How to Eat Like a Local in New York City

Beth Kaiserman


Visiting New York City is overwhelming. There are the flashing lights, tall buildings, eclectic outfits and hot, smelly subways. Any visit to NYC requires proper sustenance to survive the city’s hurdles. But figuring out what to eat can be the most stressful task in a city where the tasty options never end.


Here are 10 food experiences you should have while visiting NYC. Loosen your belt and open your senses; you’re going to eat four meals per day here.




Any solid NYC day starts out with a bodega sandwich to cure whatever happened last night. Egg and cheese is the go-to, and adding bacon or ham never hurts. I usually spring for a bougie coffee elsewhere, but a classic bodega coffee with cream and sugar will only set you back about a dollar.



Food Truck:      


Food trucks are perfect for lunchtime and people-watching. They can be found all over the city, and most can be followed on Twitter for updates. Union Square has some, as does Midtown. Some park outside of bars, such as Solber Pupusas at Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club and the permanent taco truck at Chilo’s in Bed-Stuy. For late-night taco action, check out the food trucks along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights in Queens.


Food Cart:


Let’s talk carts: hot dogs, soft pretzels and street meat. My advice? Skip the dogs and pretzels. (Note: Crif Dogs has decent dogs with unique toppings; Katz’s has a good simple one; and our soft pretzel scene is lacking -- go to Philly.) Breakfast carts offer cheap bagels and pastries if you’re in a hurry to get in line for Hamilton tickets. For the best halal, wait in the line at 53rd and 6th Ave. for the Halal Guys’ original cart or check out their brick-and-mortar store on 14th Street, though I can’t say it’ll taste the same without the sweat and tears from waiting in line on the street. Sammy’s Halal on 6th Ave. and W. 4th Street is good too.



Food Markets:


Indoor and outdoor food markets continue to pop up. Smorgasburg was the first, and you can find it on the Williamsburg waterfront on Saturdays and Prospect Park on Sundays. Newer markets include Berg’n (smaller selection of Smorgasburg vendors), Vendy Plaza in East Harlem, the Pennsy at Penn Station and UrbanSpace Vanderbilt near Grand Central Station. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend a day at any of these.


Sit-Down Restaurants:

When you’re running around this exhausting town, don’t forget to have a nice sit-down meal or two to unwind. Make at least one reservation for dinner so you won’t have to stress about where to go or wait in line when you’re hungry. Or just go eat early; most restaurants are busiest between 7pm and 10pm.



Classic NYC Establishment:


Sometimes it’s fun to get yelled at before you eat. For this, my favorites are 2nd Avenue Deli, Katz’s Deli (don’t lose your ticket), L&B Spumoni Gardens, Prince Street Pizza and Randazzo’s Clam Bar. Deli and pizza should be on your radar anyway, and we all need a dash of old-school New York pep to keep us in line. If you’re in Coney Island, I’ve gotten yelled at for getting my own soda at Totonno’s, a solid pizzeria to pair with a Nathan’s dog.



Of courses this needs a separate category. They are everywhere. And despite intense debates, most of them are pretty tasty -- even the $1 slices. This isn’t your college town grease pit; it’s the real deal. Some favorites worth wandering to are Joe’s on Carmine Street for the best NY style slice, L&B for the best Sicilian slice and Paulie Gee’s or Roberta’s for wood-fired, whole-pie deliciousness.





If you brunched too hard instead of hitting the bagel spots, you can always grab a few to-go. You’ll thank me when you’re on the plane debating a $15 box of crackers and cheese. Check out Murray’s, Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company, Absolute Bagels and more carb-loaded delights here. Please refrain from getting your bagel toasted, and keep your hands on the bagel at all times until it is completely eaten.


Trendy Food:        


At any given time, a new trend is brewing in the city. One of my latest favorites has been Hawaiian ahi poke, which has been making its way to NYC via food stands, fast-casual joints and modern restaurants offering their take on Island cuisine. Poke is officially a thing here -- despite being inauthentic in some cases -- and it’s healthy, refreshing and tasty.


Local Neighborhood Joint:


When I travel, I try finding places where locals hang out for a beer after work. When running around NYC all day, it’s great to experience a regular neighborhood joint for happy hour or a nightcap. Searching for dive bars with cheap happy hours is always a good start, and bartenders will usually have good recommendations for local coffee shops and food spots. Plus, it’s way better talking to people than Yelping everything.


Author Bio:

Beth Kaiserman is Highbrow Magazine’s chief food critic.


For Highbrow Magazine

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