New York food is spectacular. From the elegant restaurants to street food, there’s so much to enjoy on an edible trip through New York.
New York has been called the “melting pot” since the onset of the 20th century — and for good reason. It remains an important entry point of immigration (despite Ellis Island being closed for more than a half century) It’s also a city rich in cultural diversity where an estimated more than 800 languages are spoken. The five boroughs are home to more than 8.6 million people.
When a school vacation set the kids free for a week in February, I decided to break with our traditional trip to Boston and instead split our time between Bean Town and New York. I’ve missed my city, and I’ve wanted my kids to see more of it for awhile.
So this year, we boarded an Amtrak train at South Station in Boston and emerged at Penn Station in New York. And then, we explored. And we ate. Because you cannot go to New York without indulging in all that the city has to offer — food wise.
Here’s a look at some of the best food we enjoyed on our trip.
Look. Everyone who has ever lived in New York (and many who’ve traveled there) have a favorite pizza joint. Mine happens to be Famous Famiglia, which boasts locations throughout the city (and, as it turns out, around the country now) and has the best garlic knots I have ever had. In college, I would pick up an order after class to enjoy while studying — or whatever it was that I did.
The kids loved it so much, we ended up eating there twice (two different locations).
Locations: Throughout New York. See the website.
Liberty Bagels Midtown
We hadn’t even set foot in New York when my kids started talking about the bagels we’d eat. Liberty Bagels Midtown happened to be about a block from our hotel so we stopped there on our first morning … and fell in love. These are all the best things about New York bagels — fresh, with a smooth crust and a light, chewy inside.
If you go, I highly recommend their housemade Nova (smoked salmon, sometimes called lox, they really like to call it Nova). It was melt-in-your-mouth perfect. I had it with red onions and capers on an egg everything bagel. Paige had it with cream cheese on a rainbow bagel. Will had a sesame bagel egg sandwich. All were super filling. And it was so good, we returned the next morning.
Location: 260 West 35th St. between 7th and 8th. See the website for details, don’t be fooled by the sparse online menu. Their IRL one is much more robust. Avoid on weekend mornings though — we saw the line stretch down the street.
With or without a selection of condiments or sauerkraut, street dogs are a New York tradition. You get it hot and eat it while you walk. In this city of pricey indulgence, this is a wallet-friendly lunch option with some street cred.
Location: All over New York. Just look for a cart. And don’t be afraid to walk away if the vendor gives you the heebeegeebees. There are plenty of others to choose from.
Snow Face Poke Bowl & Sushi
We’ve had poke bowls before and loved them — the combination of raw fish, sushi rice and various other toppings is a favorite. But it seemed like bad timing for several of the places I wanted to try. But on the night we went to see Phantom of the Opera, this one was perfect — close by the theatre, quick and fresh. Will liked, in particular, the sushi rice here. Paige discovered a love of eel sauce. And I was just happy to dig in, even though I accidentally ordered rice crackers on mine (that’s a don’t — the pieces are too big).
We will definitely return here again if we find ourselves in the area.
Location: 321 West 42nd Street between 8th and 9th. This is a blink and you miss it place, located inside a hibachi place. See their website, but really you just want to look carefully as you walk for this one.
American Girl Cafe
I’ve wanted to take my tea-loving children to tea time for eons. And when Paige discovered we were going to New York for part of our vacation, she all but demanded a stop at the American Girl Store. Although I initially resisted, discovering that the cafe has a daily tea time totally swayed me. Will reluctantly agreed too.
Our experience was mixed here. The food and tea were delightful (seriously, it was surprisingly good), the atmosphere was nice and the little chairs for dolls were adorable. But our tea time extended far longer than it should have because of a waiter who keep disappearing. It was really tempting to leave before dessert because of this. Plus there was gum underneath the table — don’t ask how we discovered that. Ew. Overall, it was a good food experience with a bad customer service experience.
Location: 75 Rockefeller Plaza. If you have been to the store before, take note that it’s recently moved. Check out the website for hours, directions and cafe menu.
If you haven’t been to Carmine’s, make a note to go next time you’re in the city. Seriously. You won’t regret it.
My family has been raving about
Location: Carmine’s has two locations in the city. We went to the uptown location. 2450 Broadway at 91st Street.
Maison Kayser Paris
At this bakery, which is reminiscent of a French bakery, you can order sandwiches, breads and pastries all day. And then there’s this: the display case from heaven. There are several pastries I’d love to try on a future visit.
Location: We went to a Maison Kayser in midtown. I can’t recall the exact location, but there are numerous ones throughout the city
On our final morning, lines stretch far from the door at Liberty Bagel and another bagel shop nearby. But Sliced was free from lines and full of creativity. This little New York eatery specializes in open-faced sandwiches so robust that you have to eat them with a fork and knife. And they’re good. This was a wonderful best-kept-secret find that I highly recommend everyone try. We all chose sweet toasts for our breakfast, but a number of savory ones caught my eye too.
Location: Sliced is located at 264 W35th Street at 8th Avenue.
And one more thing. We couldn’t leave New York without having at least one black and white cookie. These are ubiquitous in the city and available all over. This one came from a nearby bodega. But you could get yours at any number of New York bakery or grocery. There’s nothing quite like a black and white from New York.
And in case you’re wondering, I am Team Eat the Chocolate First (and save the best for last).
Do you have a favorite New York food or restaurant? What is it?
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to a tween and a teen, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.