I know that there are plenty of “Things to eat in NYC” articles out there but, since I have British friends about to embark on a Big Apple adventure, here is mine. indulge me!
NYC has been an established melting pot since before America was America. Hell, since when New York was still New Amsterdam! There are certain cultures that have a strong influence on the city’s food particulars. This isn’t about the top restaurants or the newest places. This is about the foods that are as much about the NYC experience as the Statue of Liberty and Madison Square Garden. If you’ve come to NYC and you haven’t tried a few of these treats then you didn’t do it right. Now hurry up and order! I ain’t got all day!
Naturally, I also created a google map NYC Foodie hit list which you can access, download and have at the ready if you are offline.
NYC has significant Jewish, Latin, Afro & Italian cultures and has for a long time. Enjoy it! I have Jewish blood in my veins so I tend to prioritize Jewish food because it is the BEST! It’s the tastiest meat and potatoes you’ll ever have.
- Knish – pronounced Ka-Nish – It’s like a mini potato pie! Ben’s Kosher is the best and 2nd St Deli also has a good one. Katz’s also has them and Russ & Daughters does little tapas style ones. Delish!
- Bagels – Try the Bialy bagel or Everything bagel with the smoked whitefish or lox & cream cheese. Absolut Bagels on Broadway is a solid choice but go in the morning. It is nuts at lunchtime. Murray’s in Greenwich Village has fillings that are more “sandwich” style.
- Pastrami, corned beef and sour pickles – Katz’s deli. There is no real substitute. Pastrami Queen(which has awesome knish) is also an option.
- If you get the chance to try matzo ball soup or a cheese blintz for dessert then that’s a pretty good day!
- Hot dogs – Grey’s Papaya – Late night eats that are all over the city. They are boiled and the buns are soggy and that’s part the magic. After more than a couple of beers, imagine that you are in a hot dog eating contest and…GO!
- Soup dumplings – The Chinese food in NYC is epic but it’s all about the soup dumplings. I recommend Joe’s Shanghai. I’ve only eaten at the Pell Street location because it’s the one in Chinatown so…obvs. They don’t take reservations so get there either either or late for dinner. They are pushy but don’t worry. The soup dumplings are nuclear hot so order them first and let them cool so you don’t destroy your mouth in your first bite.
- Cannoli – Italian dessert. Its deep fried pastry wrapped into a tube then filled with a sweet ricotta cream. I suggest Pasticceria Rocco but, honestly, opinion seems to be all over the place! Go big and get the chocolate chip ones.
- Black & White cookie – I don’t know where this immense sugar cookie with half white icing and half black icing came from but they are in every bodega(corner store) and they are just part of NYC life. Great with a coffee.
There are a handful of cuisines that you can find in New York that are either not in England or the European version is crap.
- South American – Argentine steak houses and Colombian arepas are what it’s all about. I’ve added a few to the map. If you are looking for Mexican then try Mexico Lindo
- Italian-American – A little bigger, a little louder, a little fatter. Quality Italian is my only recommendation. Little Italy is a total tourist trap but, if you’re gonna do it, do it here. Great tableside cannoli service/show.
- Soul Food – Sylvia’s in Harlem. Don’t be shy. Take your British accents and sweet, white, Northern asses to Harlem and enjoy some damned good food! Consider the smothered pork chops, fried okra, collards, BBQ ribs, at the Sunday Gospel Brunch(if you can get a reservation!) Amy Ruth’s for fried chicken and waffles. Try the grits! That’s hangover food, child!
- Greek Diner – The Waverly, B&H Dairy, the Bel Aire – all great options. Tom’s restaurant is the diner from Seinfeld and the Jackson Hole(formerly the Airline Diner) was in Goodfellas. If it doesn’t have a rotating dessert case then it’s not a diner in my book.
I’m not even going to pretend to be able to keep up with the best and tastiest of the NYC restaurants and bars:
- Eater NYC – They map their lists which is brilliant!
- Thrillist NYC – more maps of lists plus loads of other ideas of things to do, drink, & eat
- The Infatuation NYC – a new site so everything is really recent. Great list characteristics for choosing. My friend Max is a writer for Infatuation NYC.
- Michelin star restaurants
- Bib Gourmand (Michelin guide good value restaurants)
To make last minute reservations, I would try TopTable/OpenTable or call the restaurant once you are there.
You’ll notice that I don’t have Pizza or Ramen in my list. That’s because you can get quality pizza and ramen in London so don’t waste your meal time there. Same for Burgers. If you are dying for either, restaurant EMILY, https://www.pizzalovesemily.com (no joke), is the reigning pizza queen in NYC (great burgers, too) and Momosan is the ramen king. If you love waiting in line then seek out cupcakes(Molly’s or Sprinkles), a cronut (croissant/donut love child) at Dominque Ansel bakery and the cereal milk ice cream at Milk Bar. I also popped some other places I like in Chelsea Market and Hell’s Kitchen but never let it be said that you will not find fantastic, good-value food in NYC!
If you are interested in dinner and a Broadway show (a classic combo!), here are the best shows on Broadway(other than Hamilton but good luck getting tickets)
- Dear Evan Hansen – I’m obsessed with the soundtrack – very modern. Benji from Pitch Perfect plays the lead character. It’s coming to London in 2019
- Mean Girls – a rewrite by Tina Fey to create a new musical of the movie. So fetch.
- Head over heels – jukebox musical based on the music of the Go-Go’s. I can’t even imagine trying to not dance in my chair!
- Waitress – Based on the indy movie. Score composed by my favorite singer ever – Sara Bareilles. It’s coming to London in 2019 but the goss is that they can’t seem to cast it!
- Come from Away – I haven’t seen this yet but my gay theatre expert, Paul, really loved it. It has a plot that might appeal to the fellas too! Its coming to London in 2019
Your best bet for last minute tickets is to go to the actual theatre box office on your first day and be very very nice and polite to request tickets for that week. You may even get a discount if you are very nice, organized and polite. New Yorkers reward people who don’t faff around. Get your options, step away from the window to discuss if you can, then tell them what you want. You will get 30 seconds, tops, to make your decision. By the way, that’s a general rule for all of New York.
Finally, a friend of mine from High School died in 9/11. He was a soldier in the Pentagon. His name is Jonas Martin Panik. Try to find him at the memorial. It will make an impact.