New York City is called The Big Apple because you have to take a bite. Sometimes, this means being opportunistic and adventurous; other times, this means literally. New York City is home to some of the most well-known American dishes that have interesting backstories and a rich history behind them. Given the fact that New York City is home to people from a wide range of cultures and ethnicities, many of the dishes become influenced by these cultures.
So even if you might assume that a certain dish was invented somewhere else, it was actually created in New York City by an innovative immigrant who wanted a taste of the American dream. If you are in NYC, your culinary itinerary won’t be complete without trying any (or all) of these tasty morsels.
Breakfast or Brunch
Eggs Benedict. A beloved mainstay on anyone’s breakfast menu, Eggs Benedict was actually invented in New York City at the famous Waldorf Astoria. The Waldorf Astoria is also home to many other famous NYC dishes, it would be good to stay nearby if you would like to try them all. The Westgate NYC Hotel is a great hotel option, it’s only a short walk away from the famous restaurant.
Named after Wall Street broker, Lemuel Benedict, the dish was invented after he requested it as he was hungover at the time. Now, Eggs Benedict is widely enjoyed by many for breakfast or brunch. It turns out that Lemuel was onto something, as it’s also a great hangover cure.
Chicken and Waffles. You might have initially thought that this would have been invented somewhere in the South, but this quaintly delectable dish was created in Harlem. If you’re not familiar with Harlem, it’s also known as New York City’s home of fried chicken (just one of the many reasons why it’s so famous). This popular dish that changed how brunch was eaten was created by the Wells Supper Club, which was a popular hangout for many jazz musicians after their work.
Chicken and Waffles was created to combine people’s beloved dinner and breakfast favorites into a lovely meal that you can have for breakfast or brunch (or any time you want, really). No visit to New York City is complete without starting your day off with this delicious morsel.
Reuben. Keep your energy levels high and stomach full for the rest of the day with this gargantuan sandwich! Made of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing between two slices of rye bread, the Reuben sandwich will keep you sated and satisfied like no other sandwich can. The sandwich gets its name from Arnold Reuben, who created the sandwich for an actress when she visited his deli in 1914.
Pasta Primavera. This humble pasta dish was a big development for American cuisine in the 1970s and was created by NYC-based chef Sirio Maccioni for the Italian baron Carlo Amato. While staying in Canada for the summer, Amato requested that Maccioni cook something different for him and his guests.
The result is this simple but delectable pasta dish made of pasta and vegetables with a sauce made from cheese, butter, and cream. Maccioni later brought the dish back to New York and served it at his restaurant Le Cirque, and the rest was history.
The American Hotdog. That’s right, the beloved combination of hotdog, bun, and condiments originated from New York City. The concept itself began in the 1870s when a German immigrant began selling sausages on rolls in Coney Island. Nathan Handwerker then transformed the idea in 1916 when he opened Nathan’s Famous.
Nathan’s sold hotdogs with mustard, sauerkraut, and relish from a cart—and that format hasn’t changed much since then. Over a century later, hotdogs continue to be enjoyed this way across America. But if you happen to be in New York City, don’t miss out on the opportunity to try this while you’re there!
Spaghetti with meatballs. You don’t need to go all the way to Italy to have this dish for dinner. In fact, you can just go to Little Italy where this combination was created by Italian immigrants. Originally, spaghetti and Italian meatballs were two separate dishes in Italy. However, upon arriving in New York, Italian natives decided to make bigger meatballs and add them to spaghetti because meat was more affordable in New York City.
General Tso’s Chicken. The dish was first invented by Peng Changkuei when he moved to New York City and opened his first restaurant. The original dish was less sweet and more Hunanese in flavor when Changkuei first created it in Taiwan. Upon arriving in America, he added sugar to make it the dish we all know and love today. Definitely try out this Asian-American dish when you visit New York.
Steak Delmonico. If you prefer something meaty and juicy to sink your teeth into, better try a Delmonico’s-style steak. Invented in 1840, this steak dish is named after the method of preparing the cut of beef that gives it its distinct flavor and texture. Usually a rib or short loin cut, the beef is cooked using dry-heat grilling and broiling to give it its signature tenderness. While different regions have their own version of this dish, it’s definitely best to have one while you’re in The Big Apple.
Baked Alaska. Don’t be mistaken, this interesting take on an ice cream cake was not made in Alaska. Its interesting name simply comes from the differences between the frozen ice cream and its flaming meringue exterior. Charles Ranhofer created the dish in 1876 to celebrate Alaska becoming a US state and even called it Alaska Florida at first. The name Baked Alaska was later created for it in the famous Delmonico’s restaurant.
Napoleon Cookies. These delectable treats were created by Italian immigrants in the 1900s as a homage to their country of origin with the colors representing the Italian flag. What it is is a stack of almond sponge cakes with raspberry jam in between and topped with chocolate. The result is a dessert that is full of flavor in every bite you take. If you happen upon an Italian bakery or restaurant while you’re in New York City and see this on the menu, these are worth ordering.
New York City is truly a smorgasbord of different kinds of foods that are influenced by different cultures. But it’s exactly this diversity that makes New York City so dynamic and exciting. The next time you’re in New York, definitely put these dishes on your “to eat” list (yes, those exist). You won’t regret it!