10 Iconic Foods of New York City, and Where To Find Them

Categories: Our 10 Best

Ultra-creamy New York cheesecake may be the world's richest dessert.

Hotbed of culinary fusion, NYC is not only a repository of cuisines from around the globe, but the place where many important dishes originated, if not by pure invention, then as uniquely compelling adaptations of things that flew in from elsewhere. Here are the city's most important, and best-tasting, gastronomic inventions.

10. Cheesecake -- This creamy, calorific dessert has been made in America since colonial times -- in fact, Martha Washington recorded three cheesecake recipes in her personal cookbook -- but these were usually whipped up with fresh curds, something like Italian cheesecake. The invention of the Jewish style of cheesecake depended upon two factors -- the discovery of cream cheese (which occurred in the Catskills sometime in the 1870s; it later, rather absurdly, became associated with Philadelphia), and the presence of Jewish immigrants in New York City. Founded in 1950 in Downtown Brooklyn, Junior's quickly became a famous purveyor of cheesecakes, and theirs remains the best. Junior's, 386 Flatbush Avenue Extension, Brooklyn, 718-852-5257

9. Lobster Newberg -- Ship's captain Ben Wenberg brought a recipe for cooking lobster he'd supposedly discovered on one of his voyages to Delmonico's in 1876, and showed it to owner Charles Delmonico. It was immediately incorporated into the menu as Lobster Wenberg, but when the proprietor and captain got into a fistfight later in the year, Delmonico changed the name of the dish to Lobster Newberg by reversing the first three letters of Wenberg (the dish is now often misspelled "Newburg"). This luscious concoction features multiple crustaceans swimming in cream, cognac, sherry, and cayenne pepper -- which may indicate where Wenberg had been sailing to when he discovered the recipe (New Orleans). Delmonico's, 56 Beaver Street, 212-509-1144

8. General Tso's Chicken -- OK, this dish frequently sucks, but you can't deny its astonishing influence. The stir-fry of breaded chicken tidbits mired in a thick sweet sauce with a few extraneous toasted chilies is the most famous Chinese dish to have been invented in this country. It was named after 19th-century military strategist General Tso Tsung-tang, who, like Chairman Mao, was associated with the province of Hunan. The dish was first mentioned in The New York Times in 1977, and appears to have been formulated by chef Peng Jia at Peng's, an upscale Midtown Chinese restaurant typical of the time, but he may have been inspired by an earlier dish called General Chin's chicken that had appeared in the late '60s during a Hunan craze in New York City. Chinese Musician, 151 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-383-2413

General Chin's chicken may have been the forerunner of General Tso, seen here as made at the Cottage (33 Irving Place, 212-505-8600).

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