Essential New York Food

The Food That Makes New York

The New York cuisine is a many-splendored thing. For each recipe, there is a vast array of ingredients. For each ingredient, there's an ever wider array of recipes. And for each recipe there's a tremendous array of cultures.

So the question you have to ask yourself is, what do you want? The delicious, ethnic corned beef and its bagels? The pickles and the sour cream? Or the iconic an irresistible hot dogs?

Read on and find out.

A Tourist Must: Deli

Hot Dogs

If there's a gastronomic institution in New York worth mentioning, that is the deli (short for delikatessen). It was born as a line business created by and for Jewish people of Central European origin. In the thousands of stores you will see all over New York bearing this name in lights, you find a lot of the City's specialties: bagels, pastrami, corned beef, pickles, sour cream. They are all part of the city's essence.

There are several schools of deli in New York. Of course, our aim is to make your trip easier for you, so here are the three basic ones:

  • The Sturgeon King (a.k.a. Greengrass, Amsterdam Avenue). This fantastically iconic, decades-old deli restaurant boasts a seemingly relentless pull on hipsters and people with money alike. The common claim "It's not New York if you don't visit The Sturgeon King" might be a somewhat hyperbolic expression of local love, but don't let this deter you. Deli equals New York, and Sturgeon King equals deli.
  • Katz (East Houston). Remember the orgasm scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally? It was filmed there. And yes, you can order "whatever she's having" if you can keep a straight face. Other than that, this 1888 establishment is highly recommended.
  • The Sturgeon King
  • Carnegie Deli (7th Avenue with the 57). This is one for the ravenously hungry or the powerfully gluttonous. Honoring the fact that Woody Allen selected their locale for a scene in Broadway Danny Rose (the managers' meeting that anchors the film, if you feel like checking it out on DVD. Actually, the man who plays the owner of the restaurant is the actual owner of the Carnegie Deli, retired comedian Leo Steiner), the Carnegie's owners named their monstrosity of a sandwhich after Woody Allen. It basically is a double mountain of pastrami and corned beef with bread foundations. It is very, very good (other people may want to add extra "very"'s the definition), but very, very few people have shown the capacity to finish it.

Hot Dogs

Yes, it's a cliché. Yes, it's so predictable it borders on boring. And yes, it is one of the best ideas you can have in New York.

In the 1960s, an exhaustingly pertinacious man called Ralph Nader, who seems to have a fixation with running for the Green Party in every presidential election, made a name for himself by denouncing the junk New York hot dogs were really made of. Things may have changed a little bit since then, but it's highly doubtful. Hot dogs are a New York institution.

Hot Dogs

However, there are few things as pleasurably ephemeral as devouring a hot dog at breakneck speed, with its onion and its mustard (ketchup may be a popular sauce to add but it still is an affront to good taste) in any corner of the city.

If what you are looking for is the vintage New York style, you will be doing yourself a favor by going for the brand Nathan's. And that is not a commercial message. It's just good advice.