New York has countless restaurants of quality and variety. If you want a sampling of true New York cuisine, follow the “required eating” itinerary below. Whether you jam the stops below into 1, 2, or 3 days, a gargantuan appetite is required.
1. Bagels with Lox
Start your food tour at Barney Greengrass, the Sturgeon King, where they have been making that famous combination, bagels and lox, since 1908. If there is anything more satisfying than a fresh out-of-the-oven bagel with a schmear of cream cheese and a slice of lox, I don’t know what it is. This might be one of the most popular breakfast items in New York.
2. Chicken & Waffles
You’re out late, maybe listening to jazz at one of Harlem’s many clubs, it’s getting near dawn, and you can’t decide whether you want dinner or breakfast. You can’t resist the fried chicken, but waffles sound good, too. So you try both—maple syrup melding with the hot sauce, sweet with savory. The birthplace of this dish is said to be Wells Chicken and Waffles in Harlem in 1938. Wells is long gone, but chicken and waffles live on. For the best rendition, as well as for grits and fish cakes—another outstanding combo—go to Amy Ruth’s.
3. The New York Oyster
There was a time when New York was more the Big Oyster than the Big Apple. The local harbor beds overflowed with oysters, and the mollusk helped feed the city. You can recall those glory days at the Oyster Bar & Restaurant in Grand Central Station where, since 1913, oysters have been the specialty. Order them on the half-shell from Long Island, Washington State, Maine, Virginia, or Canada, with the Metro-North commuter trains rumbling in the background. It’s a true New York eating experience if there ever was one.
4. Some Pizza
Toss on some red pepper or garlic, fold it in half lengthwise, and eat it standing up to capture the grease before it stains your clothes. That’s the way we’ve been eating pizza in New York for years. The classic New York slice, however, has been on the decline ever since the chain pizzerias have corrupted the landscape. For the pizza, head to Keste to try some of the best 'za in the U.S.
5. The Hot Dog
This might be an obvious choice, but I don’t think so. You can find carts selling cheap hot dogs throughout the city. You might be tempted to try one just to say you did. And I think you should; it definitely is a New York experience. But even better, take the train out to Coney Island and sample a Nathan’s Famous dog right on the boardwalk, at 1310 Surf Ave. Maybe it’s the salty sea air. Maybe it’s the crisp skin of the hot dog, or the way it’s perfectly fried. Whatever it is, you won’t forget your Nathan’s hot dog on Coney Island.
6. The New York Strip
Some of New York’s oldest restaurants are steakhouses, and for good reason. They keep it simple. Some might have sawdust on the floors, others clay pipes on the ceiling or photos of celebrities on the walls, but that is about as fancy as they get. What they do is serve quality, properly aged meat cooked to perfection and presented in a no-nonsense, no-frills manner. And no one does that better than Peter Luger in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
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