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The essential guide to eating in New York

Eating in New York

NYC: New York Classics

New York has been called the Melting Pot in reference to the hundreds of different cultures that have planted and mingled their roots to create a unique and vibrant society, which is reflected in the local cuisine.


Though these favourites might not have originated in New York, the city just wouldn’t be the same without them:

  • Bagels: Native New Yorkers take their bagels seriously – a crackly shell that protects a soft, doughy inside is essential. Revered spots for the perfect combination include Bagel Pub in Brooklyn and Absolute Bagels on the Upper West Side. Alternatively, embrace the atmosphere and grab one from a street cart with a cup of black coffee.
  • Hot dogs: Take a bite out of the all-American lifestyle with the most beloved of quick snacks. If you’d rather not brave the carts that line the streets, Gray’s Papaya in the Upper West Side offers a fuss-free and authentic NYC dog. If you’re visiting on the fourth of July, celebrate Independence Day by watching the Nathan’s Famous hot-dog eating contest in Coney Island: the record stands at 62 hot dogs in ten minutes.
  • Pizza: Whether you vouch for thin or thick crust, pineapple or pepperoni, fork or fingers, pizza is not just an option in New York: it’s an obligation. You don’t have to look far to find places boasting the ‘best slice in NYC,’ but notable spots include Patsy’s Pizzeria in East Harlem or, for a quality dollar slice, check out Percy’s Pizza in Greenwich Village.
  • Fried chicken: It may not be Kentucky, but the chicken is just as good. Harlem is New York’s home of soul food, and Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken is finger lickin’ delicious – the owner has sixty years of experience. For a more modern twist, Korean fried chicken is the 21st century’s answer to how to make the humble bird delicious – BonChon on fifth avenue is one of the best.


You can’t beat the street

Food trucks have surpassed the state of trendiness and are now staple culinary features in any big city. As with most cultural movements, New York was a pioneer in the casual food revolution and is still one of the best places to be if you’re looking for the best street-eats.

New York food truck

While the nature of the venue means these meals-on-wheels aren’t pinned to any one location, from April to November, Smorgasburg is one of the best places to make your appetite’s dreams come true. An offshoot of the Brooklyn Flea Market, this food market brings together more than 100 vendors and countless menu items in one location, and it’s the place to find the latest food trends – past examples have included the ramen burger (a beef burger between two wedges of fried noodles) and the legendary cronut (half croissant, half donut).

For a less automotive, equally satisfying option, the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side features a range of locally sourced, gourmet stalls – try the all-American grilled cheese sandwich from Saxelby Cheesemongers or have (another) bagel from the Davidovich Bakery.


Eating out: canteen style  

Dining in food halls is all the rage right now. Scrap any images you may have of your school canteen; this is NYC, where huge, expansive spaces offer a variety of cuisines and communal tables.

Food hall

City Kitchen in Times Square serves up all kinds of culinary treats from vendors such as Luke’s Lobster, ilili Box and Kuro Obi to name a few.

Hudson Eats down at Brookfield Place is hailed as one of the best food halls in the city. This trendy establishment is home to some of New York’s best-rated eateries including Blue Ribbon Sushi, Umami Burger and Num Pang Sandwich Shop.


Let’s do brunch

If you’re looking to channel your inner Carrie/Miranda/Samantha/Charlotte (delete as appropriate), you can’t beat an NYC brunch. With options in virtually every neighbourhood, join in with the city’s favourite pastime and get the top gossip with friends over a Bloody Mary and eggs benny.


Boutique-like venues such as Jack’s Wife Freda (Soho or West Village) will likely require a reservation, whereas a walk-in favourite, such as Egg, in Brooklyn, is well worth the (potential) wait. 

Menu options range from traditional American (fluffy pancakes, please!) to trendy (avocadoes with dragon fruit?), and with bottomless drink options across the city, there’s no excuse to miss out – after all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.


Dine fine

While it’s the ideal city to wrap your hands around a juicy burger or tear into a fresh pretzel, New York also hosts some of the most lavish restaurants in the world. If you want to get fancy, put down the pizza and reserve in advance.

If you’re looking to experience some big-screen cuisine, roll the credits and take your pick of the celebrity restaurants – TV personalities such as Iron Chefs Morimoto, Bobby Flay and Marc Forgione have chosen New York as the playing field for their gastronomical expertise.

Fine dining

For a touch of underground class, Blue Hill in Greenwich Village uses locally sourced ingredients for their top-tier menu. Alternatively, cross your fingers and try for a table at New York’s famous Le Bernardin – one of the few restaurants in the city that has three Michelin stars and the top New York Times rating, which it has held since 1986.


Room for dessert

When it comes to the sweet stuff, New York is champion. If you’re looking for a quick treat to satisfy that craving, indulge in some Americana with the classics – Levain Bakery is famed for its giant chocolate chip cookie, which is big enough to share (although you won’t want to).

Ice cream

For a midday, late-night, or even early-morning snack, you can’t go wrong with a doughnut. New York has turned this simple option into a specialty, with spots such as Doughnut Plant (Lower East Side and Chelsea) and Dough (Brooklyn and Manhattan) making it their mission to make you want another… and another…

To truly maximise your visit, take the opportunity to indulge in a slice of cheesecake. The Upper East Side’s Two Little Red Hens promises desserts that are as cute as its name, whereas La Cheesecake Bake Shop in Queens will overwhelm you in the best possible way with their list of choices. 


Beginning with breakfast through to dessert, New York has got you covered when it comes to the pleasures of mealtimes. Snack like a local or join the A-listers, dine up or dine down, dive in or chew politely but whatever you do, there’s one thing that is certain: if you’re going to visit the Big Apple, you’d better bring a big appetite.

Hungry for more? Check out our New York Holidays, and take your first bite out of the Big Apple!

Tagged in:

  • USA
  • New York
  • City and shopping breaks
  • Travel tastes
13 Jun 2016 | Virgin Holidays