New York City Food Specialties Everyone Must Try!


New York City has an incredible food culture, with cuisines from all over the world. There are some dishes, though, that undeniably represent the city. Whether they originate from Eastern Europe or East Asia, NYC has put its own spin on many dishes. If you’re a native New Yorker or just a fan of the city, recreating some of New York’s signature meals at home is a must. Many of them are easy to reproduce yourself, and you could put your own spin on them if you’re feeling creative. Check out these dishes you have to try making, and try out some of the suggested recipes too.

New York Cheesecake

Desserts have their place on New York’s menu too, and cheesecake is at the top. A New York-style cheesecake is baked, and it’s ingredients are simple. It contains cream cheese, cream, eggs, and sugar. The crust is usually made from graham crackers or something similar. The simple recipe is perfect if you want to make a quick dessert, and it will last several days in the fridge. In fact, a lot of people think it’s better after it’s rested for a day. So it’s ideal to prepare in advance for a dinner party, potluck, or picnic.


You can find hundreds of recipes for New York cheesecake, all with slight variations. The primary ingredients stay the same. But you might want to experiment with the base or add a sour cream topping. The recipe on Epicurious uses a sponge cake crust. Others use graham crackers or wafer cookies. If you find recipes from the UK, they often use digestive biscuits (cookies), which you can find in many international aisles or stores. It’s a simple dessert, but you can put your own spin on it by experimenting. Give the base a chocolate twist or put something extra in your sour cream topping.

Hot Dogs

You can find hot dogs all over the US, but there’s something special about getting one in NYC. You have so many options to choose from, from sitting down for a meal in a diner to getting a fresh dog from a food cart. Many of the hot dogs you find in New York are all beef or natural casing. You can also get skinless ones, or kosher hot dogs. And if you’re in Manhattan, you can find a bagel dog – a hot dog wrapped in bagel-style bread. Hot dogs are usually enjoyed with sauerkraut and mustard. You can also have sweet onions and tomato sauce.

If you want to try making some NYC-style hot dogs at home, you can find several excellent recipes online. You can reproduce a street cart dog with the Bobby Flay recipe on Food Network. It only takes 35 minutes to put together a delicious hot dog with sauerkraut, mustard and onion sauce. If Martha Stewart is your go-to gal for all things food, she has a New York City hot dog recipe too. Her simple recipe uses hot sauce in the onions to give them some spice. The trick to making incredible hot dogs is to buy quality sausages. Focus on creating delicious relishes and condiments. Unless you’re able to make your hot dogs from scratch, it’s important to buy the best you can find.

Pastrami on Rye

Some of New York City’s best dishes are also the simplest. A pastrami on rye sandwich isn’t very complicated, but it’s a must try if you ever visit the city. For best results, it should definitely be eaten hot. You could buy both the rye bread and the pastrami, but you can also try making both. It’s a lot more time consuming, but it could also produce incredible results. There’s not much to putting a together a pastrami sandwich, so why not give yourself a challenge? However, you might be short on time or not confident in your skills. Checking out your nearest deli is perhaps a better idea.

It’s pretty easy to find a pastrami on rye recipe online. You’ll find lots of variations, with cheese, pickles, mustard, and lots of other options. If you’re a pastrami fan, you can also find hundreds of other recipes for pastrami sandwiches. If you want to go the extra mile and make your own pastrami and rye bread, just roll your sleeves up and dive in. You won’t learn to do it if you don’t have a try. Making pastrami might sound like a lot of work, but it’s worth it if you’re willing to put in the effort. Try the recipe from Food52, which makes the process sound easy. Rye bread is actually one of the easiest breads to make, so don’t worry if you’ve never even baked before.


There is some debate about the origin of the Reuben sandwich. Some say it was invented in Omaha, Nebraska by Reuben Kulakofsky. One theory is that it originates in New York City, at Reuben’s Delicatessen. It may have been created in about 1914. Whatever the truth is, it’s still a dish you can’t miss out on if you love New York cuisine. If sandwiches are your thing, you have to try one and have a go at making one yourself. It traditionally has corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing. It’s all served on rye bread. There are other variations you might like to try too.

Making a Reuben is pretty easy, and you only need a few ingredients. Spread dressing on the bread and add corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut. Then you only need to grill the whole thing. There are many variations of the great Reuben that you could try making too. You can find an unusual Reuben recipe on the Hampton Creek Foods YouTube Channel. Their recipe with video instructions uses beets instead of pastrami. It’s an interesting alternative for a meat-free version of the sandwich. If you’re looking for a healthy option, perhaps that one might be for you.

New York Pizza

You can’t visit New York City without trying the pizza, or live there without learning how to make it. New York pizza has to have a thin crust, which many people prefer to other styles. You can buy prepared pizza dough and dough mixes, but you should make it from scratch for the best results. It hardly takes any time at all to make a pizza base, although getting it thin enough can be tricky. You can roll it out with a rolling pin, but the traditional thing to do is to learn how to stretch it. That will help you to get it thinner so it will be crispy when it’s baked.


For an amazing New York pizza, start off with a great base. You can find a recipe and tips for success on Feeling Foodish. When you’ve got a perfectly thin crust in the works, you need some toppings. Start simple with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Perhaps add some basil or another seasoning too. There aren’t any particular toppings you have to stick to for a traditional NY pizza. So choose whatever you like best. But if you want to focus on the main ingredients, stick to just the tomato and cheese.


Bagels are one of New York City’s quintessential baked goods. They were originally brought to the city by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. You will find them everywhere in hundreds of different variations. They can be savory or sweet, and you can put just about anything you want in them. Classic fillings like salmon and cream cheese or pastrami are always popular. Bagel dough is boiled after proving. Usually, there is something like lye or baking powder in the water. This process gives them their characteristically chewy crust. The process to make them might seem complicated, but they aren’t that difficult to make at home.


If you want to try making bagels, it’s best to start with something relatively plain. Don’t try and attempt an enriched dough or do anything fancy for your first time. If you’ve never made them before, you can find several easy bagel recipes online. Try making a few batches to perfect them before you try anything harder. It’s easy to add some toppings to make them more interesting, such as sesame or poppy seeds. Once your first bagels come out of the oven, even if they’re a little wonky, you can create a delicious sandwich.

You can find hundreds of possibilities for what to put on your bagel. Start with traditional fillings, like salmon, cream cheese, pastrami, gherkins, and cheese. You can have your bagel with a sweet filling too, especially if you bake them with blueberries or cinnamon. You can find ideas from all over the world, such as salted beef, gherkins and English mustard, which is how they do it in London. Or try a breakfast bagel filled with a fried egg and salad.

If you love all the food New York as to offer, don’t leave it up to the professionals to make it. It’s so easy to try some of the recipes at home.

We’d love to know…do you have any favorite iconic NYC dishes you make at home?  Share below!

By: Sacha Woolley

Jessica Tiare Bowen
Jessica Tiare Bowen lives in the juicy Big Apple with her adorable pink-nosed chihuahua, Gillman. He's the inspiration for her first published children's book, "Park Avenue Pound Puppy." The book is the combined result of her two greatest passions: pooches and penning stories.

Her passions include art, urban hikes through Manhattan, drinking coffee with 3 creams and 6 sugars, making extremely detailed itineraries and traveling to far away places, singing along to Broadway shows, Netflix movie nights, discovering incredible treasures at Goodwill and thrift stores, and listening to stories from little people under 7 and big people over 70.

She started her career as New York City Teaching Fellow, teaching elementary school and theater arts at a special education school in the South Bronx for 6 years. She is now a Special Education School Improvement Specialist working in public schools throughout New York City. She is the Editor-In-Chief of the online New York City travel magazine, Used York City. The magazine focuses on finding the best of New used by New Yorkers. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and an ASPCA Ambassador.
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