15 Iconic Foods New York City is Known For (And Where to Try Them)

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15 Iconic Foods New York City is Known For (And Where to Try Them)

Pastrami on Rye from Katz's Deli in the Lower East Side, Iconic New York City foods to tryPastrami on Rye from Katz's Deli in the Lower East Side, Iconic New York City foods to try

This list of iconic foods in NYC was written by Yana Zaytseva, co-founder of New York Simply (an official partner of Apple Maps).

New York City is the culinary capital of the world. Fighting words, I know. But folks travel from all corners of the world to try the great variety of iconic foods in NYC. Whether you’re into carb-heavy meals or innovative desserts, nobody does it like quite like the Big Apple.

We’ve created a guide covering all the non-negotiable famous foods NYC is known for that you need to try the next time you’re visiting. So, without further ado, here are the top foods to try in New York City!

Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (10 Best Neighborhoods +3 to Avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.

Iconic Foods to Try in New York City

Table of Contents: Famous Foods in NYC Pepperoni slice and meat lovers slice from Scarr's Pizza Lower East SidePepperoni slice and meat lovers slice from Scarr's Pizza Lower East Side

New York-Style Pizza

Origin: New York-style pizza originated in the late 19th century by Italian immigrants hungry for a taste of home. This style of pizza is characterized by large and thin foldable slices topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

Pizza is arguably the most famous food in New York City. Some pizza joints have been around for over a century, while new joints gain viral popularity seemingly out of the blue. With approximately 1,600 pizza places in the city, every New Yorker has their favorite go-to spot when the urge strikes.

Where to eat it: In my opinion, the top three pizza spots in NYC are Juliana’s in DUMBO, Rubirosa in SoHo, and John’s Of Bleecker Street in the West Village. If you have the time, I suggest reading: 15 Best Pizza Joints in New York City (Definitive Local’s Guide).

Strawberry Cheesecake from Artion Bakery in Astoria, QueensStrawberry Cheesecake from Artion Bakery in Astoria, Queens

New York-Style Cheesecake

Origin: Jewish delicatessens are often credited with popularizing this creamy dessert. Unlike traditional European cheesecakes, New York-style cheesecake is dense and smooth, baked at a high temperature, typically made with cream cheese, and served on a graham cracker crust. It has become a beloved American dessert known for indulgent flavor and texture.

Whether you’re at a bakery or dining in a fancy restaurant, chances are high that you’ll come across New York-style cheesecake on the menu, which is the perfect way to cap a meal. It’s one of NYC’s most iconic foods, so give it a go when you see in on the menu.

Where to eat it: Few places stand out for a truly memorable slice of cheesecake. Consider swinging by Eileen’s Special Cheesecake in SoHo (non-negotiable if you’re a fan of the famous NYC treat). Need more options? Check out 10+ Tantalizing Cheesecakes in New York City (& One Spot to Avoid).

bagel with lox from Shelsky's of Brooklyn Bagelsbagel with lox from Shelsky's of Brooklyn Bagels

Bagels (With Lox)

Origin: Bagels and lox can be traced back to Eastern European Jewish immigrants who settled in New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s assumed that this winning combo hails from the Lower East Side, where a recent influx of Jewish immigrants were establishing their footing in NYC. The bagels could be eaten stale and lox didn’t spoil easily, the combination became an instant classic NYC food

The secret to greatness of New York bagels? It’s the water. NYC’s low-mineral content water affects the gluten in the dough, resulting in a chewier and fluffier texture. New York City bagels are briefly boiled before being baked until golden brown. This method results in a distinctively chewy texture with a crispy exterior.

A fresh-baked bagel is one of the most iconic foods in NYC and it’s something New Yorkers are very passionate about. With a million different ways to order the “perfect bagel”, one thing is for certain: a proper bagel will keep you coming back for more. 

Where to eat it: You won’t find better lox in the city than at Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side. The old-school deli makes some of the best bagels and lox in the city. For those who just want a classic bagel and schmear, Ess-a-Bagel never disappoints. Need more options? Check out 15 BEST Bagels in New York City.

Chili cheese and bacon hot dogs from Nathan's Famous,Chili cheese and bacon hot dogs from Nathan's Famous,

New York Hotdogs

Origin: New York hotdogs originated in the late 19th century when German immigrants introduced their sausages to the streets of New York City. The sausages were served in a bun with mustard and sauerkraut, quickly becoming popular street food, sold from pushcarts in Lower Manhattan.

Ask any New Yorker about their favorite spot to grab a hotdog and you’ll probably hear the same two names consistently: Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs (opened in Coney Island in 1916) and Gray’s Papaya (opened in 1973).

The unfussy NYC food has been a quick and convenient snack for years. Loved for its affordability and easy access, New York Hotdogs are an iconic staple in the city and a must-try for any foodie visiting the Big Apple.

Where to eat it: Nothing beats a classic hotdog from Nathan’s, but if you like options, check out 10 Iconic NYC Hotdogs Everyone Needs to Try.

pastrami sandwich on rye from Katz's Deli,  New York City iconic foodspastrami sandwich on rye from Katz's Deli,  New York City iconic foods

Pastrami Sandwich

Origin: The pastrami sandwich originated in Eastern Europe from Jewish communities. But it wasn’t until the late 1800s that this hearty NYC dish truly found its fame in the bustling streets of New York City. Made from highly seasoned smoked beef, pastrami was traditionally prepared by curing and smoking. In New York delicatessens, thinly sliced pastrami is typically served between slices of rye bread with mustard and pickles.

Today, the pastrami sandwich remains a beloved fixture of New York City’s food scene, renowned for robust flavor and hearty portions, it knows how to satisfy. As for the best deli in town? That title goes to Katz in the Lower East Side.

Serving folks with one of the most famous foods in NYC since 1888, Katz’s is officially the oldest deli in the country. The iconic cafeteria-style deli is adorned with celebrity photos. And nothing keeps folks coming back more than its famous mile-high thick-cut pastrami on rye. With charred outer layers, generous seasonings, and a texture that melts in your mouth, this stuff is irresistible and well worth the wait. 

Where to eat it: Katz’s Deli is pretty hard to beat, but a close competitor is 2nd Ave Deli in the Upper East Side. Another great spot to try the iconic NYC food is Pastrami Queen (three locations in the city).

Lorely Beer Garden Pumpkin Keg Halloween NYC, soft pretzel with mustard Lorely Beer Garden Pumpkin Keg Halloween NYC, soft pretzel with mustard

Soft Pretzels

Origin: Soft pretzels have been enjoyed since around the 7th century, originating in Europe, particularly in regions like Germany and Austria. They were initially created by monks and later became popular street food sold at markets and fairs. German immigrants brought the tradition to America, where soft pretzels became a beloved snack and one of the most iconic foods in New York City.

Pretzels stand as an iconic symbol of New York, featured on everything from t-shirts to mugs. This twisted treat is loved by both locals and tourists, especially when enjoyed during a leisurely stroll through Central Park. It’s often served with cheese or mustard, adding a nice savory touch.

Where to eat it: If you’re not too picky, I find that hotdog carts tend to sell satisfying pretzels. But if you take your pretzels seriously, most beer halls or breweries have a soft pretzel you’re almost embarrassed to like as much as you do. My top picks are Third Ave Ale House and Loreley Beer Garden.

Black and white cookies at Breads Bakery Upper East SideBlack and white cookies at Breads Bakery Upper East Side

Black and White Cookies

Origin: The black-and-white cookie is said to have originated from Glaser’s Bake Shop in Manhattan’s Yorkville neighborhood. Founded in 1902 by Bavarian immigrants, this bakery is credited with introducing the iconic treat to New Yorkers. Initially called “half-moons” or “half-and-half” cookies, they featured both dark and light dough, symbolizing chocolate and vanilla harmony. Over time, they earned their name from their distinctive icing: one half frosted with vanilla glaze and the other with chocolate.

Black and white cookies are a staple among the iconic foods in NYC. Widely available in bakeries, delis, and cafes across the city, they’re adored for their soft, cake-like texture and perfect balance of vanilla and chocolate flavors.

Where to eat it: Bread’s Bakery on the Upper East Side (this famous NYC treat is exclusive to this location), hands down offers one of the most memorable black and white cookies in the city. The base is a mixture between a cookie and a croissant, and it melts perfectly in your mouth. But if traditonal cookies are more your speed, you might find this article helpful, 5+ Flavorful Black and White Cookies in New York City (The City’s BEST Treat).

Halal Guys

Origin: Halal Guys, an iconic street food cart, originated in New York City in the early 1990s. It began as a humble food cart operated by three Egyptian immigrants near the corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. Their savory halal meats served over rice with signature white sauce quickly gained popularity among New Yorkers, leading to the expansion of their food cart operation and the eventual opening of brick-and-mortar restaurants across NYC and beyond.

The Halal Guys have stands everywhere. This popular NYC food cart is never too far, no matter where you are in the city. Offering straightforward yet tasty options like gyros or platters with rice, chicken or beef, lettuce, and tomato, they adhere to Halal dietary guidelines. A quintessential cheap eat in the city, I can’t envision NYC without them.

Where to eat it: Expect to find multiple locations scattered throughout the Big Apple when searching for this famous New York City dish. The best part? Many locations stay open until midnight. Some spots even run until 4 AM, making it one of the most iconic late-night food spots in NYC.

Sliced chocolate babka from Breads Bakery one of the Best desserts NYCSliced chocolate babka from Breads Bakery one of the Best desserts NYC


Origin: Babka, a sweet bread swirled with chocolate or cinnamon, originated in Eastern Europe among Jewish communities. It found its way to New York City through Jewish immigrants and was originally baked only during the holidays. Over time, babka’s appeal expanded beyond the Jewish community. It became a beloved NYC staple, known for its rich, tender texture and indulgent flavors, enjoyed year-round.

If you haven’t tried it yet, you’re truly missing out. Babka is made from a rich dough filled with sweet ingredients like chocolate, cinnamon, nuts, or fruit, then twisted or braided. Known for its fluffy texture and swirled appearance, babka is enjoyed as a dessert or sweet treat with coffee or tea.

Nowhere is this excellency more evident than at Breads Bakery. With 6+ locations, the bakery has grown like wildfire mostly thanks to the award-winning chocolate babka. It’s delicious, you can’t regret ordering an entire loaf to go.

Where to eat it: While Bread’s Bakery is tough to top, there are plenty of other fantastic places in the city to enjoy this iconic NYC food. Established favorites like Oneg Bakery in Williamsburg offer superb options. Hidden gems like Michaeli Bakery in the Lower East Side also deliver great flavor.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Origin: Several sources credit Rhode Island’s Portuguese fishing communities for inventing Manhattan clam chowder. It was made popular thanks to their regular visits to New York City’s Fulton Fish Market in the mid-1800s.

You might be wondering, what sets Manhattan clam chowder apart from the classic clam chowder we all know and love? Well, Manhattan clam chowder is made with a tomatoey, brothy, and clear base. While New England clam chowder is known for its thick, creamy, and milky-white consistency.

With its easy access to fresh seafood and the bustling Fulton Fish Market, the Big Apple was the perfect place for this iconic NYC dish to thrive. Today, Manhattan clam chowder is a staple food in New York’s seafood restaurants.

Where to eat it: The Grand Central Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal is a crowd favorite when it comes to the famous New York City dish. The chowder has a slight kick to it and is extremely satisfying.

Famous Foods Created in NYC

sliced open Cronut from Dominque Ansel in SoHo, sliced open Cronut from Dominque Ansel in SoHo,

The Cronut

Origin: The Cronut, a hybrid pastry made up of half-croissant and half-doughnut was created by the incredible pastry chef Dominique Ansel. Since opening its doors in 2013, Dominque Ansel has released a new Cronut flavor every month, never repeating the same flavor. That’s over 130 different and unique flavors of this famous NYC food! The innovative treat quickly gained worldwide fame, inspiring bakeries globally to replicate its success.

The Cronut sells out daily, but fret not — this NYC bakery’s innovative approach to pastries, combining traditional French techniques with imaginative concepts, ensures that every baked good is bound to impress. Another famous food in New York City that can be had at this bakery is the Kouign-Amann (pronounced “Queen Amon”). It’s perfectly flakey and caramelized in sugar.

Where to eat it: Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo is where this iconic NYC treat was created. Others have since tried to recreate it, but no one does it quite like the original.

Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon from Sarabeth's, foods invented in NYCEggs Benedict with smoked salmon from Sarabeth's, foods invented in NYC

Eggs Benedict

Origin: Eggs Benedict, a breakfast dish with poached eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffins, and Hollandaise sauce, is believed to have originated in the Big Apple. One story suggests it was created at Delmonico’s Restaurant for a patron named Mrs. LeGrand Benedict in the 1860s. While another credits its invention to a Wall Street broker named Lemuel Benedict at the Waldorf Hotel in 1894. Despite the unclear origins, Eggs Benedict has become a famous food associated with New York City.

Eggs Benedict has become a brunch menu staple across the city, offering various interpretations of the beloved NYC dish. Whether enjoyed in its classic form or with smoked salmon or veggies, this popular breakfast choice never fails to satisfy.

Where to eat it: In my opinion, the ultimate eggs Benedict can be found at Balthazar’s in SoHo, especially the smoked salmon version. The harmonious blend of ingredients never fails to hit the spot. Another dependable spot for this iconic NYC dish is Sarabeth’s.

Red velvet seasonal banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery, NYCRed velvet seasonal banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery, NYCSeasonal red-velvet banana pudding from Magnolia

Banana Pudding from Magnolia Bakery

Origin: Founded in 1996 in the West Village, Magnolia Bakery’s claim to fame comes from the iconic banana pudding. The famous NYC food features layers of creamy pudding, fresh bananas, and vanilla wafers. It’s quickly become a customer favorite thanks to its rich flavor and nostalgic appeal.

Magnolia’s serves all your sweet treat needs including irresistibly moist cakes and divine cheesecakes. But the banana pudding remains a signature NYC dish. It represents the bakery’s dedication to timeless American desserts with a modern twist.

Where to eat it: Magnolia Bakery has multiple locations in the city. But nothing beats the flagship store which is located in the West Village. It was featured in the TV show Sex and the City. It was an episode where Carrie and Miranda shared a cupcake while gushing over Carrie’s new crush (season 3, episode 5).

General Tso’s Chicken

Origin: General Tso’s Chicken, a popular dish in Chinese-American cuisine, originated in Taiwan. Named after Qing dynasty military leader General Tso Tsung-tang, the dish consists of crispy fried chicken coated in a sweet and tangy sauce. Its introduction to New York City is often credited to Hunanese chef Peng Chang-kuei. Allegedly, he brought the dish to the United States in the 1970s. Peng’s restaurant was among the first to serve General Tso’s Chicken, sparking its popularity in Chinese restaurants across the country.

General Tso’s Chicken remains an iconic dish in NYC’s culinary scene. Folks can’t get enough of the sweet and spicy fried chicken. The dish is the perfect combination of savory and tangy and shouldn’t be missed out on.

Where to eat it: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better General Tso’s Chicken than in Chinatown, specifically Shanghai 21. The joint isn’t flashy by any means, but the food coming out of that kitchen is pure gold.

Chopped Cheese

Origin: Although there is no clear origin, Chopped cheese is an iconic NYC food, believed to come from the bodegas in Harlem and the Bronx. This hearty sandwich typically includes chopped beef, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, and condiments on a hero or roll. Chopped cheese gained popularity as an affordable and flavorful option in the city’s diverse food scene.

Today, it’s a staple comfort food found in delis and bodegas across all five boroughs. All the ingredients are chopped together beautifully, providing a united front. The flavors work in unison with each other and the cheese is ribboned between layers of goodness.

The famous New York sandwich has taken over the internet and has quickly gained popularity. In fact, when I have out-of-town visitors, the iconic NYC food they’re most excited about is always chopped cheese.

Where to eat it: There’s a huge debate between New Yorkers on where to find the best chopped cheese in the city. And although no one can agree on one spot, the united consensus is you won’t find a better chopped cheese than at your local bodega.

Quick Recap of the Most Iconic Dishes in NYC

  • New York-Style Pizza
  • New York-Style Cheesecake
  • Bagels and Lox
  • New York Hotdogs
  • Pastrami Sandwich
  • Soft Pretzels
  • Black and White Cookies
  • Cronut
  • Banana Pudding from Magnolia Bakery
  • Babka
  • Manhattan Clam Chowder
  • Eggs Benedict
  • General Tso’s Chicken
  • Chopped Cheese

Iconic Food Spots in NYC Everyone Needs to Try

Best Pizza in NYC: 15 Best Pizza Joints in New York City
Iconic Restaurants in NYC: 10 Iconic New York City Restaurants Every Local Needs to Try
Best Bagels in NYC: 15 BEST Bagels in New York City
Best Brunch in NYC: 18 Prime Brunch Spots in New York City Worth the (Inevitable) Wait

Iconic NYC Food (Helpful Map)

And there you have it, a list of the most famous NYC foods according to yours truly. As always, don’t hesitate to let us know if we missed anything.



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