Popular Food Items of New York

New York – the most populous city in the US! It is no wonder that New York prides itself on being a cultural and economic hub. Surrounded by diverse neighbors as Manhattan and Bronx, New York offers more than an experience to its residents and visitors. 

You might have planned your visit to New York for sightseeing and shopping, but have you made a list of foods to grab there? It may come as a surprise, but New York serves more than boring sandwiches and coffee. You will find various delicious food items, ranging from cheap street food to a luxurious fine dining experience. 

Since New York is home to immigrants from all over the world, you will find wide variations in every food you eat. New York has it all – be it Middle Eastern style shawarma rolls or hand-pulled Chinese noodles. 

Signature Food Items of NYC

Culinary heaven like New York is sure to keep you on your toes if you want to enjoy the food. The options are never-ending, and it may take you more than a few days to savor only a fraction. Nonetheless, these are the things that scream New York with their unique style and flavor:

1. New York Style Pizza

Traditionally, a NY-style pizza is a large slice of hand-tossed dough that only has a tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese as toppings. The simplicity is what makes it unique and delicious. Of course, you can find other variations as well, with large pieces of sausage and pepperoni and huge chunks of mushrooms. Fun fact: You are supposed to fold the pizza in half while eating it. These pizzas are designed to be folded. Also, pizza makes the cheapest meal in the town with $1 per slice or even less. You can be sure to have a full tummy after eating a slice.

2. Pastrami on Rye

A perfect example of New York’s classic cuisine, the pastrami is a cut out from beef brisket marinated with salt and spice and smoked till tender. It is often served between slices of rye bread with spicy mustard sauce. The cafes that serve pastrami are among the oldest establishments, and they never fail to attract visitors. 

3. Bagels and Lox

Bagels and Lox

Arguably, New York is the place for the finest bagels in the world. Legend says that it’s the water that makes them so delicious, but whatever the reason, bagels here are to die for. A gift from the Polish immigrants, bagels are round sandwiches that can be made with various fillings. A hundred-year-old establishment in New York called Russ & Daughters is famous for its lox sandwiches. It is filled with smoked salmon and American cream cheese, making it a divine combo to try.

4. Garbage Plate

We know how strange the name sounds, but you can bet that it makes a mean meal. The story goes about a student in Rochester who asked a restaurant owner to fill a plate of “garbage.” So the kind restaurant owner obliged and fixed the student a plate of two burger patties, two sides of macaroni, salad, and beans, topped with ketchup and hot sauce, and finally served with white bread. From then on, garbage plate has been a trademark and is now available with other proteins too. Quite an adventure eating something like that, isn’t it?

5. Cheesecake


This one is for the dessert-loving people out there. The history of cheesecakes goes way back to Greece. But the one that got New York famous was a result of a culinary experiment. An American man tried to copy a French cheese and created an even richer cream cheese. The same cream cheese became the foundation for the world-famous New York-style cheesecakes. With a perfect balance of sweetness and the crunch at the base, these cheesecakes are a must-try in New York.

6. Black and White Cookies

The name might be a bit misleading as these are not cookies; instead, they are drop cakes. These are so famous that you will literally find them in every bakery in New York. They also made an appearance in the hit TV show Seinfeld twice. Made with half chocolate and half vanilla, these “cookies” are soft and spongy in the middle, making them a perfect partner for coffee in the morning. Be sure to keep them in stock during your stay in New York. You’ll often find yourself munching on them.

Street Food of New York

Now that you know about the food that makes up New York, it is time for you to wander the streets and eat up cheap but delicious food. There was a time when food from local vendors and food trucks was considered to be unappetizing and unhygienic. But this scene changed fast, and you are in for a big surprise because these food trucks serve amazing food. You will end up loving this city even more and quite possibly, you’ll visit again just to eat. 

1. Falafel and Shawarma

Courtesy of the Middle Eastern immigrants, shawarma is a favorite among Americans. With unique tasting sauces and meat cooked over coals, they make a tasty meal. Falafel is not behind either. They are served with aromatic rice and sauces for a perfect combo. The best place to go for these is the King of Falafel & Shawarma. You can easily spot them by looking at the queue of people waiting to be served.

2. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Looking for a place to have the best mac and cheese during lunch? Or perhaps a perfectly grilled cheese sandwich? The Milk Truck is just the right place for you! They serve wholesome food that can be devoured during your lunch hour. They also offer variations in their grilled cheese sandwich, including the one with three different types of cheese.

3. Rice Rolls

Rice Rolls

A famous Chinese dish, rice rolls are semi-transparent wraps filled with meat and other savory items. They are steamed to perfection and are served with soy sauce. Traditionally, you will find plenty of such rolls and dumplings in Chinatown, but the one we dote on is by Joe’s. They offer these rolls with beef, pork, and shrimp fillings and are very famous in their locality. The good thing is that they have three setups – one in Flushing and the other two in Manhattan.

4. Ethiopian Food

If you are counting your calories or maybe just conscious about your weight, Makina Ethiopian Food is the place for you. The owner makes everything gluten-free, and she can also customize your order to 100% vegetarian. She uses her Ethiopian and Italian heritage and cooks up traditional food. Her specialty is soft injera bread with a variety of veggies, a protein curry, and a side of rice. For a wholesome and filling meal, you simply cannot miss her venture.

5. Tacos

It’s a never-ending debate about which city has the better Mexican food – New York or Los Angeles. Well, it is safe to assume that New York City has the most votes simply because there are too many vendors to try from. Los Tacos No. 1 is one such venture that is run by a trio of friends. They mean nothing but authentic recipes while following their Mexican roots. Their adobada quesadilla topped with juicy meat and fresh toppings makes a perfect snack while roaming around the city. Check them out at one of the three locations they sell their amazing food.


Food is one of the most common things that connect people. Whether people share the same language or not, they sure enjoy a scrumptious meal over a glass of soda. A city as diverse as New York that inhibits millions of people offers much more than just a plate of fresh food. It shares their culture and heritage, making New York such a nice place to live in.