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Dining in New York City

There are at least 25,000 places to eat in New York City. I won't attempt to rate or review all those restaurants. For that, I suggest you visit rating sites like Zagat's or reader's review sites like Trip Advisor. Instead, I will describe some of the various types of places where you can find good food in New York City.

Sidewalk Food Cart in New York City © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
There are thousands of street vendors in New York City selling ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at decent prices.

Street Foods in Manhattan

There are probably more than a thousand street vendors selling various ready-to-eat foods in New York. They serve their snacks and meals from trucks, trailers, push carts and mobile kiosks. Since the city regulates their sanitation, the food is typically safe. The cost is usually very reasonable, and their offerings are often delicious.

In the early morning, most of the vendors do a brisk business selling coffee or orange juice with bagels, muffins or pastries. The typical New Yorker buys a cup of coffee and a muffin or bagel to take to his or her workplace for breakfast.

The rest of the day, these street restaurateurs offer an almost endless variety of food. Hot dogs, hamburgers, steak sandwiches, Italian sausage and pizza are the traditional fare served by some of the street vendors, but the varieties of ethnic specialties is vast and exotic. You can find: Mexican tacos, burritos and tamales, Jamaican jerked chicken, Greek gyros, Indian dosas and curry, Middle Eastern falafel and shawarma, Columbian arepa, Austrian schnitzel, Chinese pot stickers, Southern USA barbecue and many others. For those with dietary restrictions, some carts offer kosher foods, halal foods and vegetarian selections.

If you want to try some of the street food delicacies in New York City, I suggest you ask a local New York resident for his or her recommendation. Everyone in the city seems to have a favorite delicacy sold by a specific vendor.

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Original New York Delis

Years ago, New York City had hundreds of delicatessens, each offering an array of tasty Jewish cuisine. Their daily fare included freshly made corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, hot matzo soup, fruit blintzes and cheesecakes. Today, there are only a few of these original delis remaining, but they are well worth visiting just to sample their excellent cuisine.

Two traditional delis are located on Sixth Avenue just a few blocks north of Times Square. They are the Carnegie Deli and the Stage Door Deli; both are famous for their giant sandwiches which contain enough meats and cheeses to feed an entire family. Another traditional deli featuring excellent soups and sandwiches along with other Jewish foods is Katz's Deli in The Lower East Side on Houston Street.

Original style delicatessen in New York City © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
New York City's modern delis are typically a combination of convenience store, news stand, fast-food restaurant and take-out food stand.

Modern New York Delis

There are hundreds of modern delicatessens scattered all around Manhattan and throughout the other boroughs of New York City. They are typically a combination of convenience store, news stand, fast-food restaurant and take-out food stand. These new-style delis are good places to go for bargain priced meals. Many offer food buffets, salad bars, soup selections, sandwiches, snack foods and an array of beverages at reasonable prices.

The food bars are often magnificent arrays or dishes from multiple ethnic cuisines including Japanese sushi, Chinese pot stickers, Jamaican jerked chicken, Italian pizza, African fried plantain, Indian dosas, and an entire array of typical USA foods. Normally, you must take a plastic container, fill it with an assortment of items from the food buffet or from the salad bar, and then present it to the cashier to be weighed. You pay a modest amount dependent upon the weight. Some of the delis have seating, but many people take their food and beverage back to their workplace or to a nearby park for an impromptu picnic.

Neighborhood Restaurants

There are more than 25,000 restaurants in New York City. They are scattered all around Manhattan Island and into the surrounding boroughs. There are many varieties at all price ranges. It would not be possible to discuss them all on these pages, but here is a brief guide on where to find some good restaurants.

The Times Square area in Central Midtown has a concentration of restaurants to serve the tourist crowds as well as the Broadway theater patrons and the local workers. As you would expect, some of these restaurants cater to the tourist trade by serving mediocre food for expensive prices, however you can also find some very nice quality restaurants if you search for them.

The West Side of Midtown between approximately 34th and 59th Streets is commonly known as Hell's Kitchen. Its proximity to the Broadway Theater District makes it a favorite residential community for actors and aspiring actors. It also makes it a convenient eating place for the theater patrons. On and near Ninth Avenue, there is a good selection of fine restaurants including many featuring various ethnic cuisines.

Chinatown neighborhood in Manhattan © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
New York City's Chinatown is the largest in the United States. Amongst its overcrowded streets are hundreds of restaurants, fruit stands and fish markets.

Lower Manhattan is primarily a business and finance center with many overpriced businessmen's restaurants and fast-food luncheon shops, but there are a few notable exceptions. Little Italy, the traditional center of Italian cuisine in New York, is located there; and Chinatown the original Asian-American center of the city is also there. Unfortunately, Little Italy has been squeezed down to only a few short blocks of tourist-oriented Italian restaurants. Chinatown, on the other hand, has expanded to include a large part of the Lower East Side, and contains a large number of authentic, reasonably-priced, Asian restaurants.

The East Side of Midtown and the lower part of the Upper East Side has a lot of nice restaurants, but you might be forced to search for them, as they are scattered about these neighborhoods. Harlem, surrounding the upper end of Central Park, has several good Soul Food restaurants serving traditional African-American food.

In the other New York City boroughs surrounding Manhattan, there are many good restaurants especially in some of the ethnic enclaves. You can find great Italian food on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx or in the older Italian neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Brighton Beach near Coney Island features many Russian and Ukrainian restaurants. The Asian neighborhood in Flushing offers a wide array of good Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai restaurants, while the South American enclave is in nearby Jackson Heights.

New York Restaurant Tips

If you are visiting New York City, you will likely stay in Manhattan near centrally located Times Square. I suggest you venture away from the tourist-oriented restaurants in that area to sample some of the great local cuisine in other neighborhoods. Go west to the Hell's Kitchen area near Ninth Avenue or go east to the Midtown Business District and try some of the fine dining establishments frequented by the local residents. Take a subway downtown for some authentic Asian food in Chinatown.

If you have the time, venture out of Manhattan and into the surrounding boroughs to sample some of the great ethnic foods. Go to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx or to the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood for some great Italian cuisine. Go to Flushing near LaGuardia Airport for a variety of excellent Asian restaurants, or to Jackson Heights for some South American cuisine. Try some soul food in Harlem, and don't forget to sample a bit of street cuisine from one of the vendors' food carts.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: The delicatessens scattered all around Manhattan and throughout the other boroughs of New York City are typically a combination of convenience store, news stand, fast-food restaurant and take-out food stand.