Classic vs. Modern: New York’s Most Iconic Foods

new york iconic food

The Big Apple’s melting pot of cultures means it’s developed its own signature dishes that no visitor should miss. And while some businesses have been making the same dish for decades, other restaurants are giving these iconic foods a modern makeover. We round up the best of these old and new ventures.

1. Pizza

new york iconic food

Photo credit: Ray Dehler

Thin crusts and not much tomato sauce characterize NYC’s famous pizza, which can be bought by the slice and is usually cooked in a coal oven. Sam’s in Cobble Hill is an old-school joint that makes pizza the traditional way, while Roberta’s in Bushwick mixes things up with fancy toppings like sausage and cilantro.

2. Pastrami

new york iconic food

Photo credit: Mile End

Harry met Sally at New York’s most famous deli and Lower East Side landmark, Katz’s Delicatessen, where many have also met the sandwich of their dreams. The corned beef and pastrami is cured for up to 30 days, but it only takes one bite to fall in love with these sandwiches. Once you’ve done your duty and tried the classic, head to hipster haven Mile End, which has locations in Boerum Hill and Noho, for a more modern spot to grab a cured meat sandwich on rye.

3. Bagels

new york iconic food

Photo credit: Simon Law

If New York had an official bread, it would probably be the bagel. And though they can be found in every neighborhood, sometimes you have to go to the outer boroughs to get the real deal. Bagel Oasis, out in Queens, has been using the same recipe to makes its pillow-soft bagels for the last 40 years, and the menu has the classic bagel with lox and cream cheese, as well as some more adventurous choices. Over in the far edge of Brooklyn, Dyker Park Bagel’s offbeat flavor combinations (try the Chicken Ridiculous) pull in hungry tourists and locals 24 hours a day.

4. Hot Dogs

new york iconic food

Photo credit: Bark

Nothing says New York iconic food’s like the quintessential hot dog. In 1916, Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker set up a hot dog stand on Coney Island, and was an instant hit. Nathan’s Famous, still stands on this very spot, and is known for its stellar hot dogs and hot dog eating contest. Bark, in Park Slope and Greenwich Village, takes a more modern, sustainable approach to the hot dog, and wows the cool kids with its fresh ingredients and tasty range of sauces.

5. Cheesecake

new york iconic food

Photo credit: Dean and Deluca

Many countries and cuisines have a variation on cheesecake, but New York-style cheesecake is one of most famous, noted for its dense, creamy texture. Junior’s, in Downtown Brooklyn, has been making this delicious dessert for over 50 years and shows no sign of stopping, while Dean and Deluca, in Soho and the Upper East Side, has a mouth watering range of sweets, including an excellent pumpkin spiced cheesecake. Wherever you go, just don’t go to The Cheesecake Factory.

6. Black & White Cookies

new york iconic food

Photo credit: Michael Bentley

These spongy, cake-like cookies, iced with vanilla and chocolate icing, are a typical New York snack. Classic bakery William Greenberg sells little pre-packed parcels of its famous black and white cookies from its Madison Avenue store. You can even get black and white cookies at the New York Public Library; Amy’s bread, an artisanal bakery, serves up a light and airy version of the classic cookie at the library as well as in other locations across town.

7. Egg Cream

new york iconic food

Photo credit: Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain

The egg cream confuses many visitors to NYC as it contains neither egg, nor cream. But its combination of milk, soda water and chocolate syrup makes it a fast favorite with many who try it, although the drink has fallen slightly out of favor in recent years. Join those still championing the classic drink at Shopsins at the Essex Street Market, or in retro surroundings at the trendy Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain, which is making a concerted effort to bring egg creams back into fashion.

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