New York City is recognized the world over as having one of the most diverse populations you can find anywhere. One result of this diversity is that the city has become one of the most interesting food tourism destinations on the planet. Not many cities can boast the best of pretty much any cuisine on the planet, and yet New York can make that claim. From street side vendors and casual eateries to fine dining hotspots, the city is packed with a breathtaking selection of food from around the world.
Frankly, it’s impossible to experience it all, but here are a few tips for foodies traveling to New York. With these ideas to base your experience on, you may find yourself hitting a lot of the highlights!
Don’t Neglect Casual American Cuisine
It’s a common joke of sorts that America doesn’t actually have a cuisine; the closest there is might be a morning bagel or an ear of corn alongside a cheeseburger. Beyond that, Americans have essentially borrowed and spun off of other cuisines. Most American chefs would bristle at this sort of argument because at least in terms of fine dining, the U.S. has plenty of distinctive styles and incredible flavors to offer.
But for the sake of enjoying the best of New York’s cuisine, I’d recommend sticking to the half-joking stereotypes of American cuisines: burgers and fries. The city is so commonly recognized for its international offerings that visitors can miss out on some of the best burger joints and casual American eateries in the U.S. Village Voice’s 2015 Edition of NYC’s best burgers has a lot of worthwhile options to consider, featuring great food at low price points—and they don’t even get into some of the more popular restaurants like the budding Five Napkin Burger chain or Shake Shack.
Find Bargain Bites
Life in New York is notoriously expensive, and for that reason, a lot of people assume the best food is hidden behind lofty menu prices. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though. Chefs in this city are proud of their flavors, and they often offer them at fair, or even bargain, prices.
Other aspects of visiting the city are expensive, however. A comfortable hotel is going to be pricey, getting around can add up, and entertainment will as well. And that’s why it’s fairly common advice for travelers to seek out bargain bites in the city. British Airways’ travel to NYC page points out some of the relevant restaurants as a guide to those visiting the Big Apple (perhaps for the first time), and it highlights a nice range of options: menus on this list include Asian noodles, Cajun jambalayas, and even nachos that are only described as “devastating.” And these are just a few of the “cheap eats” destinations that are so popular throughout the city.
Know Your Cuisine Regions
We’ve all heard of the likes of Little Italy and Chinatown and these are excellent places to find international cuisine in New York City. But limiting your foodie experience to the famous neighborhoods would be a mistake because there are dozens more international cuisines and great food neighborhoods dotted throughout the city. You’d be wise to take the time to study up on them in advance!
For example, did you know there’s a miniature Korea Town smack in the middle of midtown Manhattan? Or that the borough of Queens has its own (multiple) Chinatowns? Indian, Italian, and Mexican food is all over the city, and there’s a great pocket of Moroccan restaurants on the Lower East Side. For even more adventurous options, check out Complex’s list of 10 hard-to-find ethnic cuisines and where to find them in the city.
Hit A Few Famous Eateries
It’s good advice for foodies to go ahead and skip the famous places in major cities. They tend to be pricey, it’s hard for them to live up to expectations, and sometimes they’re a little more pretentious or less authentic than their expensive counterparts. But in the case of New York, a lot of the famous options aren’t merely the cream of the crop in their own city. Many times, these are world renowned restaurants, sometimes run by the finest chefs in the business. If you can, go ahead and splurge at one or two of them.
Eater’s 38 essential New York restaurants give you a strong selection as a starting point. From that list, I’d personally recommend Parm and Lafayette, and I’d also point out that not every restaurant on the list is particularly pricey (though some certainly are).
Choosing your specific food plan while visiting the city is your own task and one that is best to get creative with. But hopefully, this guide gives you some good ideas to keep in mind as you set out to enjoy arguably the world’s best dining city.