It might be a little city-centric to say that New York has the best food in the world, but it certainly has the most variety. The foodscape of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs is nothing short of a melting pot. Some of the things we do best were born here, like pastrami on rye and pizza by the slice, others came from abroad, like omakase sushi. Here are 10 things New York does better than anywhere else.
Five years ago, New York had two major players in the ramen game: Momofuku and Ippudo, located a few blocks away from each other in the East Village. While people still line up for the steamed pork buns and tonkotsu broths at both, the city is now saturated with quality ramen-yas. Every slurp season brings a handful of new ones, from New York originals like Jun-Men to Japanese transplants like Mr. Taka.
Bacon, Egg and Cheese
The bacon, egg and cheese sandwich is practically a birthright if you live in NYC. The original, and undoubtedly most popular, are the humble foil-wrapped versions you find on coffee carts and bodegas that cost no more than $5, but more gourmet versions can be found at sit-down spots across town. Notable chefs are experimenting with the staple as well: a few weeks ago, Dominique Ansel and Wylie Dufresne collaborated on a limited-edition BEC made with soft-scrambled eggs, confit egg yolk, homemade cheese, black truffles, bacon and maple flakes on a smoked English muffin.
New York has a reputation to maintain as the city that never sleeps, so it should come as no surprise that it does late-night dining better than anywhere else. We’re not talking about one-dollar pizza and cheap tacos (though we do those well too), but high-quality food from some of the city’s best chefs, available past 11 PM. Have a taste of Sarah Simmons’ deviled eggs on the Birds & Bubbles Southern late-night menu, or get April Bloomfield’s infamous burger with Rocquefort cheese and shoestring fries at The Spotted Pig.
NYC's official food mascot could be the pastrami sandwich. Piles of homemade pastrami on thick slices of rye bring troves of tourists to Katz's every day on the Lower East Side (expanding soon to Downtown BK), and more seasoned New Yorkers hit up the old-school delis of Murray Hill and Brooklyn. And while classic deli culture has certainly waned from what it once was, a second wave of sandwich shops, like Harry & Ida's and Mile End, pay homage to the iconic sandwich with their own cures and fixins.
“Food hall” is one of the buzziest words in the food industry right now. The city is chock full of upscale food courts, from the originals like Chelsea Market (which welcomed a host of new vendors in January) to the cuisine-specific like Le District and Eataly. The trend shows no signs of slowing down as we wait for Anthony Bourdain’s massive global marketplace and Downtown Brooklyn’s DeKalb Market to open later this year.
New York is a vertical city and the best nightlife spots are hidden in basements or high above street level. The unofficial rooftop season starts every Memorial Day weekend, but many of the city’s spots are open year-round, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows to keep revelers’ views of the Hudson or East Rivers unobstructed.
You can’t talk about food in New York without talking about pizza. Anytime, anywhere, we’ve got the best on hand: late-night slices at Artichoke Basille’s, Brooklyn pies at Roberta’s and Paulie Gee’s and Neapolitan classics from the likes of Motorino and Ribalta. Every year brings a new crop of hot spots, like recent arrivals Bruno and Pizza Beach.
New York is a city known equally for high-end dining as it is for fast-casual. Often, the same chefs and restaurant groups are behind both operations, motivated by a desire to bring their love of food to as many people as possible. David Chang is a prime example, who since opening Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2004 has expanded into fried chicken with Fuku and most recently, Korean-Italian food at Momofuku Nishi.
We live in a city of sushi dens where the hottest splurge is an omakase meal. Often upwards of $100, the tasting format requires diners to put their trust in the sushi chef and his choices for the multicourse fish meal. Affordable omakase spot Sushi Dojo was at the center of a heated debate in the fall when the Department of Health forced them to wear gloves, a sanitation rule that many claim ruins the craft of sushi. If you’re looking for a traditional experience, don’t be scared away by the bare hands.
As any native New Yorker who’s lived elsewhere can attest: bagels aren’t the same outside of the tri-state area. A New York bagel is perfectly dense, soft without being too doughy, crunchy without being too crispy. It's neither bloated nor flat, and a really good one doesn’t need to be toasted. A bagel renaissance began in 2014 when Black Seed opened its first location in NoLita, and it shows no signs of slowing down as the hype for fall newcomer Sadelle's continues — and as the Upper West Side preps for an H&H offshoot later this year.