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

Categories: Our 10 Best

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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.


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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


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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


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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

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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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23 comments
timspc.tm
timspc.tm

What does halal street meat gotta do to get on this list?!

guest
guest

HOW ARE BAGELS NOT ON THIS LIST??

Scribes
Scribes

A velvet rope will control crows, but is ineffective against ravens. 

Jbenguiat
Jbenguiat

Nj nu! Bagels n' lox. Not one Italian dish, fuhgeddaboutit!

Louis
Louis

If you want real cheesecake go to Ann & Tony's on Arthur Avenue. Thier Italian Cheesecake blows away Junior's cheesecake. They make it with anisette and rum. The best cheesecake I've ever had.....and should be on this list....go get it www.annadtonysonline.com

Anon
Anon

I went to Nathan's recently - there were bums begging for money just outside the door and INSIDE!!! How does management allow this? I turned and walked out - the bums were way too aggressive for my taste. Danger.

tonysolo
tonysolo

Look to the cookie, Elaine. Look to the cookie.

Paddymoore
Paddymoore

"velvet rope as a crow control device"

Ugh.

Gay Movie Fan
Gay Movie Fan

There is not s single thing on your list that I do not love.  And not a single place mentioned that doesn't do it better than anyone else!

Mazel tov - the article was almost as enjoyable as the food. 

Debbie Sprague
Debbie Sprague

wow....i used to love the general tso's at Chinese Musician when i lived in Greenpoint....back in 1986 (!) now that's staying power!

Starre Vartan
Starre Vartan

The Knishery! Just down the street from Katz's. My fave knishes in NYC. 

Norton
Norton

Very nice article. As I was enjoying it, I thought, "oy, just wait for all the know-it-alls to jump in to claim you're wrong about everything."

Ok.  I'll kind of start.  I heard (perhaps from an Alton Brown episode) that Manhattan clam chowder was invented by Portuguese immigrants in Southeast Mass/Rhode Island, and the critical New Englanders tacked the name "Manhattan" on it as a slight to NY.  Who knows.

Oh -- and in and around Boston they still refer to hamburgers as "hamburg."  For what it's worth.

Numystic
Numystic

No kidding, utterly inexcusable. 

Regardless of only having 10, if you ask 1000 people around the world what they most associate with NYC gastronomically  you're going to hear Pizza, Bagels, Hot Dogs, and Pretzels topping virtually every list, with Knishes and Cheesecake coming in somewhere just thereafter.Tso's, Benedict, and numerous others taking space here may indeed have NYC origins, but they are hardly "iconic" in their NY association by comparison to the glaring omissions.

Amazed that this actually garnered editorial approval. It's laughable. 

LifeLongNewYorker
LifeLongNewYorker

Amen. No Bagels? No Egg Cream? Blasphemy! 

You just lost all credibility as a chronicler of anything definitively New York City. 

BreadCity
BreadCity

yeah, and the "lower west side"? come on, really?

Rsietsema
Rsietsema

Good choice! But I only had 10...also, where do you get a good knish these days?

Drzarkov2
Drzarkov2

Zabars! and I'm not really a fan of their food but the knishes and strudel are pretty good.

Matthewring1
Matthewring1

 Liebmans Deli in Riverdale does a nice round version.

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