New York City is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world for good reason. Not only are there quite a few fascinating landmarks and great places to visit, but the food culture also makes it a wonderful place to eat. NYC is considered a melting pot for the different backgrounds of people that reside there, and that goes for the restaurant industry as well. You can get just about any kind of food in the city no matter which area you're in. Most popular neighborhoods will offer every kind of popular food one can think of within a walking distance. There are also basic foods that get extra love in New York City from those to try them.
Not every food in New York is perfect, as some have reputations for being awful in the city. Other places do it better, with NYC failing to match it. Both instances are drastic, but they're believed for valid reasoning. We'll look at each side of the restaurant industry in New York when it comes to the great foods one would enjoy there more than in other places and the bad foods that are worse. Find out just what's worth going out of your way to try and what's worth avoiding. These are ten foods better in New York City than other places along with another ten that are worse.
20 Better in NYC: Bagels
Bagels are one of the more random foods that have a strong reputation in New York City. Anyone to spend a few years living in the city will likely stumble upon a few bagel shops that have a great reputation. The quality of bagels in NYC makes them perfect to get as a morning breakfast meal on the go.
Cream cheese, butter, and jelly are among the more popular spreads that are available to place in a bagel. Some people love to have their bagels as heavier meals and put warm turkey, bacon, eggs, cheese, or other items in them. Regardless, the bagels make the meal here, as they're incredible in New York City.
19 Doesn't measure up: Steak
Many people believe the ideal dinner to get when eating out is a nice steak with a side of potatoes. The steak is among the most delicious meals one can have at its absolute best. New York City is very hit or miss when it comes to ordering steak at a restaurant.
You'll likely only get a great steak at places that are among the most expensive in the entire city. Most steaks will be disappointing if it’s in the affordable range for most of us. Even when you pay extra, it’s not a guarantee you’ll have a great steak during a night out in New York City.
18 Better in NYC: Pizza
The most obvious food that everyone loves in New York City is the pizza. Many New Yorkers are proud pizza snobs that believe no other place in the world has better pizza. It's hard to argue, as only Chicago is a real rival to NYC when it comes to the pizza crown. No one does the sliced pizza that you can hold and eat on the go better than NYC does.
There are pizza shops in every borough, with Manhattan and Brooklyn having the best options. Even the cheapest pizza places in NYC that sell slices for just $1 will still deliver decent quality pizza. The best pizza places in NYC are also relatively cheap for a food that's often described as the best in the world.
17 Don't measure up: Wings
The success of places like Buffalo Wild Wings has seen many restaurants trying to copy the formula. New York City has many restaurants trying to bring in sports fans or big groups wanting to enjoy the night while eating a ridiculous number of wings. The different sauces and spices offered will add variety to the wings.
Sadly, there isn’t much originality to most of the wing spots in NYC. They basically attempt to copy BWW, Wingspot, and other places that do it better. Wings are also easy to make at home, which means restaurants must offer something special to deliver success. Unfortunately, NYC can’t figure it out.
16 Better in NYC: Hot dogs
Hot dogs are another food that's become part of the New York culture. Most people think it's due to the hot dog vendors that have been part of the city for many years now. You can purchase a hot dog at almost any street corner in the popular areas of Manhattan, but those aren’t of very good quality.
Nathan’s is a beloved spot in Brooklyn near the Coney Island area. They're in the discussion for having the best hot dogs in the world. People go out of their way to visit the original huge Nathan’s restaurant to get a hot dog. One Nathan’s hot dog is worth more than five from the food cart. There are also a few other restaurants that give Nathan's a run for its money.
15 Doesn't measure up: Barbecue
Many places in the South have a great reputation for barbecue. Regardless if you want chicken, ribs, or steak served in the barbecue genre of restaurants, the food can be incredible in the right place. New York City isn't known for excelling in that element of the meal.
Most barbecue restaurants in NYC have a subpar version that can probably be matched with a quick meal on your own at home. The lack of great barbecue restaurants often leads to people ordering disappointing main dishes with great sides. NYC residents are safer ordering mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese from their barbecue spot.
14 Better in NYC: Ramen
Ramen has become one of the top foods in New York City, with new restaurants popping up every month. This isn't the same ramen most of us would purchase at a convenience store during college years when struggling for money. NYC ramen spots typically feature the Japanese recipes that are delicious.
The combination of noodles, broth, spices, and meat usually dominate the ramen dishes. Other fun additions of eggs, corn, and other little things add more fun to it. New York City has no shortage of highly reviewed ramen restaurants, and they're becoming more and more popular. Treat yourself to great ramen next time you’re visiting NYC.
13 Don't measure up: Burgers
Burgers are a food that New York City has yet to perfect compared to its more popular foods. There are countless burger joints that try to have a great option that'll leave you coming back, but they often aren't as good as the national chains. Five Guys gets more business in New York than the local places.
A few restaurants have found success, but none of them have a huge reputation that'll make people go out of their way to try them. Burgers are so basic that it’s hard to make them stand out compared to what other places are doing. Hopefully, New York City burger joints can top the national chains one day.
12 Better in NYC: Nachos
New York City restaurants have done a great job adding great nachos to their menus. Most casual restaurants with items like burgers, wings, and other finger foods are more beloved for their appetizers. Nacho dishes often find success on menus due to the fun aspect of eating nachos along with many different foods to top them with.
Items like cheese, meats, veggies, and everything in between are used on nachos in NYC. A few places in the city even have dessert nachos for those wanting to blend salty and sweet. Nachos are a safe and often filling item to order when eating at a casual place in the New York City area.
11 Doesn't measure up: Seafood
Seafood restaurants are often in high command as many people prefer seafood over other meats. New York City has many restaurants for almost every genre, and seafood is among them. The seafood meals range from lobster to shrimp to fish dishes.
You never hear New Yorkers bragging about the seafood dishes. That’s the biggest sign the seafood meals leave a lot to be desired. Only a few restaurants have strong reviews for being great sources of seafood. New York City is towards the bottom of the list for seafood on the East Coast, with New England places being at the top.
10 Better in NYC: Pasta
There are so many variations to go with when looking to enjoy eating pasta at a restaurant. New York City has many restaurants that deliver great pasta options. Items like baked ziti, fettuccine, vermicelli, and just about any other option are made to perfection at the right restaurant.
Spaghetti and meatballs are a great combination that many restaurants will leave you overjoyed with in the New York City area. There's even a unique Meatball Shop restaurant that only serves pasta and meatballs in different meats. Pasta enthusiasts are in luck if residing in or visiting New York.
9 Doesn't measure up: Fried chicken
Fried chicken is one of the most popular main dishes one can have. Chain restaurants like Kentucky Fried Chicken or Popeye’s will give you a great bang for your buck. Local New York restaurants often try to rip them off but suffer from the lack of quality compared to the good stuff.
Brooklyn especially has many restaurants that are embarrassing ripoffs of KFC. They used to go by the name of "Kennedy Fried Chicken." Now, they have different names like "Kansas Fried Chicken" or "Texas Fried Chicken." The result is always the same, as the chicken is horrible and not worth trying at all.
8 Better in NYC: Sushi
Sushi in New York City obviously isn't as good as it is in Japan, but it certainly tops the other cities in America. There are so many different sushi restaurants that experiment with different recipes. The high-end sushi restaurants in NYC are incredible, with flawless reviews.
Even the lower-tier sushi restaurants have good reputations for delivering the best value. Great sushi is hard to find in most places, but NYC has quite a few great tremendous options. A few cities in California are the only places that could challenge New York for the best sushi variety in the United States.
7 Doesn't measure up: Soup
The comfort food of soup can be the ideal meal for a good day. Winter months especially see people wanting to enjoy a warm bowl of soup to warm their soul. New York City isn't a place known for having great soup. Your best bet there is to check out a chain restaurant like Panera Bread.
Many restaurants in NYC do offer soup on the menu, but it's usually an afterthought. You can order soup as a starter or as an alternative to salad. Sadly, it'll be a subpar soup with minimal effort, for the most part. A few restaurants have even been accused of serving canned soups.
6 Better in NYC: Cheesecake
The term "New York Cheesecake" is used to describe the incredible level of cheesecake one can have from the best places in the city. Cheesecake is one of the top dessert options for New Yorkers. Other cities take pride in their pies or cakes, but NYC is the home of the best cheesecake dishes.
There are quite a few places in New York that are known for having great cheesecake. Junior’s is the historic restaurant known for their cheesecakes. People will go out of their way to visit Brooklyn solely to pick up a cheesecake or two to take back to their state.
5 Doesn't measure up: Ice cream
One dessert treat that's not as impressive in New York City is the ice cream. Most people love ice cream for the consistency of greatness. Ice cream is foolproof like pizza; it's almost always great. However, there are expectations for a food to be even better than usual when the price is high.
New York ice cream shops often charge $10+ for ice cream cones or cup servings. The huge price leads to disappointment as the ice cream is viewed as generic. No one wants to pay a high price for ice cream that's of the same quality you can get from your local grocery store freezer.
4 Better in NYC: Gyros
Gyro sandwiches are among the best street foods one can find in New York City. Halal food carts especially have become common in many neighborhoods. Gyros are clearly the most popular food that people love to order from them when wanting a food item on the go.
There are various meats offered like chicken, beef, or lamb to make up most of the food inside of the pita bread. Many people love the hot sauce and white sauce options to top on there. Restaurants also offer great gyro options, as people love to enjoy the gyros sold in New York City.
3 Doesn't measure up: Burritos
Many burrito chains are trying to find the same success as Chipotle. There are a few great places to find burritos in New York City such as a startup named "Dos Toros" finding great success. However, most places to sell burritos underwhelm and leave the customer unsatisfied.
Tacos are a better bet, as NYC restaurants tend to branch out and experiment more with them than with the burritos. Mexican restaurants are usually incredible in the city, but burritos aren’t a big part of their authentic cuisine. Your safer bet is trying dishes you’ve never heard of or keeping it safe with tacos and nachos.
2 Better in NYC: Deli sandwiches
Many people outside of New York City believe that the pizza is the most special type of food one can have when visiting. However, the more underrated food that's second to none in NYC is the selection of sandwiches one can get from a deli.
Most delis sell sandwiches with cold cuts like turkey, ham, pastrami, or corned beef with many different cheeses, toppings, and condiments to choose from. The traditional BEC Sandwich of bacon, eggs, and cheese is also a hit in the city. Be sure to spoil yourself by visiting a beloved deli for a sandwich. Even the smaller bodegas will deliver sandwiches better than national chains like Subway at half the price.
1 Doesn't measure up: Salad
Everyone talks about wanting to add more salads to their diet to eat healthier. Salads are great, as they're best as a filling meal that tastes good and is good for your body. Sadly, New York City isn't the place to find a great salad when trying to find a healthy option.
The common complaints about salads in NYC involve people upset about the price and the lack of quality. Restaurants will charge extra for salad due to it being the only healthy options for those wanting to eat clean. Many of the salads will feature mostly lettuce, as the restaurants look to rip off New Yorkers hoping to make the right decision for dinner.