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Apr 28, 2007 12:47 AM

typical new york food

Hey guys,
I'm hosting a book club night featuring Gael Greene's book Insatiable and would like to serve some typical new york food - simple but typical. Any suggestions? BTW I'm in Brisbane, Australia.

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  1. pizza
    egg creams
    ny style cheesecake

    1 Reply
    1. re: irishnyc

      I go to New York to eat Shanghai Soup Dumplings!

    2. If you mean, what food do people in, say, Texas THINK that stereotypical New Yorkers eat, then pizza and hot dogs and bagels with lox. If you mean, what food do real New Yorkers eat, remember that NY is as ethnically diverse as the United Nations. Real New Yorkers eat fufu and groundnut stew, they eat nasi lemak and ayam goreng, they eat Fujianese oyster pancakes and stinky tofu, they eat parillada and caldo gallego and mofongo, they eat masala dosa and Bengali mustard fish and (if they're English) chicken tikka masala, and yes they even eat Vegemite when they can find it. In our better restaurants, innovative food a lot like Mod Oz is served. But if you want a fun time go with the pizza and bagels and find an American beer to wash it down.

      34 Replies
      1. re: Brian S

        Dude, who are you, the PC police? Lol. I'm sure the OP meant what are some of examples of regional dishes that NY is known for. I know there's more than pizza, hot dogs and bagels with lox, but I'm not a native New Yorker - help her out. :o)

        1. re: adrienne156

          I did help her (or him) out! It's just that NY is a city of immigrants and I don't think we HAVE any regional dishes. Okay, pretzels. I mean, what would you say for San Francisco, except for cioppino? It's funny, you could list ten times as many regional dishes for the small towns on Maryland's eastern shore as you can for NYC.

          1. re: Brian S

            Of course we have regional dishes. They're the dishes that we exiles from New York feel like we can't get where we live now. I can get perfectly fine masala dosa and fufu, but I can't get a bagel or pizza that is anything like what I grew up with. Go to the non-NYC regional boards and read the despairing threads on, say, where to get an egg roll in the LA area. That will tell you what the regional dishes of NYC are. If there are no regional dishes in NYC, why haven't I had a decent jelly doughnut since I left town???

            Of course, I guess the bad news about that answer is... you are going to have a pretty hard time serving these dishes at your party in Australia.

            1. re: wombat

              I dunno. I'm lucky enough to have befriended people all over the city. I've never seen someone from the Italian part of east Williamsburg go for lox and bagels, nor have I seen (except rarely) people in the Puerto Rican part of the South Bronx getting spaghetti. The only foods that cut across all groups are heroes (subs), pizza, and greasy Chinese takeout.

              1. re: Brian S

                If only Italians from the Bronx didn't like bagels! I'd be much less discontented.

                1. re: Brian S

                  As my husband says, in New York, people don't live in food ghettos. The food culture here is learn to eat other people's stuff. Also, I can say from experience that plenty of Italians in Williamsburg get bagels and lox, and plenty of Puerto Ricans get spaghetti-in fact, many Puerto Rican restaurants-- the kind where you can get lechon or mofongo any day of the week- have a Spaghetti and Chicken special on the menu (espaguetti con pollo). Also, many Dominican places in Washington Heights have their version of spaghetti available.

                  And yes, Virginia, New York does have its regional food. I heartily agree with Wombat on the idea of visiting other boards to see what people are perpetually looking for...

                  but here are my own ideas:

                  Oysters (I know its May, but hear me out)... New York City was once a huge, huge supplier of oysters, going back to the 18th C. See Kurlansky's The Big Oyster as a reference.

                  Manhattan Special Espresso Soda, made in Brooklyn on Morgan Avenue, this is a New York treat not found in many places outside the tri-state area.

                  Good luck with your party, aussieeater.

                  1. re: MaspethMaven

                    I've rarely seen the adventurous eaters you describe. (Though I'll confess that in every catered event in the Polish section of Billyburg, you will see one or two Italian pasta dishes in among the pierogis... and these are the ones that get eaten first!)

                    But the reason I'm replying is to tell you that while researching this I found what looks like a very interesting book of American food history whose thesis is, if you had to sum it up in a sentence, "In America, people don't live in food ghettos"

                    You can read a ten-page free preview here:

              2. re: Brian S

                No regional dishes !?! Why do you think they call it Oyster Bay on Long Island? Maybe try Oysters Rockefeller. Where did the Waldorf salad get created? Possibly the same place where Eggs Benedict were first consumed. Why, also is the minor league baseball team on Long Island called The Ducks?

                Surely it's true that many of NY's iconic foods come to us from our immigrant population - our poor immigrant population. So any of the following will suffice as New York themed:
                Hot Dogs
                Pastrami on rye
                Manhattan clam chowder
                and if you're drinking, pour some Manhattans

                1. re: timmernyc

                  Oh, and I forgot ...
                  Chocolate Black-out Cake (who in Brooklyn did Entemanns steal this from?)
                  Egg Creams
                  Junior's Cheesecake (They will FedEx to Aussies)
                  Brats from Karl Ehmer
                  Chinese take-out
                  more to come ...

                    1. re: QueenB

                      OOHHH!! Black and White Cookies! YUM!

                    2. re: timmernyc

                      I think that egg creams are one thing you can reproduce successfully almost anywhere. But that's because I'm a heretic who thinks they actually are not better with U-Bet syrup. Commence the stoning!

                      1. re: timmernyc

                        Blackout cake was an Ebinger's specialty. (We pronounced it "Ebingizz".)

                      2. re: timmernyc

                        Yes, if this were the 1830s, the top 3 NY dishes would be oysters, oysters and oysters. But that yummy NY oyster went extinct over a century ago. If this were the 1870s, the top dish would be steak. People gave parties where each guest was given four pounds of steaks.

                        1. re: Brian S

                          long island still pumps out millions of oysters annually.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            The oysters served back then were a different species. European Chowhounds came to NY to taste them. Tocqueville and Dickens enjoyed them, as I recall.


                            1. re: Brian S

                              crassostrea virginica is what grows all up and down the east coast. they go by name of point of origin, like malpeque or wellfleet, but it has been and remains the same species.

                              europeans oysters are ostrea edulis or belon.

                        2. re: timmernyc

                          Manhattan clam chowder originated in Rhode Island

                          1. re: irishnyc

                            actually, that's disputed. rhode islanders added some tomato to the same cream/milk base as n.e. chowder. chefs from delmonico's claimed the version as we now know it, as did danbury conn., and parts of long island

                        3. re: Brian S

                          Pretzels? I'd give that nod to Philly.

                          Grew up in the area and used to work there, and I believe what most people think of is the street food and the inexpensive deli/pizza slice shops. So this would be my interpretation of a useful list:

                          Bagels (technically, "water bagels") with lox or a schmear
                          Chopped liver (shaped into something)
                          Pastrami (nice and fatty, on a steam table) with Swiss
                          Reuben sandwiches
                          Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda
                          Thin crust pizza in big enough slices you can fold them (note: if the cheese and sauce slide off when folded, it ain't NY pizza)
                          Pickles - half sours or garlic (preferably Guss Pickles if you can get those)
                          Nathan's or Sabrett's dogs, with kraut or chopped onion (or that cloying brown onion/chili sauce)
                          Falafel in pita with lettuce, tomato & tzatziki sauce
                          Lemon ice (as in The Lemon Ice King of Corona)
                          Sfogliatelle & cannoli

                          I feel I'm missing a couple of things, but can't figure out what... something from Nedick's or Orange Julius maybe....

                            1. re: Panini Guy

                              Never put cheese on a pastrami sandwich. That will get you kicked out of Katz's.

                              1. re: ESNY

                                Spicy mustard though...that's the way to go.

                            2. re: Brian S

                              The SF bay area, like NYC, has a long history as a city of immigrants and boasts many of the same cuisines you listed in your first post. That being said, all you can think of is cioppino for SF? Yes, we are known for our fresh seafood, but here's a shortlist of things that would come to my mind if I were a tourist:

                              cioppino (of course)
                              dungeness crab
                              clam chowder in bread bowls
                              sourdough bread and bread in general (Boudin's and Acme in particular)
                              Mission burritos
                              Exceptionally fresh produce (I can't imagine visiting SF and not visiting a farmer's market or going to the Ferry Building - food porn at its best)
                              Artisanal chocolate
                              Artisanal cheeses (think Cowgirl Creamery's Humboldt Fog... drool)
                              San Francisco's china town is pretty famous for its dim sum
                              ..The famous [Napa] wine country is about 40 minutes away...

                              I'm sure I'm missing stuff, but my point is that every major city has something that they are specifically known for. My housemate is a NY expat and regularly laments the lack of NYC-style jewish delis. In my area, all we've really got is Saul's (boo).

                              1. re: adrienne156

                                Oh you took all the high-class sophisticated stuff for San Francisco and left us with hot dogs and bagels! So for New York I'll add a panoply of heirloom baby carrots from Satur Farms and top bluefin tuna freshly caught off Long Island.

                                1. re: Brian S

                                  Mission burritos are high class and sophisticated? I never said that NYC doesn't have any of the things I mentioned, only that the above mentioned stuff is what I would think of as far as a few of our regional specialities. It's really not that serious.

                              2. re: Brian S

                                Black and White Cookies. indigenous to NYC and I've only seen them there. THAT is New York food.

                                And SF has sourdough bread and dungeness crab cocktail or crab louie.

                                1. re: Brian S

                                  San Francisco? Hangtown Fry. Joe's Special. Dry Salami. Sourdough French Bread. Dungeness Crab.

                                  1. re: Brian S

                                    I always thought pretzels were a Philadelphia thing!

                                2. re: Brian S

                                  BS, I always want to go to NYC for the food because my expectations are just as you describe--from fufu to mustard fish. I've never been disappointed in your city.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    We even have very good Colombian and Filipino food -- which should interest you.


                                    1. re: Brian S

                                      It would be a treat to have very good Colombian and Filipino. I've never had tilapia or kaldereta ng kambing in Pampanga as the post describes, although I've eaten a lot of fish and goat dishes there in search of such flavors.

                                    1. re: Brian S

                                      I know exactly what you mean Brian S, and particularly if the OP is doing a book club reading of Gael Greene (who was the long time restaurant critic for NY Magazine, and more than likely sampled plenty of what you list above and wrote about it) it's a hard call to make on what food to recommend. I do remember that she had a long-time "food" affair with Bobby Flay's restaurants and his innovative southwestern American palate. Whatever I think about his restaurants now (not much), I still admire his food as demonstrated in his cookbooks.

                                    2. Bagels and/or bialy
                                      Pastrami sandwiches
                                      NY Style Cheesecake

                                      I'm from Texas, so these are what came to mind first for what New York food is. ;-) Of course, all we eat is BBQ and big honkin' steaks, so what do I know?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: QueenB


                                        I live in NYC and I think those are great choices. Of course I'm from KY, originally, where all WE eat is corn pone and squirrel, washed down with moonshine.

                                        When you think "typical food of X area," I guess you sort of have to think, in part, about what the scene looks like for an outsider looking in.

                                      2. Pastrami on rye
                                        Potato knishes
                                        Sour pickles from the barrel
                                        Black & white cookies
                                        Chocolate babka
                                        Lox and bagels
                                        Smoked whitefish
                                        Egg creams

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: CindyJ

                                          yes, one way to go would be to choose foods typical of the most ubiquitous ethnic groups - askhenazi jewish, italian, chinese, and puerto-rican/dominican. One problem is that what REALLY makes NY food from NY is that you usually can't get the food anywhere else. You can make some things from scratch for the best approximation though. How's this for a menu?
                                          from jewish: potato knish with mushrooms or smoked whitefish salad with margarine on untoasted bagels, forget the lox. or potato kugel or matzo ball soup.
                                          from italian: linguin w/clam sauce, sicilian style pizza
                                          from chinese: any kind of dumpling, but preferably soup dumplings or fried pork dumplings.
                                          from dominican/puerto rican: arroz con pollo, rice and beans, fried plantains, mango shakes if fresh mango available.
                                          hope this helps.

                                        2. aglio olio
                                          linguini with clam sauce
                                          most others have been mentioned
                                          extinct -- hot chestnuts.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: misohungrychewlow

                                            i connect red sauce italian too. so many italian immigrants whose traditional cuisine morphed into big trays of lasagne, baked ziti, spaghetti and meatballs, etc.

                                            1. re: misohungrychewlow

                                              You can still get hot chestnuts from street carts near BG and Saks during the winter holiday shopping frenzy season.

                                              1. re: misohungrychewlow

                                                Hot chestnuts on fifth avenue in the forties at christmastime. If I find the exact location, I will post!