Must Eat Food in New York For First-Timers

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Food You Must Eat While in New York – Ultimate NYC Food Guide

Food is what brings me back to New York, even more so than seeing my family….shhh don’t tell them! When we travel, I always like trying local/famous food options. So, since I am usually dreaming of eating in NYC, I am sharing the must eat food in New York that you should try, especially if this is your first time visiting!

Williamsburg, Brooklyn New York City Skyline view
Williamsburg, Brooklyn at Smorgasburg

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Pizza, Pizza, and more New York Pizza

If there is one thing I miss the most after moving to North Carolina, it is New York pizza! Seriously, I dream about it. You can find great pizza joints throughout the city, but that doesn’t mean every pizzeria is amazing.

For one, I would avoid pizza in any of the train stations unless you are coming home from a drunken night at the club. If you are, then the pizza is amazing, however, if sober… not as much!

If you are on a budget, I’d recommend finding your nearest 2 Bros Pizza! While not the best for New York standards (top-notch for NC standards), they offer $1 slices, they got me through my college years.

Another thing you will learn about NYC pizza is that it’s more than just cheese or pepperoni. In NYC and across New York, we are very creative when it comes to the toppings you can have.

Some of my favorites are Grandma slice, White slice, Eggplant Parm, Margarita, and Penne Alavodka, just to name a few!

Some of the best places to get pizza include:

  • Lucia Pizza Of Avenue X – Brooklyn
  • Artichoke Basille’s Pizza – NYC
  • L & B Spumoni Gardens – Brooklyn
  • Joes Pizza – NYC
  • Ignazio’s – Dumbo, Brooklyn

Here’s a more detailed list of the best pizza places in NYC!

L&B Pizza and Spumoni Garden
L&B has one of the best square slices in New York!

Jewish Deli

Don’t miss out on another NYC staple by heading over to a Jewish Deli. One of the most famous Jewish delis in NYC is Katz’s Delicatessen which was established in 1888. Some of the best things to get include a Pastrami sandwich on Rye or a Cornbeef sandwich!

Another very popular Jewish Deli is 2nd Ave Deli!

Katz Jewish deli is a must eat place in New York
Photo by Harry Knight on Unsplash

Nathan’s Hot Dogs in Coney Island

Heading to the Coney Island Boardwalk? Well, a trip to Coney Island is not complete without getting one of Nathan’s Famous hotdogs. I no longer eat meat, but I still get the cheese fries!

If you are in Brooklyn and looking for some more “Authentic” local eats, check out Johns Deli and Rollin Roaster (if you like everything with cheese).

Nathens Hotdogs in Coney island is another must eat in New York
Photo by Harry Knight on Unsplash

NYC Hot Dog Stands

Speaking of Hot dogs, don’t forget to indulge in Hot dogs from the many vendors while making your way through NYC. You will find food stands by major train stations and attraction areas.

Hot dog stands in NYC

NYC Bagels

Another food you must eat in New York is bagels! Let me tell you, New York does have the best bagels. It’s all in the water!

There is a wide array of bagels you can choose from depending on the bagel shop you visit, including french toast bagels, cheddar cheese bagels, and rainbow bagels, to name a few. 

I’d also highly recommend getting a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese (BEC), which is kind of a staple in New York. Not a meat-eater? Try an egg, spinach, and mozzarella cheese sandwich. Overall, egg sandwiches are pretty customizable!

In NYC, one of my favorite bagel places is Brooklyn Bagels in the Chelsea neighborhood on 8th Street. They have all types of different cream cheese, too. You can also check out the Instagrammable French Toast bagel at Tompkins Square Bagels. Or, try the famous Ess-a-Bagel, but be prepared to wait in line.

Bacon Egg and Cheese on a Bagel sandwich in New York is a must eat

American Italian Food

I say American first because things such as penne ala vodka, chicken parmigiana, etc. are not real Italian dishes. With that being said, NYC has really great-tasting Italian food! My go-to is Baked Ziti, Eggplant Parm, and Penne Ala Vodka.

Some of the best restaurants to try in NYC include:

  • Catch
  • Carbone
  • Bar Pitti
Views from Summit One Vanderbilt

NYC Halal Street Food

Halal Street food is certainly another must eat food in New York. Usually, this consists of chicken or lamb over rice with red sauce or white sauce. Just like the hot dog stands, you will find them at major train stations around Penn Station, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, the Financial District, and other major attraction areas. 

Halal food stand in NYC

Roasted Nuts in the Winter

I can actually picture myself walking by these stands on my way to school during the winter. Roasted Nuts are a staple food when visiting NYC in the Winter.

It is the perfect snack to warm yourself up on those brutally cold days in the city. Plus, they smell delicious. You will find these street vendors by major subway stations and big attractions.

Ralphs Italian Ices

You can find Ralph’s Italian Ices in the NYC boroughs and Long Island, but not in Manhattan itself. This is my go-to every summer until fall, when they close for the season. They have around 100 different flavors, and they are all out of this world.

My go-to is the Strawberry Cheesecake and the Pumpkin flavor in the fall. They are seasonal and usually are open from March till the end of November. Make sure to try the cream ices!

Ralphs Italian Ices is a must eat in New York

Experience a Diner

One of the joys of living in New York is the ability to go to your local dinner 24/7. A diner is a place you can order any meal of the day, no matter what time. For myself, I am a breakfast champ.

This basically means I will order breakfast at any time of the day. I also believe that diners (in general) have the best breakfast and lunch food. I would recommend eating dinner food elsewhere.

Another cool thing about New York diners is that, for the most part, the menu is very customizable. For example, whether I see it on the menu or not, I know I can order egg whites, spinach, and mozzarella cheese omelets without any issues. 

Smorgasburg NYC Food Festival

Looking for a food festival? Smorgasburg is one of my favorite outdoor food festivals with cuisines from around the world. From ramen burgers, lobster rolls, mozzarella sticks, different types of ice cream, the list goes on. 

They usually have 3 locations, the Oculus Center (WTC), Prospect Park, and Williamsburg. My favorite is Williamsburg, with epic views of NYC. For hours and days, check the Smorgasburg website! They are generally open from Spring until the end of fall. 

Another food festival that is very popular in NYC is the Feast of San Gennaro. It happens in September, is an Italian festival with all you can eat Italian food! 

Smorgasburg vendors
Smorgasburg vendors

Smorgasbord in Brooklyn New York

NYC Soft Pretzels

Enjoy a giant soft Pretzel while on the go through NYC. You can find these bad boys at any hot dog stand, and this is so New York, you have to have one!

Pretzel Stand food must try in nyc

Famous Steak House

NYC is also home to some of the best steak houses. If you love steak, try some of these NYC classic spots.

  • Peter Lugers – has made the list for best steak houses more times than you can count. Get the porterhouse with cream spinach. 
  • The Palms – Has great steak and seafood.
  • The Old Homestead – Located in Chelsea NYC, this another top option.
  • Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse – Located in Rockefeller Center. My family makes their way here during the holidays.
  • Keens Steakhouse
  • Gallaghers Steakhouse
A must eat steak house in New York is Peter Luger Steak house in Williamsburg Brooklyn
Peter Luger Steak house Porterhouse Steak

New York Chinese Food

This might be the New Yorker in me, but New York offers some of the best Chinese food! Whether you make it down to Chinatown or head over to Flushing, Queens, make sure to try some authentic NYC Chinese!

Other Foods to Try in New York

Other foods to try during your trip to New York include Manhattan Clam Chowder, New York Cheesecake, Fried Oreos, Black and White Cookies, and Rainbow Cookies.

Must Eat Foods in New York: Wrap-up 

This covers my favorite must eat food to try in New York! New York really is a food lover’s dream with the opportunity to eat so many different cuisines since this city is a giant melting pot!

I’d have to say, I really felt spoiled to have access to some of the best food right in my own backyard, and it is one of the big reasons I love coming back to New York!

Are there any must eat foods in New York I missed or restaurants you’d like me to add? Let me know in the comments below!

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Must Eat food in New York especially for first-timers in NYC
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Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good.

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