30 Quintessential NYC Foods and Dining Experiences

You can’t call yourself a New Yorker until you’ve tried all of these.

Veselka | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Veselka | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

New Yorkers live in the best dining destination of the world, so let’s just get this straight: We aren’t here to cook, we’re here to eat. Our apartments are small (with even tinier kitchens), so don’t be surprised if you discover nothing but ketchup packets and a lone bottle of sriracha in our fridges. But we’re ok with that—we moved here for the restaurants after all.

Eating out is practically a sport in NYC, no matter your price point or preference. It’s also home to some truly iconic foods and some will tell you no city does them better. Obviously, COVID-19 has disrupted and even shut down some of the city’s finest establishments, and some of the most quintessentially NYC dining experiences are currently on hold given the state of indoor dining. But with creative outdoor options, limited capacity indoor dining, and takeout—we’re making it work. We hope you support not only the establishments noted here but any business that continues to remain open and feed New Yorkers.
Here’s our list of 30 legendary dishes and food experiences in NYC to check out. Consider it a checklist if you’ve just moved here, or are leaving the city after many years. Some of these landmark spots and dishes have been around for generations, while others are more recent but still impactful. As you give them a try, as always, we ask that you wear a mask and social distance responsibly while doing so.

Absolute Bagels
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Absolute Bagels

Upper West Side

The dish: Bagels
Ever since Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe brought bagels over to NYC in the late 19th century, this circular baked good with a hole in the middle so embodies New York, that it practically talks to you in the display case in a New Yawk accent. Shiny with bite on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside, a real bagel is hand-rolled and boiled before baking. The city’s tap water (which is so delicious it's nicknamed the “champagne of drinking water”), is often attributed to what makes the bagels here taste so special. This longtime UWS bagel shop has mastered the classic NYC style bagel—chewy, dense, and fluffy inside with bite on the outside. Top it off with cream cheese, lox and all the fixins, or just eat yours toasted with butter while walking down the street. There’s nothing more iconically New York.
How to order: Storefront, call for takeout and delivery.

Photo by Kelly Dobkin for Thrillist


Carroll Gardens

The experience: Waiting in line for the city's best pizza
NYC has plenty of iconic foods, but let’s be real—when it comes down to it, pizza is absolutely the star. The dish arrived from Southern Italy in the early part of the 20th century, and eventually, the NYC-style slice was born—inspired heavily by Neapolitan technique but cooked inside a coal oven. Since pizza is so near and dear to our hearts, we’ll happily go stand in line at Lucali, a Carroll Gardens pizza institution opened in 2006 by Mark Iacono that does a truly magical take on our beloved pie. Iacono does everything the old-fashioned way—from a lovingly made dough that takes 24 hours to proof, to house-marinated tomatoes for the sauce, he bakes the pies in a scorching hot wood oven, creating that bubbly, crispy crust that’s worth waiting hours for.
How to order: Call for takeout before 3pm for pickup after 5pm. Cash only. Get in line before 5pm for outdoor seating.

Katz's Delicatessen
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Katz's Delicatessen

Lower East Side

The experience: An onsite ordering system as legendary as its pastrami
By the 1930s, NYC had more than 1,500 Jewish delis. Currently, the number remains below two dozen, and through it all, Katz’s Delicatessen in the Lower East Side not only has bragging rights as the city’s oldest, but also as the home to one the NYC’s most iconic orders: A pastrami on rye sandwich. Established in 1888, the restaurant’s dining space is most recognizable for the very memorable orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. But as one of NYC’s most popular eateries, order is maintained from mobs of hungry customers through an onsite ticketed ordering system. After receiving the small ticket at the door upon entering, it’ll guide you through your journey of personal one-on-one time with the (notoriously straight talking) pastrami cutters, in addition to paying your bill at the end. And be warned, lose the ticket at your own peril because it’ll incur a fine to your bill.
How to order: Storefront onsite ticketing system, or takeout and delivery via website, Caviar, GrubHub, Doordash, UberEats.

The experience: Old-school Italian red sauce dinner
Little Italy is one of the first neighborhoods that comes to mind for diners coming to visit the city for the first time. The historic hood used to be much bigger, and has now been whittled down to a few city blocks, with most of the classic dining establishments located on Mulberry Street. At spots like these, diners revel in Italian-American classics like lasagna, baked clams, chicken Parm, baked ziti, and meatballs, served with a heavy helping of nostalgia (giant menus, red-checked tablecloths, tuxedoed waiters et al). Just north of the present-day boundaries lies Emilio's Ballato, a Houston Street staple open since 1956, popular with local celebrities and neighborhood holdouts alike. When you’re here, relish in its classic vibes (and really take it in) because as the Manhattan neighborhood outside it modernizes at a rate that leaves it unrecognizable, Emilio's Ballato continues to stay true to who they are.
How to book: No reservations, indoor and outdoor seating is first come, first served.


Flatiron District

The dish: Donuts
The journey of donuts in NYC starts with its first-ever donut shop down on Broadway near Maiden Lane, opened in 1673 by Anna Joralemon (this true American hero deserves a statue there!). Since then, donut options have blanketed the city through boxes of  Entenmann’s, big-name chains, small artisanal shops, and hybrids like the Cronut (which caused mass hysteria after its 2013 debut, and was sold by scalpers at up to $100 a pop during its peak craze). For a modern-day take on the classic fried pastry, Dough’s donuts are just that: Founded in 2010 in the Bed-Stuy area of Brooklyn by Fany Gerson, each donut is 4” in diameter and handmade in small batches, with popular flavors including plain glazed, cinnamon sugar, and dulce de leche. Don’t sleep on their seasonal selections either, which for this time of the year includes pecan pie and pumpkin with salted pumpkin seeds.
How to order: Storefront local pick-up and delivery by location via website.

Blue Sky Deli
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

The dish: Chopped cheese
After the bacon, egg, and cheese, a chopped cheese remains next in line as a classic sandwich associated with NYC bodegas. Served inside a hero, each bite delivers ground beef, onions, American cheese, tomato, ketchup, and mayo. And while these might sound like easy ingredients you already have, trust us, this same flavor profile and experience can’t be replicated in your Airbnb kitchen—you gotta go straight to its fabled birthplace of Blue Sky Deli (previously called Hajji’s), a bodega in East Harlem. The chopped cheese is not an unfamiliar thing to those in Harlem and the Bronx, or many homegrown residents across the five boroughs, and while its exact origins are uncertain, a former Hajji’s employee of more than two decades who’s now passed away, Carlos Soto, is often attributed to its creation. The sandwich gained the attention of (um, how should we say this) “non-native New Yorkers” in 2016 and appeared on the radar of many for the first time. And since then, uttering “let me get a chopped cheese” across the deli counter at the bodegas is a phrase that can instantly up anyone’s cool points and insider knowledge of NYC food.
How to order: Storefront, takeout, and delivery online.

The experience: Brunch
No city does brunch quite like NYC. Fueled by booze, (namely mimosas, bloody marys, or bellinis) and warm plates of country eggs, pancakes with maple butter, fried chicken and waffles, and buttermilk biscuits laid out across the table, a play-by-play examination of last night’s shenanigans are typically the main topic of conversation. At Clinton Street Baking, opened in 2001 by a Brooklyn native and former NYC food editor, this Lower East Side eatery has long been considered the city’s premiere brunch destination, in thanks to a menu featuring items that are all made on premise, from the buttermilk biscuits to raspberry jam. The downtown stalwart is a must-try for both New Yorkers and tourists alike who flock to the spot for its famous blueberry pancakes. Long lines are the norm here so be sure to book your table in advance if you can.
How to order: Reservations are available on Resy for indoor dining. Order takeout and delivery via Caviar, UberEats.

Gray's Papaya

Upper West Side

The dish: Hot dogs
Hot dogs might possibly be NYC’s most archetypical food, but don’t get it twisted—the city streets here aren’t paved with hot dog vendors (or gold). While, yes, hot dog carts can be found throughout the five boroughs, you’ll typically see them strategically located in tourist-heavy areas, most likely to help visitors live out some cinematic fantasy. For the majority of residents here, hot dogs are often relegated as a warm weather bite for sports stadiums, cookouts, 4th of July, and the beach (NYC’s original hot dog craze was born out of Coney Island in the 1870s). But that’s not to say that New Yorkers don’t get a craving for a good frank all year round. That’s when we head to Gray’s Papaya, a family owned and operated business since 1974 that’s popular across all spectrums of locals, and with two Manhattan locations. The most popular order to help satiate a weiner hankering is the Recession Special, a deal that’s been running 35 years so far. The price was only $1.95 throughout the ‘90s, but currently it will set you back $6.45, and comes with two dogs and a medium sized tropical drink in flavors like papaya, coconut, banana, or piña colada.
How to order: Storefront, order delivery via Grubhub

The Halal Guys

Multiple locations

The experience: Top-notch street meat with red and white sauce
Street food carts of all types—selling everything from candied nuts to pretzels—can be found across countless NYC blocks. But what’s reported to be the city’s OG street food dating back to the 1800s might surprise you: Oysters and clams (yes, seriously). Thankfully, our current options to choose from involve plenty of cooked (and way tastier) eats like The Halal Guys, an operation that’s come to define the category here for three decades. What originally started as a hot dog cart in 1990 at the intersection of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue at one point shifted to serving halal food to Muslim taxi drivers. The food then became popular with office workers, late-night partiers, and gained legendary status as a must-visit spot in town. In addition to still selling its chicken, gyro, and falafel platters with its signature white sauce from the same corner, The Halal Guys is now a global food franchise with close to 100 locations worldwide. And to celebrate their 30th anniversary on November 18, for one day only, you can order the famous combo platter for the original price from 1990, $5 (for reals!) through their mobile app.
How to order: Food cart, or via mobile app on Android, iOS.

Jongro BBQ


The experience: Korean barbecue in Koreatown
Manhattan’s Koreatown on 32nd Street has been the epicenter of Korean culture and commerce in the borough since the late ‘70s. But it’s from the more recent consumption of available Korean goods (electronics, cars, movies, tv dramas, beauty products, etc.), in addition to pioneering chefs like David Chang of Momofuku, that’s helped launch America’s appetite for Korean food. With plenty of nearby spots for drinking and karaoke afterwards, Koreatown’s barbecue offerings have gained much popularity over the past decade as an exciting dining experience that’s also appealing to non-Koreans. During the meal, order up servings of beef and pork that’s cooked directly at your table, and served alongside an array of side dishes that are a great way in exploring the flavors of Korean cuisine. Before indoor dining resumed at the tail end of September, Korean barbecue at restaurants was relegated to having the kitchen cook it for you—but what’s the fun in that? Now that diners can grill their own meat at tables again, Jongro BBQ in Koreatown is the place to fire things up. Be sure to have some soju along with your feast, and let the spot’s wooden interior and vibes transport you to a long ago time in Seoul.
How to order: Call 212-473-2233 for reservations.

J.G. Melon

Upper East Side

The dish: Cheeseburger
Sometimes, a lot can happen between two buns—but there’s also beauty in when not much does. As a town with an endless procession of food trends that come and go, when it comes to a burger, New Yorkers aren’t looking for anything trendy or elaborate—nothing flashy, please, and no distractions necessary (sort of like how we imagine the world was in 1873 when the burger made its first appearance on a NYC menu). All it’s gotta have is a juicy patty cooked to perfection, between soft bread, and be served warm to the bite. And for nearly 50 years, the burger at UES staple J.G. Melon has fulfilled this role as a classic bar burger. The classic digs will take you back in time, and the near-perfect burger has a patty that’s crisp on the outside, with pickles, red onions, and sauces on the side.
How to order: Storefront for takeout, cash only.

Junior's Restaurant

Multiple locations

The dish: Cheesecake
Cheesecakes in American history go all the way back to the 1700s (when they were made with cheese curds). But for the smooth and velvety version we all currently know and love, these are made with cream cheese, and originated from Jewish delicatessens in NYC during the ‘30s. Nowadays, cheesecake isn’t widely available at restaurant menus across the city, but perhaps that’s because we already have Junior’s Cheesecake, a place that’s pretty much synonymous with the dessert. Their landmark restaurant at the corner of DeKalb and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn, with its iconic signage and signature orange-and-white logo, has been open since the ‘50s. Here, you’ll find all the cheesecake you could ever want, with plenty of variety like plain and brownie explosion, to red velvet and raspberry swirl. You’ll also find newer locations in midtown Manhattan if you don’t feel like making the trek.
How to order: Storefront, or via website.

Levain Bakery
Photo by Brian Oh

Levain Bakery

Multiple locations

The dish: Chocolate chip walnut cookies
Chocolate chip cookies might be top dog in home ovens across America, but in NYC? Well, we’re much of a black and white cookie town. But if you ever overhear a New Yorker talking about a dope chocolate chip cookie, it’s going to be the chocolate chip walnut cookie from Levain Bakery. Founded in 1995 in the Upper West Side, the cookie was originally created by the owners as an energy booster for their triathlon training. But after they tried selling them at the shop, the cookies took off, and soon became their signature item that would help create a cookie empire. With locations across the city and devoted fans within the five boroughs and beyond, Levain’s chocolate chip walnut cookie comes in at a hefty size of 6oz, and has the perfect ratio of chocolate chips flecked throughout the dough, making it a hearty treat that isn’t too overly sweet. And the great news is, Levain continues to bake them until closing time, meaning they literally never run out. If you were to ever have a cookie for a meal, this would be the one.
How to order: Storefront, local pick-up and delivery by location via website. Oh, and they just opened their first-ever downtown location earlier this year.

Los Tacos No. 1

Multiple locations

The dish: Al pastor taco
There was a time when people would try to make the argument that NYC’s landscape of Mexican cuisine couldn’t hold a candle to cities like Los Angeles or Chicago. But with more solid spots continuing to find a home here, our gratitude for places like Los Tacos No. 1 runs deep. With locations in Chelsea Market, Grand Central, Times Square, and Tribeca, this fast-casual taqueria was started by three friends from San Diego who spent four months living in Tijuana to do research before launching in 2013. There’s no chairs here but do expect a line for made-to-order tacos filled with carne asada, pollo asado, adobado, or nopal, all on housemade tortillas.
How to order: Storefront, order takeout and delivery via website.

Magnolia Bakery
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia Bakery

Multiple locations
The dish: Banana pudding
When Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes made a cameo on a Sex In the City episode in 2000, it catapulted the unassuming West Village spot to stardom. And with lines at the West Village dessert shop perennially snaking around the block since then with cupcake-hungry Carries/Charlottes/Mirandas/Samanthas of different friend groups alike, us New Yorkers can’t help but wonder: Do they know the banana pudding is better? Made with decadent layers of vanilla wafers, bananas, and vanilla pudding, the banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery is the spot’s real star. It’s a creamy and wonderful concoction that’s so good that it should be the new replacement to the customary birthday cake.
How to order: Storefront, takeout and delivery via website.
Momosan Ramen & Sake
Photo courtesy of Momosan Ramen and Sake

The dish: Ramen
Ramen shops are a staple of Japanese cuisine, that are now equally popular in NYC as they are in Tokyo. Noodles served in broths like shoyu (soy sauce), miso (soybean paste), and tonkotsu (pork bone) are the standard offerings—and the rest of the menu a reflection of the chef’s idiosyncrasies. NYC’s ramen scene saw a major renaissance in the past decade or so, with restaurants ranging from super hip concepts born locally, to major franchises from Japan opening local offshoots here. With so many choices, New Yorkers have fully embraced Japanese ramen into the city’s eating culture, with shops regularly filled with diners of all types. At the Murray Hill ramen shop Momosan, it’s one of three locations from chef Masaharu Morimoto with sister branches in Waikiki and Seattle. When getting down with the Iron Chef’s ramen, if you’re feeling satisfied, be sure to slurp up your noodles loudly—this is the common way to acknowledge you’re enjoying Japanese ramen. And even if you’re eating it alone at home, we’re sure the chef would still appreciate it.
How to order: Currently open for takeout and delivery only via website.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Nom Wah Tea Parlor | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

The experience: Dim Sum
What started as easy-to-eat teahouse cuisine during the 10th century for travelers in southern China is now a popular incentive for New Yorkers to gather with friends on weekend afternoons. This quintessential NYC food ritual involves heading to Chinatown (often during brunch) and ordering small plates of Cantonese-style dishes that include dumplings of all kinds, rice noodle rolls, pork buns, turnip cakes, and a plethora of dishes that taste best when shared with a group of your closest homies. Converge with them at Nom Wah Tea Parlor, NYC’s first dim sum parlor known for items like their “O.G.” eggroll (which actually contains egg!), and with origins dating back all the way to 1920. And if you’ve got time to kill before or after your meal, be sure to explore its infamous Doyers Street home, also nicknamed “the bloody angle” from turf disputes between local gangs in the early 1900s.
How to order: Reservations are available through Resy for indoor and outdoor seating for parties of 3+. Order takeout and delivery via website, Caviar.

The NoMad Restaurant
Photo by Sydell Group

The dish: Truffles
Around 2010, purveyors started supplying some of the most culinarily forward and upscale spots in the city with this prized and expensive fungus that had been imported from Europe. This would eventually start a movement in NYC restaurants, where adding truffle shavings to any food became the ultimate flex that embodied splurging. Nowadays, clocking truffles on a menu isn’t much of a big deal, but that doesn’t take away from how delicious they are. Through wonderful aromatics and earthy flavors with tons of umami, truffles elevate all it comes in contact with. At The NoMad Restaurant inside The NoMad Hotel, guests have the option to add white truffles to any of their dishes, and it’s included over risotto or tagliatelle, both of which are served with butter and parmesan. In addition, the signature NoMad Chicken Dinner includes chicken with black truffle and foie gras stuffing, if you’re looking to go extra hard.
How to order: Reservations are available on website for indoor dining in the atrium, parlor, and fireplace room.


Meatpacking District

The experience: Dining al fresco at a French bistro
There’s plenty of restaurants offering sidewalk seating in NYC, but grabbing a table to dine al fresco at a French bistro provides its own unique experience. In a city where constantly being on the go is the norm (even while dining at some restaurants), there’s a leisurely quality that comes with eating outside at a French bistro. Slowing down for a moment feels more acceptable, and watching pedestrians dart by can seem amusing from a less uptight, French outlook. At Pastis, bistro connoisseur and restaurateur behind places like the one of NYC’s most well known French eateries, Balthazar, Keith McNally brings French fare and Parisian style to the Meatpacking District. Dine on oysters, fromage, lobster bisque, steak frites, and more. The spot, which was also made famous by Sex and the City, recently reopened in a new space in 2019 after being closed for five years.
How to order: Reservations are available on Resy for indoor and outdoor dining. Order takeout and delivery via Caviar, DoorDash.

The experience: A steak dinner
New job? Just graduated? Have a milestone anniversary? Well, then, it’s time we go celebrate with a steak dinner at Peter Luger’s, NYC’s premier steakhouse located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Open since 1887 (yes, 133 years), the restaurant has been in existence longer than the bridge it sits next to, the Williamsburg Bridge, which was constructed in 1903. For New Yorkers, a meal at this restaurant has long been considered the ultimate reward to any great accomplishment. Because the grind of living here is stressful and has us tense af, so for even the smallest achievement, there’s a primitive aspect to cutting up to devour a big hunk of meat that makes the ceremony cathartic. Their meat selection process is only done by family and steaks are dry-aged on site. While Peter Luger has traditionally always had a zillion rules (aka traditions) like cash only, no POS technology, reservations by phone, adapting to COVID-19 brought upon lots of new changes in the summer. Now, payments must be by debit card, takeout/delivery is offered, and reservations are online. The experience of dining at Peter Luger might have changed this year, but the food hasn’t. Celebrate getting through 2020 so far with a big fat, juicy steak.
How to order: Reservations available on Resy for indoor and outdoor dining. Order takeout/deliver via Caviar, DoorDash.

Pommes Frites
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Pommes Frites

West Village

The dish: Belgian fries
Fries in NYC are seldom the main character of any meal, but instead, are regulated to sidekick status in whatever they’re accompanying. But for Belgian fries from Pommes Frites, it’s a totally different story. As the french fry’s more sizable cousin, when doing a side-by-side comparison, Belgian fries make the average fry appear puny—and we’re all about maximizing the delivery of fry-bulk into our mouths. On top of being easy-to-eat and extremely portable, this popular item is great as a snack, all-carb-meal, or something to gorge on after a few drinks. At Pommes Frites, double-frying ensures a mushy inside and a crunchy outside, and makes the perfect receptacle for their many sauces to choose from. From black truffle mayo or pesto to sweet chutney ketchup or Parmesan peppercorn, sauces can also be purchased in 24oz sizes.
How to order: Storefront, takeout and delivery via website, Caviar, Delivery.com, DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, UberEats.

The dish: Italian ice
The origins of Italian ice in the NYC area date back to more than a century ago, when it was created by Italian immigrants in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Initially inspired by the icy Italian dessert, granita, Italian ice is less coarse, and typically made with water, sugar, and fruit. The frozen treat has long roots in the five boroughs, and Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices & Ice Cream in Staten Island is one of the company’s that’s been in operations the longest. Their products were first sold mobilly by car over 90 years ago, and the first storefront location opened on Port Richmond Avenue in 1949. With various outlets located within the Tri-State area, consider visiting the original Port Richmond local, as it’s still owned and operated by Ralph’s three grandsons.
How to order: Storefront

Randazzo's Clam Bar
Photo courtesy of Randazzo’s Clam Bar

Randazzo's Clam Bar

Sheepshead Bay

The dish: Fried calamari
Suggesting to share an order of fried squid might not entice an immediate yes from your dining companions—but fried calamari? That’s going to be a (hands-down) given. Coined from the Italian word for squid and widely associated with Italian joints, fried calamari is squid that’s been breaded and fried, and is commonly served with marinara sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Widely celebrated among New Yorkers for its great taste and easy-to-share qualities, it's an appetizer that can satiate even the most impatient (and famished) of locals until the next course arrives. Randazzo’s Clam Bar in Sheepshead Bay is where you want to have this moment with your fellow diners. Founded by the Randazzo family, who has a history of being a seafood source to New Yorkers since the 1920s, the restaurant has served the dish in their Brooklyn spot since the ‘60s. Here, the fried calamari goes by “Gal-a-Mah," and arrives alongside a top notch spicy tomato sauce. 
How to order: No reservations, indoor and outdoor seating is first come, first served. Order takeout and delivery by calling (718) 615-0010 or via UberEats.

The dish: Lobster rolls
Rather than feeling extravagant, the idea of eating a whole lobster at a NYC restaurant feels a bit outdated in our modern times. With all of the force required to crack its claws and smelly liquids flying everywhere, it seems like a lot of work. But when it comes to lobster rolls, now you’re speaking our language. Served on a buttered, toasted, split top bun and ready to eat, the finest adaption of a seafood sandwich is especially great during the summer weather, when daydreams of escaping the city come effortlessly. That’s when a visit to Red Hook Lobster Pound feels like an excursion to Maine. Here, the lobsters are fresh, the trek from the nearest subway will make you feel accomplished, and its waterfront neighborhood (that feels extra isolated from the rest of Brooklyn in thanks to a nearby highway), also conjures mini-getaway vibes. Go for the classic lobster roll or choose from four others, and be sure to pick up a DIY lobster roll kit for later.
How to order: Reservations are available through Resy for indoor dining and patio seating. Order takeout via website, delivery via Caviar, Grubhub, Seamless, Postmates, and Ubereats.

Russ & Daughters Café

Lower East Side

The experience: Sampling fish at a Jewish appetizing store
After starting as a pushcart selling herring, more than a century later, Russ & Daughters continues to be a NYC institution for smoked fish, bagels, schmears, and more. For New Yorkers, waking up with a craving for their fish offerings on the weekend means you’ve got to mobilize quickly, but because there’s a good chance you won’t be the only one. Head to the charming cafe on Orchard Street that opened in 2014 to mark Russ & Daughters 100th anniversary, where the kind staff dressed in pristine butcher’s coats will assist with all your lox, sable, sturgeon, and smoked whitefish needs.
How to order: Currently open for takeout and delivery only via website, Caviar, DoorDash.

Sunny & Annie Deli

Alphabet City

The dish: Bacon, egg, and cheese
The first documented recipe for a breakfast sandwich in America dates back to 1897, but for New Yorkers in 2020, there’s a recipe we stan so hard for that we even use the dang ingredients as its name: A bacon, egg, and cheese. To us, this marvelous concoction is more than just something to grab quickly in the A.M. at bodegas that line every city block—but it’s our go-to when hungover, standard meal when running late, and dearest pal when our wallet is looking thin. Head to Sunny & Annie’s Deli in Alphabet City for a stellar version of this classic. Be sure to order it on a roll for the full experience, and find a bench at nearby Tompkins Square Park for some people-watching, and you just might spot others getting down with the B-E-C, too.
How to order: Storefront

Sushi Nakazawa
Photo by Evan Sung

Sushi Nakazawa

West Village

The dish: Edomae-style sushi
Since NYC’s first sushi restaurant opened in 1963, it’s become a culinary mainstay that’s in the same category as some of the most popular takeout food the city has to offer. Don’t feel like ordering pizza or a burger? New Yorkers just get sushi! It’s more healthy-ish, just as accessible, way more interesting than a salad—and in comparison to other foods, won’t stink up the railroad apartment you share with two roommates. But for just one sushi meal in your life, put away those disposable wooden chopsticks and step out of your normal routine of takeout, supermarket, and local-restaurant-on-your-block sushi. Because at Sushi Nakazawa, the chef’s omakase offers a tasting menu experience that’s incomparable to the best California Roll you’ve ever had. In recent years, omakase sushi has become NYC’s new splurge meal (over say,  the classic steakhouse). Snag a reservation at the sushi counter, geek out over fish, and watch the magic unfold while being served directly by the chef.
How to order: Reservations are available on Resy for sushi counter, lounge omakase, and dining room.

Sylvia's Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Sylvia's

The experience: Soul food
American soul food was born out of the cuisine cooked by Black migrants who left the South from the early 1900s to the 1970s for other regions of the country. And when it comes to enjoying this fare in NYC, Sylvia’s is the place to go. Founded in 1962 by Sylvia Woods, a North Carolina native who moved to NYC as a teenger, her eponymous restaurant has remained an uptown epicenter for soul food and Black culture and social life—cementing her status as the legendary “Queen of Soul Food.” The marquee at Sylvia’s has remained lit for 58, remaining a beacon for Harlem and the community, and the restaurant is one of the city’s most iconic food destinations. Fried chicken, barbecue ribs, mac and cheese, cornbread, chicken and waffles (hungry yet?), are just some of the signature items to choose from. The eatery is currently operated by four generations of Woods’ descendants.
How to order: Reservations are available through Resy for indoor dining. Order takeout and delivery through Sylvia’s app on iOS and Android, or via website, DoorDash, UberEats.

Veselka | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist


East Village

The experience: Hungover pierogi brunch
The vibe in NYC’s East Village is chill, bohemian, punk, and basic, all at the same time. And as a host to so many different types of restaurants and bars, no matter your age, drink preference, or scene, the neighborhood has long been a melting pot for some of the city's best nightlife. While weekend nights have revelers boozing it up in all different places, weekend mornings have everyone converging at a single destination: Veselka. Here, at this Ukranian stalwart that’s been open since 1954, hungover diners are meeting in solidarity to nurse themselves back to vigor through a pierogi brunch. There’s no physiological proof that Ukranian dumplings and hair of the dog cures the runs and a killer headache, but basking in an energy that’s all about supporting more bad decisions is never not a positive. Located at 2nd Avenue and 9th Street, the corner restaurant’s sidewalk seating and large glass panels also make for great people watching. 
How to order: Sidewalk seating is first come, first served. Order takeout and delivery via website, Caviar.

The dish: Dumplings
Stuffed encasements of dough filled with meats and veggies are a familiar dish to many types of global cuisines, and in this town, Chinese dumplings rank at the top of the list. Convenient, affordable, and just straight up delicious—Chinese dumplings’ mass appeal make them a common menu item available practically everywhere, but you’ll want to head to White Bear in Flushing to taste the city’s finest. Here, at the last stop of the 7 Train line in Queens, a flourishing Asian community makes up 63% of the population, resulting in an abundance of eating options that include this popular spot open since 1989. What you’re here for is an order of the Number 6: A dozen pork wontons with pickled veggies and a spice rub, all topped by a drizzling of chili oil. Like so many great hole-in-the-wall spots, a big part of White Bear’s charm is its no-frills experience, with most of the excitement coming in each bite.
How to order: Storefront