do you eat if you want to eat like a real New Yorker? To help, we've compiled a bucket list of the 11 most iconic foods in NYC. Grab a napkin and get ready to dive in.

Coal-Fired Pizza at Lombardi's | 32 Spring St., Manhattan

Lombardi's is widely considered to be the oldest pizzeria in the country, so it's no surprise that you get all the hallmarks of a classic New York pizzeria here: red-and-white-checkered tablecloths, kitschy decor lining the walls, and a coal-burning oven. Then there's the pizza itself, which is topped with a beautifully simple trio of tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil, and has earned the title of the best pizza in NYC. As is custom, fold your slice when you eat it.

Pastrami Sandwich at Katz's Delicatessen | 205 E. Houston St., Manhattan

Along with pizzerias and steakhouses, a list of the most iconic New York foods wouldn't be complete without at least one Jewish deli. And no deli counter in the city is more renowned and loved than Katz's. The fatty brisket on its iconic pastrami-on-rye sandwich goes through a curing, smoking, boiling, and steaming process that can take up to 30 days, making it one of the most painstakingly crafted and delicious sandwiches you'll find anywhere.

Steak at Peter Luger Steak House | 178 Broadway, Brooklyn

While the steak at this Williamsburg institution is definitely the main attraction—and with good reason: the USDA prime cuts are dry-aged on site—the fantastic array of sides and accoutrements is a huge reason why people have been coming back for more than 100 years. Praise for the creamed spinach, German potatoes, and world-famous steak sauce (the latter of which is served in a slathering-friendly terrine) pack the restaurant's Yelp reviews.

Eggs Benedict at Delmonico's | 56 Beaver St., Manhattan

You probably don't place eggs Benedict up there with pizza and cheesecake as iconic New York Foods, but did you know the dish was invented in New York? It's true, and the first one was put together back in the 1860s inside the swanky digs at Delmonico's, one of the best restaurants in NYC.

Cheesecake at Junior's | Multiple Locations

You probably know that "New York–style cheesecake" is a thing, but what's that mean, exactly? An NYC slice is made with rich cream cheese rather than with the light ricotta found in the Italian variety. For many, the best New York cheesecake is at Junior's, where each cake is mixed by hand every day.

Falafel at Taim | Multiple Locations

These fried-chickpea balls, stuffed into portable pitas alongside Israeli salad, hummus, and all sorts of other goodness, are perfect for the on-the-go nature of the Big Apple. At Taim, you can choose from three varieties of falafel, each of which could rightly be considered the best in the city: traditional green (with parsley, cilantro, mint), mild harissa (with Tunisian spices), or kalamata olive.

Bagels and Lox at Russ & Daughters | 179 E. Houston St., Manhattan

A truly old-school dish like bagels and lox should be eaten at an old-school spot, and Russ & Daughters presents the best option in the city for just that. It's more than 100 years old, first of all, and it's run by the fourth generation of the same family that started it. The Gaspe Nova lox and scallion schmear are favorites of the hoards of Russ & Daughters fans, which includes the delightfully cantankerous (and NYC native) Anthony Bourdain.

Hot Dogs at Gray's Papaya | 2090 Broadway, Manhattan

Any place shamelessly decorated in puns ("Snappy Service" and "Let's Be Frank" are scrawled on Gray's Papaya's exterior) is a winner in our book. Groan-inducing wordplay aside, the hot dogs here make Gray's Papaya one of the best places to eat in NYC. The Recession Special (two franks and a drink) is easily the most popular item on the menu. Be sure to add onions and sauerkraut to make it a truly New York–style dog.

Halal Platter at The Halal Guys Truck | W. 53rd St. and 6th Ave., Manhattan

What began 25 years ago as a run-of-the-mill NYC food cart has turned into a beloved international fast-food chain. The Halal Guys' Cinderella story is as American (and New York) as it gets, so you owe it to yourself to head to their cart at 53rd and 6th for one of their famous halal platters. Rice, salad, and your choice of protein (gyro, chicken, or falafel) mingle with a signature white sauce in a totally unique, totally New York dish.

Manhattan Clam Chowder at Randazzo's Clam Bar | 2017 Emmons Ave., Brooklyn

Mere feet from the waters of Sheepshead Bay sits Randazzo's, a no-frills seafood joint with a charming, neon lobster sign adorning its roof. While the lobster and other dishes are good, you should head here for the Manhattan–style clam chowder. Diners are presented brimming bowls of the bright-red, tomatoey broth, which is loaded with veggies, potatoes, clams, and a surprising amount of spicy zip.

Black-and-White Cookie at William Greenberg Desserts | 1100 Madison Ave., Manhattan

"Look to the cookie." While the black-and-white cookie may be best known for its bit on a Seinfeld episode, it remains one of the best foods in NYC and a treat you need to try when visiting. For one of the best in the city, head to William Greenberg Desserts. The cakey base—these are technically cakes, not cookies, after all—serves as a rich foundation upon which the vanilla frosting and chocolate fondant achieve delicious, 50/50 harmony. Look to the cookie, indeed.