New York City is a culinary wonderland that showcases flavours from all over the world. From fiery cocktails at The Honeywell to Black Tap’s decadent milkshakes and Chomp Chomp’s authentic hawker-style nasi lemak, the city never disappoints the taste buds.
Top 10 foods to try in New York
When it comes to pasta, New Yorkers love gnocchi and both rustic and modern versions are available city-wide. Clay, a farm-to-table restaurant in uptown Manhattan, offers gnocchi served with mildly sweet butternut squash, crunchy hazelnuts, fresh sage, maitake mushrooms, and pickled fresno chillies.
2. Nasi Lemak
New York City’s food scene will take you around the world. Look for Singaporean hawker-style venues such as Chomp Chomp that fuses intensely flavourful Chinese, Indian, and Malay cuisines. While there, you won’t want to miss an opportunity to eat authentic nasi lemak, a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk served with spicy lamb curry, crispy fried anchovies, a hard-boiled egg, and fresh sliced cucumbers.
Going out for ramen on a cold or rainy day in New York is a local pastime. The Japanese staple of wheat noodles in a meat or fish-based hot broth is typically flavoured with soy sauce, miso, or garlic oil and heightened with toppings like sliced pork belly, dried seaweed, bamboo shoots and soft-boiled egg.Almost every ramen noodle soup in New York offers their own variation—from the Okinawa (a chicken broth seasoned with yuzu and sake lees) served at ROKC to the tonkotsu (pork bone broth) found on Jin Ramen’s menu.
4. Fiery cocktails
Setting fire to a cocktail is a great way for creative bartenders to impress patrons. But experienced mixologists know that the flames aren’t just for showing off – to do this right, it takes finesse, precision and an understanding of how the fire can enhance the flavours of the liquor used in a cocktail.
The Honeywell does it best with the cinnamon torched cocoa butter in their Disco Inferno, a drink made with rum, beer, orange oils and agave.
This classic is more of a dessert than a drink. You can find the standard chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla flavoured milkshakes at almost every ice cream shop in the city, but if you’re looking for something special, with over-the-top candy and ice cream flavours, be sure to visit Black Tap.
6. Shawarma platter
Over the past few decades, New York City has seen a rise in halal cart street food vendors. They’ve become one of the most iconic outdoor dining destinations in the city offering platters like seasoned lamb, chicken, or falafel over rice.While halal carts might all look the same, every vendor adds their own flair to set themselves apart. It’s definitely a grab-and-go scenario, which is perfect if you want to savour cheap eats while people-watching on a bench. Spicy food lovers should say yes to the hot red sauce.
Like pizza, bagels give New Yorkers a reason to brag. In most bagel shops or corner delis, you can find flavors like poppy seed, sesame, cinnamon raisin, and a New York favourite called “everything”, topped with poppy seeds, toasted sesame seeds, dried garlic, dried onion, and salt.With its thick crust and fluffy center, fresh bagels can be eaten plain, with butter, or smeared with cream cheese. For those who want to start their day with a filling breakfast or early lunch, a bagel with lox (smoked salmon), cream cheese, red onions, tomatoes, and capers is the best way to go.
Everyone knows that you can’t visit the Big Apple without devouring a slice, or let’s be honest, an entire pizza pie (yes we call them pizza pies). Walking around New York City, you’ll find a pizza joint in every neighbourhood. There are walk-in spots that offer traditional New York or square Sicilian (thick crust) slices for $1 to $4 each; perfect for eating while on-the-go and if you’re travelling with a tight budget.
For those who want to unwind with a glass of wine and try a more personalized pizza pie—like a gluten-free crust, vegan-friendly options, or toppings like meatballs or ricotta—places like Arturo’s, Rubirosa, and Lucali are a few local top picks. Urban legend says that the city’s tap water used to make the crust is part of the reason why the signature item reigns supreme here.
9. Ropa Vieja and Plantains at Latin Cubana
Ropa vieja, a Cuban stew of slow-cooked shredded beef, chillies and peppers, is the ultimate comfort food. The name means ‘old clothes’, which perhaps doesn't sound very appetising but your taste buds will thank you for pairing the tender, vingarey meat with Caribbean-inspired black beans, yellow rice, and plantains. It's the national dish of Cuba and most Cuban-Americans will tell you that their mum's or grandma’s recipe can’t be beaten.
It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit, there are a plethora of excellent places to enjoy oysters in New York – best paired with a cold glass of prosecco or white wine. Be sure to always look for the money-saving raw bar happy hours that give you even more reason to indulge.
Check out more must-read guides at our travel hub.
What's your top tip for living like a local in New York? Leave a comment below...