Best Pizza made with New York water in New York City, NY
Best Pizza made with New York water in New York City, NY

The Best New York Foods: Pizza, Bagels, And Doughnuts

By Sherri Eisenberg | Published on March 02, 2022

There's no denying that New York City's food scene is iconic. When it comes to pizza, bagels, and doughnuts, most New Yorkers will tell you that the ones in their neighborhood are the best around. Many swear it's the soft New York water from the mountains of the Hudson Valley trickling down through the city tap systems that make these doughy treats the best New York foods — while others have found that it's typically attributed to the techniques used to proof and boil the dough in water. Whatever the secret is, you won't go hungry while traveling for the best foods in this melting pot of a city.

Collection Of The Best New York Foods

The Portrayals Of New York Bagels: Is It The Water?

Does the water in New York make bagels better? New York's favorite breakfast, the bagel, is perfected by first boiling them in local NY water then placing them in the oven to bake, creating that chewy-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside texture everyone knows and loves. Many have come to find that these inexpensive treats surely pack a lot of breakfast for a little dough. With bagels first traveling to NY from Poland by way of Germany, you can now find them at any local corner bodega or coffee cart, slathered in a thick layer of cream cheese. Or stop at one of the many old-school delis around the city that are known for their smoked salmon and tasty toppings such as thinly sliced red onion, capers, and a squeeze of lemon. But, if you're only in town for a little while, take the time to check out one of these unforgettable spots.

1. Sadelle's

Bagel lovers that want to really spend some time with their carby indulgence — and get that Insta-worthy selfie — should head straight for Sadelle's. At this Soho brunch hot spot, you'll get a literal tower of bagels and a 3-tiered tray piled high with smoked fish and all the bagel toppings of your dreams. You can also find other traditional Jewish delicacies such as blueberry-filled blintzes (crepe-like pancakes), chicken soup with airy matzo balls, and chocolate babka.

2. Russ and Daughters

Sure, Russ and Daughters' house-made bagels are fantastic. But that's not why you've made the pilgrimage to this appetizing shop — one of the remaining vestiges of the Lower East Side's Jewish heritage. You're here for the Super Heebster: an everything bagel loaded with creamy whitefish and salmon salads, wasabi-infused flying fish roe that packs a kick, and horseradish-dill cream cheese that delivers the final wallop. It's a uniquely New York experience, delivered wrapped, and handed to you over the counter to be enjoyed on a nearby bench.

3. Absolute Bagels

True bagel lovers should head straight to this tiny bagel bakery on the far reaches of the Upper West Side. The recommended order at Absolute Bagels is whatever is fresh from the oven and still hot enough to make the bag feel warm in your hands. Sure, they'll toast them and top them with any number of options — but the one thing that locals agree on is that a perfect bagel that hasn't even cooled down yet needs no toasting.

New York Pizza: Not Just a Simple Pie

If the bagel is New York's iconic breakfast of choice, then the pizza is its favorite lunch. Pizza has been here since Italian immigrants brought it with them in the late 19th-century, and it has long been an indelible part of the city. There are two methods of pizza consumption here in New York; coal-fired oven pies served on silver trays to be shared family-style or slices doled out by counter-style shops that are meant to be folded over on a paper plate and eaten standing up. "Saturday Night Fever's" infamous walking-and-eating scene deserves a little credit for making the slice shop an icon. Which one should you try? I mean, obviously, if you love pizza — and who doesn't? — I suggest making time for both especially if this is one of your first times trying New York pizza.

1. Lombardi's Coal Oven Pies

This Soho institution, which opened in 1905, is the oldest pizzeria in town — and arguably the first in America. Lombardi's consistently serves up incredible coal-fired pies with those tell-tale char spots on the crust. First-timers, consider yourself warned: While locals love the iconic charring, newbies often declare their pie "burnt" on first assessment. The signature here is the pepperoni, which curls into little cup-like shapes as the pie sizzles in the oven.

2. Roberta's

If you're looking for a reason to trek to Brooklyn, this superstar known for Neopolitan-style, wood-fired pizzas in Bushwick is as good as any. On a warm day, Roberta's rustic tiki bar is a lovely place to order a pie and a bottle of wine. These thin pies come topped with tasty combinations; I'm partial to the Bee Sting (with sopressata, chili, and honey) and the Speckenwolf (topped with speck, mushrooms, and onions).

3. Joe's Pizza

If you don't have time for a sit-down meal — much less a pilgrimage to an Outer Borough — grab a slice at this West Village favorite on Carmine Street. Joe's Pizza is known for its slightly sweet slices. I recommend going with a plain cheese slice or a pepperoni slice, then grabbing a pocketful of napkins and learning to master the artful "lean back" as you eat, so as to protect your clothing from the waterfall of pizza grease. It's all part of the experience!

Experiencing A NY Doughnut: Holey Moley!

Doughnuts live in a swirl of sugar and indecision. Are they breakfast or dessert? This old argument can be squashed easily — they're both! New York doughnuts are sweet treats any time of day and are best sampled along with a cup of hot coffee. Historians believe they are most likely a treat brought by Dutch settlers, and today, the local doughnut scene is kept alive by the city's local food entrepreneurs, who seem to come up with exciting new combinations daily.

1. Doughnut Plant

The original Lower East Side location of this city favorite often has lines out the door on weekends, but it's well worth the wait. Doughnut Plant offers both cake and yeast styles doughnuts, and classic choices here include coconut cream, tres leches, carrot cake, and Brooklyn blackout. But it's the exciting seasonal doughnut flavors you'll want to look out for when you're eyeing the racks behind the counter. For example, their popular fall flavors include apple cardamom sourdoughnut and pumpkin doughnuts made with real pumpkins.

2. Wildair

When this sophisticated Lower East Side wine bar started serving doughnuts, Wildair became the talk of the town. Since their dinner menu features elegant takes on comfort food — think steak frites with Wagyu and thick cut fries, collard and comté pithiviers, and chicken wings wrapped in lardo and fried — a certain combination of cleverness and cravability was expected, and they did not disappoint. Recent specials include quince jam and cheesecake, tiramisu, coconut with mango and tamarind, and salty chai.

3. Fan Fan

For doughnuts that are worth the trip across the bridge to Brooklyn, look no further than Fan Fan — a doughnut shop run by a Mexican-American pastry chef. The incredible confections here are exactly what you would expect: guava and cheese, chocolate-covered gems topped with churros, and pear jam-filled beauties rolled in Mexican cinnamon. Don't leave without the hot chocolate topped with house-made marshmallows and doughnut "croutons."

Eat Your Way Through New York City

New York City's eclectic mix of people from all walks of life has and will continue to make its food scene the most exciting and inventive in the country. It's no wonder that it's been immortalized in film and pop culture time and time again. With so many choices, you could plan a trip to New York City before your cruise and there’s a good chance you still wouldn't even scratch the surface of NY’s food culture. The good news is — the best NY foods will be here waiting for you to return!

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