NYC street-food by locals for locals

Marta J

A way to judge whether one really knows a place is if they eat food only locals eat.

But with all of us searching for the ultimate local street-food experience how do we know whether what we are going for is a fad or the real deal?

More importantly if we are not from here how do we know which locals’ opinions to trust?

During my journey of discovering the best local street food in Manhattan, I came up with a couple of useful rules and guidelines:

  • Age: the longer a food premise has been serving their customers the better their reputation, the tastier the food and more trustworthy their quality is.
  • Service: the better the service the more likely that a premise listens to customers’ serving us what we want
  • Referrals: if more then five people refer one place then that place must be something special!

After asking a couple of people, reading a couple of blogs and exploring a couple of foodie zones

I came up with a list of five of my very own best NYC street food for locals by locals.

I thought that grouping them for what they stand for most, is a neat and helpful idea to help you decide based on your current mood.

Tradition: The Jews are here the longest so they must be doing something right. Katz just celebrated their 125th anniversary while Russ & Daughters has been around since 1914.

Both deserve the title of ‘The’ deli institutions of New York. At Katz you can find the best pastrami sandwich in town while at Russ and Daughters you indulge in New York’s most authentic cream cheese and salmon bagel - two dishes the city is known for, as important as hot dogs and pizza.

Be prepared for the queues though; at Katz and Russ & Daughters you are likely to meet their first customers great grandchildren along with all the foodies, New Yorkers and well fed tourists.

Unique: Caracas Arepas Bar is as good as local New York street food can get- Arepas are the bagels, paninis, sandwiches, gyros, burgers, or pitas of Venezuela- but a healthier, gluten free Venezuelan wraps made with an oil, water and corn flour mixture that is first grilled and then baked. Most of appetizers at the Caracas Arepas Bar are also gluten-free friendly. Tostones Mochimeros is an appetizer I tried recently, absolutely delicious- fried platanos (a fruit from the same family as bananas used in South American appetizers and main courses) covered with a cilantro-mayo spread and sprinkled with salty cheese.

Value: Vanessa’s dumplings should be called ‘fortune cookies’ because each dumpling is worth a fortune, brings you as much fortune as a fortune cookie but costs only 70 cents.

It is the best place in New York to have dirt-cheap dim sum that are not dirty. The pork dumplings are Vanessa’s specialty and also everyone’s favorite but in my combo of assorted eight, I liked the shrimp and spinach dumplings the most.

At Vanessa’s you can also buy frozen fresh made dumplings and make them at home for a quick and easy lunch or dinner.

Fast food: Who said that you can’t have a great burger in a fast-food chain? Five Guys Burger and Fries is the old-school ‘McDonald’s that cares: about your pocket, the environment and the food quality.

The fries are local and home made, all the toppings are free and you can choose as many of them as you wish.

A cheeseburger and fries combo costs $10- great value for locally sourced ingredients with no artificial additives.

I hope my top five street food by locals for locals guides you well! In a city with twenty new openings every week it can be difficult and exhausting to stay on top of the food scene, and I imagine that this list might be outdated and disputable to some.

No matter what, all of these places deliver delicious food for reasonable prices and never compromise on quality. Let’s see if all stand the test of time!


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