Those who travel to New York do not have to starve or thirst. There is something available on every corner of the street, so to speak. Especially in large parts of Manhattan where you can literally buy something on every corner of the street at one of the many mobile carts. In the past these were mainly hot dog carts, nowadays the range is more extensive with, among other things, all kinds of fried meat. The culinary offer in New York City is enormously wide. In fact, finding great places to eat is just one of the best things to do in Manhattan. In addition to the food stalls where you can still get the unadulterated hot dogs, there is a wide range of eateries in all price ranges and ethnic cuisines that come from all corners of the world.
Thousands of eateries
For New Yorkers, eating outside the door is very natural. Most people live on a number of square meters where there is little space to cook and dine extensively. Another reason is that due to the distances and travel times, people are often home quite late. Especially if you work in Manhattan and live in another borough, it is often more convenient to eat something quickly near work before you plunge into commuter traffic. A doggy bag is also not an unknown phenomenon. One day you eat something at a dinner or restaurant and what remains, you take home to warm it up the next day.
In total, New York has between 180,000 and 190,000 restaurants, bars, diners, and other eateries. Several hundred of these close every year, but often at least as many are added. It is expected that within the total number of eateries, the two hundred thousand will pass fairly quickly.
What you will miss as a European in some places is authenticity. This is especially noticeable in Italian cuisine, which has been corrupted in New York for decades. The originally Italian New Yorkers have usually lived here for generations, so the products they sell in their restaurants are so far-American that they sometimes have little to do with the pure Italian cuisine as we can still taste it in Italy. If you are even lucky that there are still real Italian chefs in the kitchen. Don’t be surprised if your pasta is made by a Chinese or Mexican chef. You can see the same thing in the other world cuisines in New York and especially in Manhattan. There are exceptions and that is actually in the smaller and larger ethnic amalgamations in New York. A good example of this is Chinatown, where you can still eat really Chinese in some places.
If you are looking for authenticity, it is best to look for it in American cuisine. Ribs, burgers, steaks, and more meat specialties that you combine with fries and salad such as coleslaw. It doesn’t get much more American. Especially if you only stay in New York for a few days, there is nothing wrong with eating a high-calorie meal a few times, is there?
Although eating out certainly has a social character in New York, you see that speed and efficiency are an important part of America. It’s not that they pull the not-yet-empty plate out from under your nose, but there is some momentum in the pace at which you are served the meals. In the chicest restaurants, this is a lot less true. If you as a European want more time between two courses, you can feel free to indicate that. Otherwise, there is a good chance that you have eaten three courses in an hour and have settled.
Eating out is not necessarily expensive in New York. Of course, much depends on the dollar exchange rate. If the US dollar is strong against the euro, then eating out is quickly on the expensive side in NYC. If you realize that New York City is the largest city in the United States, is the most visited tourist destination in the world, and that prices in major tourist cities are always higher than elsewhere, then the prices in New York are not too bad. For an average breakfast, count on 10 to 18 dollars including tax, for a simple lunch (salad, burger, or sandwich) with soda or beer on 15 to 25 dollars and for an average dinner of two or three courses at 30 to 50 dollars per person. These are the prices excluding tips and sales tax.
In terms of breakfast, almost everything is available in New York City, except for the traditional Dutch sandwich with chocolate flakes. Furthermore, for breakfast, you can get all kinds of sandwiches, wraps, cakes, cakes, muffins, fruit, pancakes, hot dishes, pastries, eggs, and so on. For New Yorkers and tourists, having breakfast outside the door is perfectly normal. Especially in Manhattan, you will encounter many places where you can have breakfast. You can choose from having breakfast in a regular restaurant or in a self-service shop. At the self-service stores, you have dishes that are sold at a fixed price, but there are often also possibilities to put together your own breakfast and then pay based on weight. It doesn’t matter if you’re scooping up egg, meat, or fruit, the price is uniform. In many places, you can also take your breakfast with you to eat on the go or elsewhere.
There are a number of culinary neighborhoods in New York City that are seriously worthwhile. A good example of this is Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. This neighborhood is located west of Eighth Avenue and includes the area between 34th and 57th Streets. The district is originally an area where mainly infrastructure can be found and where real estate prices have always lagged behind. Today, Hell’s Kitchen is known for the many restaurants you’ll find in the eastern part of the district. Especially on 9th Avenue and West 46th Street (Restaurant Row), you will find a great diversity of ethnic cuisines. In Hell’s Kitchen, you can eat Chinese, Greek, Italian, Thai, Argentinian, Turkish, Indian, German, and Mexican food.
Lovers of Asian cuisines can go to two ethnic neighborhoods. First, there’s Chinatown. In this ever-growing Chinese district, you will find a large number of Chinese restaurants. Quite a few of these eateries still offer traditional Chinese cuisine. So we have perhaps the best Peking duck ever on this. If you want to eat in Chinatown, do not be tempted by the fanciest entrances, but especially look at where many Chinese people are inside. Chances are that you will end up somewhere where you can still get authentic Chinese food.
Peking duck in New York
Another Asian neighborhood is Koreatown. This small Korean neighborhood concentrates on 32nd Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway. This part of 32nd Street is nicknamed the Korea Way. This is a great place to get acquainted with Korean cuisine. Our recommendation is to order a Korean BBQ here for the whole group. You then get different types of meat that are prepared on a large round convex baking sheet that is in the middle of the table. With the deliciously marinated pieces of meat, various side dishes and sauces are served. Some products you recognize, but some do not at all. Don’t be put off by the unknown and taste everything! Please note that on Friday and Saturday nights, it is very busy at the most popular Korean restaurants. Eat early or count on waiting times before you can get to the table.
A third ethnic district is Little Italy. This area is where in the past almost only Italian immigrants lived. Nowadays the district still exists, but the real Italian character is a lot less than before. What has remained is the large number of Italian restaurants that you see here. Those who love Italian food have restaurants here for choosing from. Those looking for authentic Italian food have a harder time here. The number of restaurants where you still have to deal with Italian chefs and service has been greatly reduced. Many dishes are adapted to the tastes of Americans and tourists. Little Italy’s restaurants are concentrated on Mulberry Street, between Canal Street and Houston Street.
If you’re in New York City, what can you eat in terms of local specialties? We have listed a number of them:
- Although a pizza is an Italian dish, pizza is also seen as something typical of New York. Many pizza bakers and restaurants compete for the title of best pizza maker in New York City. Lombardi’s, which has the honor of being New York’s oldest pizza, also has the reputation of being the best. Real pizza lovers do not agree with this and have other places that are indicated as favorites to eat pizza such as John’s Pizzeria or Bleecker Street, NY Pizza Suprema, Di Fari, and Totonno’s. Brooklyn is nowadays more highly regarded as a pizza mecca than Manhattan.
- Burgers are as American as anything. It is not for nothing that in New York City you can eat a great hamburger in many places. Except for the classic burgers (with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, onion, and pickles) you can eat an infinite number of varieties in New York City. Many places have a so-called ‘signature burger’, which is its own variant of a hamburger sandwich.
- Pulled pork, a dish that is also on the rise in Western Europe, is an originally American dish that is now deeply rooted in the culinary world of New York City
- If you walk through New York you will undoubtedly see the many hot dogs stands. The hot dog is a cooked sausage on a bun, supplemented with toppings. Originally the sausage comes from Germany, but the hot dog has been made popular in the United States. In the different states, you eat different variations of this dish. In New York, the sausage normally comes out of moisture and is not grilled. The hot dog sandwich is mainly used for sauerkraut and mustard, possibly supplemented with sweet onions and tomato ketchup.
- Those who do not pay attention to calories can order a New York Cheesecake for dessert. This cake is a variant of what we know in the Netherlands as cottage cheese pie. The New York variant is firmer, fatter, and higher in calories. New York Cheesecake is often finished with red fruits such as strawberry or a forest fruit mix.
If you are going to drink soda in a restaurant or diner, know that you are almost always entitled to free refills during the meal. These ‘free refills’ are often indicated as such on the menu somewhere. Don’t be surprised if a waitress takes away your empty or almost empty glass and shortly afterward puts away a full glass again without being asked.
Do you want water with your meal? Then order ‘tap water’. This is free in most places. It is quite normal if you do not order a paid drink in addition. The tap water in New York City is of excellent quality and good taste. Some restaurants refuse to serve tap water and offer the option to serve bottled spring water for a fee. There are also some cases known of catering establishments that simply place ‘tap water’ on the bill.