- Manhattan clam chowder.
- New York-style cheesecake.
- New York-style pizza.
- New York-style bagel.
- New York-style pastrami.
- Corned beef.
- Baked pretzels.
- New York-style Italian ice.
Cheesecake — This creamy, calorific dessert has been made in America since colonial times — in fact, Martha Washington recorded three cheesecake recipes in her personal cookbook — but these were usually whipped up with fresh curds, something like Italian cheesecake. The invention of the Jewish style of cheesecake depended upon two factors — the discovery of cream cheese (which occurred in the Catskills sometime in the 1870s; it later, rather absurdly, became associated with Philadelphia), and the presence of Jewish immigrants in New York City. Founded in 1950 in Downtown Brooklyn, Junior’s quickly became a famous purveyor of cheesecakes, and theirs remains the best. Junior’s, 386 Flatbush Avenue Extension, Brooklyn, 718-852-5257
Lobster Newberg — Ship’s captain Ben Wenberg brought a recipe for cooking lobster he’d supposedly discovered on one of his voyages to Delmonico’s in 1876, and showed it to owner Charles Delmonico. It was immediately incorporated into the menu as Lobster Wenberg, but when the proprietor and captain got into a fistfight later in the year, Delmonico changed the name of the dish to Lobster Newberg by reversing the first three letters of Wenberg (the dish is now often misspelled “Newburg”). This luscious concoction features multiple crustaceans swimming in cream, cognac, sherry, and cayenne pepper — which may indicate where Wenberg had been sailing to when he discovered the recipe (New Orleans). Delmonico’s, 56 Beaver Street, 212-509-1144
Manhattan Clam Chowder — The original name for Manhattan Clam Chowder was apparently Coney Island Clam Chowder, and it appears to be an Italian-American invention. Go to the sainted Randazzo’s in Sheepshead Bay and it certainly seems so, the rich red broth rife with rubbery but flavorful bivalves in an entirely Sicilian sort of way. But sample the product at the Grand Central Oyster Bar and it tastes positively Creole, with its minced onions and green peppers. You really don’t have to choose; you can eat it both places. Randazzo’s Clam Bar, 2017 Emmons Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-615-0010; Oyster Bar, Grand Central, 89 East 42nd Street, 212-490-6650
. Hamburger — The first hamburgers were reportedly served along the city’s Lower West Side docks in the 1820s to German sailors homesick for the port they came from — Hamburg, on the North Sea. These ground-meat pucks (it is not recorded whether they were first made with beef or pork) were served naked, but at some point in the years that followed, a bun was applied, making the hamburger as we know it an American phenomenon. In fact, when I first arrived in the city, old-timers still referred to them as “hamburgs” — and you can still hear that term today. We live in an explosion of hamburger love, so I’ve chosen an old-fashioned one to showcase: no brisket, foie gras, brioche bun, or exotic cheeses. JG Melon, 1291 Third Avenue, 212-744-0585
Pastrami and Corned Beef Sandwich — Those who arrive in New York City for the first time are often happily directed to Katz’s Deli, founded in 1888 and dating to the German (and German-Jewish) heyday of the Lower East Side. The multiplicity of beef brisket presentations is amazing in itself, but load up a sandwich of smoky pastrami and briny brisket on rye or a club roll and experience cured-meat nirvana. The pickles are free (choose a combo of half-sour, sour, and pickled green tomatoes), and you don’t need anything else except for a can of Cel-Ray soda. (That means skip the limp, greasy fries. Believe me, you don’t need the calories.) Katz’s Deli, 205 East Houston Street, 212-254-2246
Hot Dog — The hot dog arrived in Coney Island from either Vienna (hence, wiener) or Frankfurt (hence, frankfurter), and immediately caught on. Sold from carts, and later a storefront, by Feltman’s German Gardens, the all-beef “tube steak,” as it was facetiously called, went from popular to wildly popular when Polish-Jewish immigrant and Feltman’s employee Nathan Handwerker took the hot dog in hand and popularized it to the world. In the modern era — and partly due to hard times — the weiner has become more desirable than ever, with Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at the center of its contemporary popularity. The natural-skinned, all-beef frank is still the city standard, while most of the country suffers through inferior, puffy, mystery-meat “ballpark” franks pulled from the refrigerator case of the supermarket. Miraculously, you can still get them whence they first disembarked. Nathan’s Famous, 1310 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-946-2705
A Plain Slice at Joe’s Pizza
Joe’s Pizza serves the quintessential New York slice. The crust is thin and crisp, with even layers of cheese and tomato sauce, and, notably, Joe’s keeps the quality up with every single pie at all hours of the day. This is where you want to take out-of-towners to give them a first taste of a real New York City slice. Joe’s now has outposts in the East Village and Williamsburg which serve slices that are just as good as the ones at the mothership.
7 Carmine St New York, NY 10014(212) 366-1182
The Shackburger at Shake Shack
The secret to the Shackburger’s ever-lasting popularity is the patty, which has big beef flavor and just a hint of funkiness. It packs more of a meaty wallop than the similar menu item at west coast favorite In-N-Out Burger. The Shackburger might very well be New York’s favorite hamburger
Combo Over Rice at The Halal Guys
Office workers and tourists alike line up day and night for the chopped lamb and chicken over rice at the Halal Guys cart on 53rd Street. You feel like a beast finishing one of these tubs of meat, rice, and tangy white sauce. Note: The Halal Guys opened an East Village restaurant a few years ago where the lines for meat are considerably shorter than in Midtown.
Recession Special at Gray’s Papaya
Gray’s and its rival, Papaya King, both serve snappy-grilled dogs that are reliably delicious. During a recent hot dog crawl, Robert Sietsema remarked: “We found the Gray’s Papaya weenie a bit less assertive than those at Papaya King, with a little less garlic and a little less salt. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — we thoroughly enjoyed the franks at Gray’s Papaya. We found the onion topping a little more tart than on the Upper East Side, and the sauerkraut just about the same.” The Recession Special, which includes two dogs and a papaya drink (or soda) for $4.95, is still one of NYC’s greatest deals.
Porterhouse at Peter Luger Steak House
Many meat lovers in the New York area believe that Peter Luger’s porterhouse is the greatest steak ever served by man. The beef hits the table in a pool of hot butter and blood, with the filet and sirloin pre-sliced. The beef has a prominent char on the exterior, and if ordered rare or medium-rare, each piece has a perfectly rosy interior. Although many, many restaurants across the city now serve similar porterhouse steaks, Luger remains one of the best places in New York to eat dry-aged beef.
Pizza at Di Fara Pizza
Dom DeMarco is the most legendary pizzaiolo in New York, if not the entire country. His pies are topped with a three cheese blend, snips of fresh basil, and a thin layer of olive oil. The typical Di Fara experience involves confusion at the cash register and a long wait for your food, but the sight of Dom fussing and fiddling with his pizzas usually makes up for any hassle.
Westlight and Mister Dips
Andrew Carmellini and the Noho Hospitality Group bring Westlight and Mister Dips to the William Vale Hotel. The former is a sleek lounge with sweeping views of Manhattan, cocktails from Anne Robinson, and high minded bar food from Carmellini, including a dry aged burger and duck carnitas tacos. The latter is a soft serve and burger joint operating out of a Airstream perched in a park. Burgers sell for budget friendly $6 for a single and $8 for a double. Westlight has the views but the buzz seems to be around the little Airstream that could and its veggie burger.
Faun is the new Italian-influenced American restaurant from restaurateurs David Stockwell and Carla Swickerath in Prospect Heights. The chef is Brian Leth, who was last at Vinegar Hill House. The menu includes a watermelon with ricotta salata, pumpkin seeds, and oregano ($14), mezze maniche with pork rage ($22), and a wagyu culotte steak with radishes ($38).
Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen
The Chew‘s co-host Carla Hall brings Nashville-style hot fried chicken to the Columbia Street Waterfront District with the opening of this new cafe. This is the TV chef’s first official, standalone restaurant. The chicken is available in several levels of spice from Hoot & Honey, a mild blend of spices and honey, to the Boomshakalaka, which has a supposed “tear-inducing” degree of heat. The chicken is sold as part of composed plates, with sides and bread for $13.25 – $15.50, while larger family meals run from $30 to $59.50. The restaurant from Hall and partner Evan Darnell is currently open for dinner nightly at 4 p.m. but hours are expected to be expanded in the near future.
grayspapayanyc.com; 2090 Broadway at W 72nd St; hot dog $1.50
At Zucker’s, the bagel has gone full circle: the ring of plain-yeast dough made with unbleached flour and sweetened with malt syrup is hand-rolled and kettle-boiled. The result is a sweet bread with a crust that’s chewy but not heavy.
Today, The Traditional Sandwich – a bagel filled with Nova Scotia smoked salmon, plain cream cheese, Lucky’s beefsteak tomatoes, red onions and capers, served with a pickle and coleslaw – has breathed new life into a New York classic.
zuckersbagels.com; 370 Lexington Ave; The Traditional Sandwich $12
Roberta’s may be respectful of New York’s pizza heritage but it is a Williamsburg joint, so beside the classic margherita are creations such as The Bee Sting – tomato, mozzarella, sopressata (Italian dry salami), chilli and honey – and Carlos Danger – parmigiano, squash, fresnos (chilli peppers), onion and chilli oil.
robertaspizza.com; 261 Moore St; pizzas from $18.35
The Pastrami on Rye
The deli opened in 1888 when the Lower East Side, now a melting pot of eateries from around the world, was home to a thriving community of Jewish immigrants. Although Katz’s wasn’t the first to produce the pastrami sandwich – it’s thought a kosher butcher named Sussman Volk got there first – it soon became an institution. The original ambience that made it so remains, including the archaic ticketing system: a ticket is given on arrival, food gets charged to it and a fine of $50 is charged if it’s lost.
katzsdelicatessen.com; 205 East Houston St; Katz’s Pastrami Sandwich $20
The New York Cheesecake
At Lady M, owner and creator Ken Romaniszyn has combined French techniques and Japanese style to bring a new, lighter take on the baked cheesecake. His gateau fromage features a thin base of shortbread cookie crust and a soft, silky and creamy topping with a hint of vanilla. At $US7 a slice, it’s a unique and luxurious way to grab a bite of the Upper East Side’s good life.
ladym.com; 41 East 78th St; $8 a slice, $86 for a 20cm gateau fromage
The Victorian-era saloon is a study in informal sophistication, with wood-panelled walls, marble-topped tables, tiled floors and a pressed-tin ceiling. Head bartender Tom Macy’s creations, which use fresh juices, housemade syrups and seasonal ingredients, are a taste of history. On the menu is the Clover Club cocktail, originally enjoyed by members of the men’s club. Today the bar adds dry vermouth to the gin, fresh lemon juice, housemade raspberry syrup and an eggwhite mix to turn it from a fruity gin drink to something more grown-up.
cloverclubny.com; 210 Smith St; cocktails from Pound 7.50
This temple of soul food has drawn locals and tourists alike for decades, and Sylvia herself still presides over this gem of Central Harlem. Owned by the Woods family which consists of Herbert and Sylvia Woods, their four children – Van, Bedelia, Kenneth, Crizette and a third gen…
328 Malcolm X Blvd
Chinatown’s original has been serving delicious homemade ice creams for years, both the standard flavors as well as fantastic Asian-themed flavors like taro. A must-visit on every Chinatown itinerary!
65 Bayard St (Mott & Elizabeth Streets)