A popular destination that’s best known for being home to the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and NYC, no trip to New York is complete without trying the state’s most famous foods. With sights and attractions unlike anywhere else in the world, it makes sense the best dishes would also follow suit.
Whether you’re looking for a quick bite, snack, or decedent dessert, there’s something for everyone in the Empire State. In no particular order, here are eleven of the most famous foods in New York:
New York-Style Pizza
Pizza fans tend to be very passionate about what state has the best pizza, but none of them top the list like New York. This hand-tossed thin-crust pizza is one of the most iconic foods in NY. Sugar, olive oil, water, yeast, and high-gluten bread flour come together to form the dough, resulting in a crust that is ultra-thin yet crispy.
A good New York slice should be thin enough to fold in your hand but sturdy enough to stay together. This classic pie is topped with tomato sauce that is heavily seasoned with herbs like basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper. On top of that is a layer of low-moisture mozzarella shreds.
Though a plain New York-style pizza is more than enough to satisfy pizza cravings, popular additional toppings include a variety of vegetables, meats, and other cheeses.
New York-Style Cheesecake
Cheesecake is a popular dessert nationwide, but New York-style cheesecake has a few characteristics that separate it from all the others. A New York-style cheesecake can be identified by its heavy density and texture. Cream cheese, heavy cream, and eggs give this extremely rich, smooth dessert the consistency it’s known for.
While restaurants offer more cheesecake varieties than you can possibly imagine, with toppings like fruit, cookies, and candy bars, the original New York-style cheesecake is very simple. With a plain cheesecake base and a graham cracker crust, it makes for the perfect blank canvas, which is just one of the reasons it has become such a wildly popular dessert.
Bagels with Lox
This New York classic is everything you want in a breakfast sandwich – salty, savory, and filling. A typical bagel with lox has a few key ingredients. It starts with a halved NY bagel which is slathered with a layer of cream cheese, then topped with lox, sliced red onion, and briny capers. For those unfamiliar with the term, lox is a fillet of cured salmon which comes from the Yiddish word for salmon, laks.
For this New York dish, it’s thinly sliced before it is piled onto the bagel. A delicious brunch favorite that’s popular enough to be found at bagel shops and cafes around the country, after trying this iconic New York food, you’ll never want to eat a plain buttered bagel again.
Pastrami on Rye
Like several of the foods on this list, the pastrami on rye is a Jewish deli classic. What many consider to be New York’s signature sandwich is very simple in both its preparation and presentation. Slices of pastrami and a layer of spicy brown mustard are packed between two slices of rye bread. The hearty sandwich is traditionally served with a Kosher dill pickle on the side.
A pastrami on rye is fairly simple to put together, but the pastrami itself goes through an extensive process. Fat-laced beef brisket is brined for days before getting seasoned with a generous blend of spices including garlic, coriander, black pepper, paprika, cloves, allspice, and mustard seed. The meat is then smoked and steamed before serving.
Many variations of this dish exist today, but the classic pastrami on rye remains a classic with good reason.
Although the Cronut is relatively new on the timeline of iconic foods, it has quickly become one of New York’s most well-known and sought-after treats. This sweet pastry is aptly named for the two baked goods that combine to create it – a croissant and a doughnut.
Trademarked in 2013 by the French pastry chef Dominique Ansel, the Cronut is shaped like a doughnut and made from croissant dough, resulting in a circular pastry with multiple soft, flaky layers. Just three days after introducing the Cronut to the world, Dominique Ansel Bakery had a line of over 100 people outside the shop waiting to purchase one.
Since then, versions of the Cronut have continued to pop up from bakeries and pastry chefs across the country.
The next dish on our list is the much-loved Garbage Plate from Rochester, NY. The name of this dish brings an accurate image to mind – a heaping pile of greasy snack foods including everything “but the kitchen sink.” Though several variations exist, a typical Garbage Plate starts with a layer of cheeseburger or hamburger meat, then gets topped with fries, spicy meat sauce, mustard, and chopped onions.
A popular hangover cure that can be traced back 100 years to Nick Tahou Hots, a Rochester hamburger stand, this filling meal now can be found on menus all over the area with a variety of meats, potatoes, beans, and even macaroni salad.
Black and White Cookie
While there is some debate as to the exact origin of this simple classic, many believe the black and white cookie had its beginnings in 1902 at Glaser’s Bake Shop in Manhattan. This iconic New York sweet consists of a dense, flat cookie base with a layer of icing on the top – one-half white and the other half black.
These cookies are a staple at Italian-American bakeries and are deeply rooted in the Jewish communities of NYC. Similar cookies can be found in bakeries around the country and go by other names, but the classic black and white cookie are synonymous with the New York food bakery scene.
Manhattan Clam Chowder
Clam chowder has a few variations that have grown popular around the country, one of the most well-known being Manhattan clam chowder. Unlike its popular neighbor New England clam chowder, the Manhattan variety does not contain milk or cream. This famous food has a red, tomato-based broth and usually contains vegetables like celery, carrots, onions, and of course, clams.
Flavored with herbs like thyme and garlic, though many recipes contain several more, the dish is finished with a sprinkling of oyster crackers on top. A departure from its thicker, creamier counterparts, Manhattan clam chowder is a favorite among those who prefer a light and herbaceous meal.
There is perhaps no other food better associated with game day and sports bars than Buffalo wings. Despite the name, this iconic bar food does not contain any actual buffalo and instead gets its name from its place of origin – Buffalo, New York. Buffalo wings are chicken wings that have been deep-fried and tossed in a spicy cayenne pepper hot sauce and melted butter.
They are traditionally served with sides of celery, carrots, and blue cheese to balance out the tongue-tingling heat. Now a popular dish nationwide, Buffalo wings can come with a variety of sides as well as heat levels. Additionally, the spicy sauce can be found in a wide variety of foods and is even sold by the bottle.
New York-Style Hot Dogs
New York City is well-known for its iconic street food scene. Carts, stands, and trucks selling all sorts of offerings are spread throughout the city. One of the most famous street foods is the New York-style hot dog. Much like the great pizza debate, hot dogs are another point of competition between NYC and Chicago.
The key to this street food favorite is its simplicity. Boiled before being served in a bun topped with brown mustard, sauerkraut, and sweet onion relish, the combination of toppings makes for a sweet and spicy flavor. If you find yourself in NYC with a hot dog craving, you’ll have no trouble finding one of the countless carts peppered throughout the city.
This comforting pasta dish comes from Utica, NY, and is loved throughout the state. This simple, hometown classic is rooted in the Italian-American community of the area and is a local favorite. Chicken riggies (short for “rigatoni”) is a basic dish consisting of rigatoni, chicken, and hot cherry peppers in a spicy cream and tomato sauce that is tinted an iconic pink.
It’s hard not to love this creamy, filling comfort food. The exact origins of this regional specialty are unclear, but many Utica residents will report having grown up eating chicken riggies at local restaurants and in their own homes. Today, it remains a favorite among pasta enthusiasts statewide.
New York is an incredible state with a reputation that is known around the world. An iconic destination, you have to try the state’s most famous foods while visiting. If you can’t travel to experience NY in person, you can always create a little piece of the NY food scene right in your own kitchen.