10 things you need to eat (and drink) in New York

New York's home to some of the most iconic food in the country

By Andrea Wien,

As one of the oldest states in the nation, New York is a rotating door of different immigrant cultures that paved the way for foodie firsts and modern day faves. Below are ten of the most iconic things to eat and drink all across New York

Buffalo wings

Buffalo wings are popular all over the country, but their home is in New York — Photo courtesy of Yuri Long

Like most food origins, there's some arguing about who invented the first buffalo wing, but one thing's for certain: they're definitely a New York invention. Generally deep-fried and dipped in hot sauce, buffalo wings took hold in Buffalo in the 1960s and have held their ground as a bar food and Super Bowl staple ever since.

In fact, did you know that well over a billion wings are consumed every Super Bowl Sunday?   

New York City bagel

New York is known for having the best bagels — Photo courtesy of Simon Law

Though the origin of the bagel is rooted in Poland, it's New York City that elevated this doughy goodness to iconic status. And while it's possible to get a decent bagel outside of the city, it's mighty far from a sure bet. While some New Yorkers will tell you it's their water that makes the best bagel, that's a myth that's been debunked.

Short story: the jury's still out on why New York produces the best bagels, but that doesn't mean you should skip trying one the next time you're in the Big Apple. 

New York-style pizza 

Does it get any better than a New York slice? — Photo courtesy of Davis Staedtler

Few foods inspire such heated debate as pizza, and there's no better place than New York City to throw in your two cents. Pizza wars rage cross-borough, which is a massive boon to those looking for an excellent slice. Deep dish Chicago-style? Fuggedaboutit. New Yorkers are all about the thin slice, folded in half and usually eaten on the run.  

A martini

There are rumblings that the first martini was mixed up in San Francisco, but upon closer inspection, it's obvious that that concoction bears little resemblance to our modern day martini. Instead, we look to The Knickerbocker Hotel in Manhattan just a couple of years before World War I, where Italian-born bartender Martini di Arma di Taggia created a version of the martini we drink today.

Imbibers will be happy to learn that they can still pay a visit to the original Knickerbocker and try this groundbreaking classic for themselves. 

Beef on weck

Head to Buffalo for beef on weck — Photo courtesy of Nick Gray

Also called a beef on wick, this roast beef sandwich with horseradish is made on a German kimmelweck roll that's typically topped with caraway seeds and a healthy sprinkling of kosher salt. The beef is sliced thin, often near rare, and is minimally seasoned, as the roll holds most of the flavor punch.

Though you'll find beef on weck throughout the state, it's best up near Buffalo and at select restaurants in eastern New York.  

Spiedie sandwich

Another iconic New York dish, another immigrant story behind its creation. Binghamton, N.Y. locals have the Italians to thank for their beloved bite that's a skewer of grilled meat wrapped up in a mitt of Italian bread. Just as important to the final product as the meat and bread is the special marinade: a garlicky, vinegary, lemon juice blend that's reminiscent of an Italian dressing and left to sit on the meat for at least 24 hours.

Most say the spiedie isn't complete without an extra dash of sauce slathered on top before biting in.

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Grape pie

Grape pies and wine; what could be better? — Photo courtesy of Visit Finger Lakes

Though many people wouldn't immediately think of New York when thoughts turn to booming wine country, the Finger Lakes region is indeed well-known for their vinos. And where there's wine country, there is no shortage of grapes, which in addition to fermented grape juice can also mean plenty of grape pie.

A symbol of Naples, N.Y. and a staple of the annual Naples Grape Festival, this sweet, tannic treat is traditionally made from Concord grapes and pays homage to the German immigrants of the region. 

Dirty water dog 

A dirty water dog on the street is a quintessential New York experience — Photo courtesy of Kathleen Tyler Conklin

New York City's sidewalks are dotted with yellow and blue umbrellas announcing where you can stop for a dirty water dog. While the name is less than appealing, these are merely hot dogs cooked in hot, salty water. Because they're served streetside, they've earned a reputation for being unsanitary, but cleanliness lore aside, they're a staple of New York's cuisine.

To eat it like a local, top with brown mustard, sauerkraut and onions sautéed with tomato paste.  

Waldorf salad

The Waldorf still serves its namesake salad — Photo courtesy of Hilton Hotels

Invented at The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, the original Waldorf salad had only three ingredients: celery, apples and mayonnaise. Throughout the many years since then, walnuts were added, along with greens and variations of a vinaigrette.

Though the hotel still serves up a Waldorf salad, it's a high-brow version of the classic with julienned apples, celery root brunoise, truffle oil, candied walnuts, baby greens and a fancy vinaigrette.   

A Manhattan

A classic Manhattan — Photo courtesy of Patrick Truby

The origin of our final recommendation comes as little surprise, seeing as how the mighty Manhattan wears its ancestry on its sleeve. While the story behind who exactly first mixed whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters together is a little hazy, the island of Manhattan was undoubtedly the backdrop for this beloved classic.

Today, it's possible to get a well-made Manhattan all over town, in addition to countless variations of this famous cocktail.