Top 10 New York Dishes of 2019

Dec 10, 2019 · 99 comments
Mary (Thaxmead)
Sorry, Pete. You were so wrong about Peter Luger that I have stopped respecting your culinary opinion and believing your reviews.
Amy (Brookfield, CT)
The comments on this column are quite entertaining, more interesting than the article itself. I could never move away from this area. I would miss the sharpness.
Mainiac (ME)
I see refined carbohydrates in at least 7 of 10 photos. This bothers me more than the pricetags.
Mike Carpenter (Tucson, AZ)
"The worst expensive food and the best cheap food in the world." When our daughter lived there and we visited, we ate a lot of the latter. Boundless ethnic treats. I don't see much of that in this article. Another oversized burger.
Mike (Brooklyn)
@Mike Carpenter Totally. A true city-wide sampling that also considered price/value would see Queens represented a lot more.
Independent Observer (Texas)
"Sicilian slice and regular slice at F & F Pizzeria" I was born and raised in New York and always thought that Sicilians had a weird, doughy idea of what makes a pizza crust. After moving to Sicily and living there for seven years, I realized that their pizzas were Neapolitan in nature, not the gigantor square-crusted things in New York bearing that name. The closest I saw to such a beast was in the bars, which often doubled as pastry shops. They'd offer regular oven baked examples cooked on square sheets, but never with that huge crust served in New York. It's the same thing with America calling a cream sauce "Alfredo," which I also never saw while living in Italy. I even had an Italian friend come here for a visit who asked me why we called it by that name. Weird.
Preston (Duckett)
So disappointing that NYT food section continues to romanticize a meat-forward diet. Get with the times, look at the world around you, and maybe try some more dishes with only vegetables! They can be very good, nutritious, and good for the planet. Sigh.
Left Coast (California)
@Preston It is a disappointing and antiquated, isn’t it? Plant based foods are on the forefront of exciting and tasty cuisine but sadly Wells seems stuck in the 1950s. Perhaps it is time for someone with a fresher, more progressive food critical view to be at the helm.
Palmer (Va)
@Preston Feel free to only read "Vegan Times" in place of the New York Times, but don't push your agenda on others, sir.
Independent Observer (Texas)
@Preston Thanks for posting this. It reminded me how long it's been since I had a nice, thick, juicy bacon-cheeseburger, which I'm now going to have for dinner. Cheers.
JB (Michigan)
I enjoyed the creative writing style in this article more than the food choices, but found the use of “like a sniper” tone deaf and lacking in editing. Certain word choices and comparisons matter these days, more than ever.
sMAV (New York)
If stupidity were to be given as an award, I think many in NYC would be up for nomination. $22 for a Sicilian. Can we dissect the slice. Flour, water, oil, spoon of sauce, slice of cheese. $120 for a bass that costs $7-10 retail from a fish monger. I just don’t get it. How much can anyone go for a slice? Why not just round up to $10.
JBL (Boston)
You misread the prices— the slices are all less than $7. It’s the burger that’s $22 (which is slightly high in Boston, but probably not NYC).
John OBrienj (NYC)
WHAT? It is not even Christmas and already the NYT is doing the "best of" nonsense. Get back to writing about now not the past.
chambolle (Bainbridge Island)
I did not see a single option among these ‘top 10’ that particularly called out and said ‘you must eat this.’ Either I’ve become extremely jaded, or this is a truly lackluster selection. I’m going with the latter.
MK (South village)
The cost of dining out, at whatever level, is due to a lot of factors: high rents, higher minimum wage ,higher cost of ingredients, and much more. Living on restaurant worker’s salary has never been easy, and the new minimum wage in New York still barely keeps up with the cost of living. Wanna eat out ? You're going to have to pay the price.
On the Ferry (Shelter Island NY)
Any food the 2 “Franks” do is well worth the trip. For the foodie snobs who are afraid to venture to Brooklyn, and god forbid Liquor and Courts streets, I challenge others outside Brooklyn to make the trip. The pizza is amazing. Nearby is Frankies Spuntino a Brooklyn gem. I lead a healthy life style and one slice of pizza is not going to kill me. As for the cost do the pizza, come on! I have had bad pizza for 3$ a slice and it was not worth the agita.
Ali Vaezazizi (Laguna Niguel California)
Hey Relax it’s not so bad ! Somtimes , you got walk on the wild side!
mw (Paris, France)
Thank you for the images of ten most unappetizing and unhealthy looking foods (with the possible exception of the sea bass).
ggallo (Middletown, NY)
@mw - Wow. That's the only one I didn't find the photo appealing. Go figure.
WIS Gal (Colorado)
American cheese is not cheese. Given the array of extraordinary cheese options available and compelling, you cannot sell anyone on American cheese food as the hyper-processed trash repurposed to fake it that it is. Ugggghhh
Palmer (Va)
@WIS Gal Brick cheese Cheese curd Colby cheese Colby-Jack cheese Farmer cheese Hoop cheese All of these, madam, ARE "American Cheeses"
gears35 (Paris, Fr)
@WIS Gal No, of course it's not real cheese. But is that the point? It's still almost unbeatable on a burger. You think about In-N-Out, Shake Shack, or whatever you imagine as the quintessential American cheeseburger. it's almost unthinkable without American cheese. Provolone, bleu, Swiss, gouda, gruyere, are great cheese. But specifically on a burger, they're forgettable. Cheddar comes close, but they all have the problem that American cheese doesn't, which is that they pool too much oil and/or separate when melted. I always go back to milky, melty American cheese. It's the one reason, other than the grilled cheese sandwich, for why it exists.
KMH (Midwest)
@WIS Gal I agree. It's not even correctly called cheese, but "processed cheese food". Makes me gag!
Mary (Rhode Island)
Disappointing to find so few plant-based options here. And strange in (nearly) 2020.
Shyamela (New York)
Nothing vegetarian except pizza? Now that’s sad.
KW (Los Angeles)
It all sounds delicious... I can't wait to get back to NY and try all of them. Thank you, Pete.
Dave (Lafayette, CO)
A $22 cheeseburger? With pedestrian American cheese and three french fries? (Almost nobody eats the pickle spear). A four-dollar slice of plain cheese pizza? (the whole thin pie would cost $32 at that rate). How much does a naked hot dog on a bun cost from one of those street carts? No, please don't tell me. I know, I know. It's New York. And it's haute cuisine. But out here in the hinterlands, where a decent 14", 3-item pizza (the whole thing) costs sixteen dollars (or perhaps twelve if you have a coupon) - New York might as well be Paris or Tokyo. BTW, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool, life-long liberal. But this sort of fantasy-land bubble of four-dollar individual pizza slices and $22 cheeseburgers is part of what makes Trump zombies out here in flyover country feel that "coastal elites" are totally out-of-touch with "real Americans". Just a little reality check - with the best intentions. Bon appetit!
KSD (New York, NY)
@Dave I totally understand the sticker shock. However, you have to consider cost of rent in New York. I think the last estimate I saw was from 2016, which put all of Manhattan and some of Brooklyn at an average of $120 per square foot, more than double the desirable neighborhoods in LA and SF. You can imagine how that compares to the middle of the country, or down south. Then add the $15 minimum wage in New York, the higher cost of goods (particularly produce) get the point. It's just very expensive to run a restaurant here. And there's still so much competition - I've heard 80% of restaurants here will fail within 5 years. This is not to say that certain restaurants or dishes are not overpriced (oh they are), but just that it's generally hard to turn a profit here.
Steven M. (New York, NY)
Putting aside the comments that are complaining this isn't a vegan list (feel free to list your favorites in lieu of complaining), it seems half the comments are complaining the dishes are too expensive, while the other half are complaining that the dishes are too pedestrian. Oh, the irony.
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
@ Steven M. New York, NY It does not read contradictory to me that some people find these street foods both expensive and pedestrian.
Brandi (Minneapolis)
Wow - is that thin piece of crust with some burnt cheese and a basil leaf one of the best? I like New York, but maybe you need to get out more.
Blue State (USA)
Um, nothing vegan...and only the pizza is vegetarian? The list is disappointingly meaty.
Dan (El Cerrito, Ca)
I spend a lot of time and Italy and just last night I was in a take out pizza place where a beautiful hand made cheese slice was the equivalent of $1.11, with several thin (hand cut not on a machine) of mortadella add 55 cents. A plain 12 inch cheese pie is $4.40 and you see the pizzaiolo make it. Add a layer of prosciutto di Parma on top after it comes out of the oven that will be $6.66. The pizza in the photo looks ok, but no bubbles in the crust?
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
@ Dan El Cerrito, Ca To me, the browned bubbles on the cheese crust are one of the main signs of a well made pizza.
KSD (New York, NY)
@Dan not sure where in Italy you were, but I suspect the pizza you had was likely Neapolitan style, which utilizes a different dough than a classic New York or a Sicilian pie. Neapolitan dough uses a finer flour than a New York pie and gets cooked in a very hot wood-fired oven for very little time. That's what gives it the delicate crust on the bottom and those gorgeous bubbles you're talking about! New York pie uses a higher gluten flour and is cooked for longer in a cooler oven, making it denser and chewier. I think Sicilian is similar, but I'm not sure. So I think in this case, your disappointment might be an issue of style. If you're ever in New York, try Keste on Bleeker St - it's my favorite Neapolitan pie in Manhattan.
Micah (NY)
This is a hipster, trustafarian, 1 percenter type of list. Ordinary people don’t live on Luquer street anymore. Or in Williamsburg or in many other places. Or, is they do live there, they can’t eat out. When I lived on Luquer street we ate at Hanley’s, Helens, Leonardo’s and maybe the Red Rose if we wanted to walk a bit. Dinner for two was a little more than the user unfriendly burger on this list, and this was not 20 years ago either. More than just the times have changed. Sadly.
gerard (france)
One in Five American Deaths Now Associated with Obesity "On any given day in the United States, an estimated 36.6% or approximately 84.8 million adults consume fast food,"
Palmer (Va)
@gerard And none of that has any bearing on the dishes discussed here, sir. Obesity is from OVER Eating and lack of Exercise.
mark (Sweden)
It simply amazes me that pizza and hamburger (w/ american cheese) tops the best food list for the year. Why can't Americans find better quality food to enjoy after all these decades. It is no wonder Amercians continue to eat so poorly. Where is the macaroni and cheese on your list? I have been living in Sweden for the last 25 years and food quality here just keeps getting better. Amazing creative restaurants in the Nordics, while the USA continues to focus on low quality fast food. Don't get me wrong, i love a good pizza. I would not put it on my "Top 10" food list. You should try the Nordics next year!!!
john michel (charleston sc)
Unhealthy foods. That seems to be what a lot of people like.
Andre Welling (Germany)
@john michel What could be unhealthy about some good steak ramen washed down with a gin highball? My health gets better even when I only think about it.
MainLaw (Maine)
@john michel Unhealthful, yes. Unhealthy, call the NYC restaurant inspectors. Time to learn the difference.
Tam (Los Angeles)
This list made me thankful I live in California. So much meat, oil, cream.
gerard (france)
@Tam : Studies suggest that oleic acid reduces inflammation and may even have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer. Olive Oil Contains Large Amounts of Antioxidants. Olive Oil Has Strong Anti-Inflammatory Properties. Olive Oil May Help Prevent Strokes. Olive Oil Is Protective Against Heart Disease. Olive Oil Is Not Associated With Weight Gain and Obesity. Olive Oil May Fight Alzheimer's Disease. Olive Oil May Reduce Type 2 Diabetes Risk. The Antioxidants in Olive Oil Have Anti-Cancer Properties. Olive Oil Can Help Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis. Olive Oil Has Antibacterial Properties. Countries that use olive oil : LIFE EXPECTANCY : List by the World Health Organization rank 3 Spain rank 4 Italy rank : 8 France cheers !
gerard (france)
@Tam :LIFE EXPECTANCY : List by the World Health Organization : USA ranks 38 !
Walsh (UK)
Your comment made me glad I don't live in California. Then I remembered I live in the UK, and only enjoy the NYT treats in my imagination.
Dennis Boen (Wooster, OH)
Burgers and steaks have gone awry: too thick! Burgers have buns, intended for eating by hand. Steaks need to be sliced by the patron without concern for the deconstruction process. Taste, tenderness, and presentation are given elements, but not the only considerations.
Zeke27 (New York)
These are all tantalizing treats. The only word to describe them is rich.
John (Arlington)
There are a few plates I’d like to try from this list, save for the pretentiously priced staples. You pay handsomely for good food and service, so for those who can’t get past it, find what you like and can afford... but at least revere good food. It’s not only about quantity but the experience and ritual too.
Tina (Illinois)
Pasteles made it on to the list, awesome! Last time I visited my mom in Puerto Rico I learned to make them with a woman who makes the best I have ever tasted. Must taste these next time I am in NYC. Nice combination of high end and street food, and cultures.
Tina (Illinois)
Pasteles made it on to the list, awesome! Last time I visited my mom in Puerto Rico I learned to make them with a woman who makes the best I have ever tasted. Must taste these next time I am in NYC. Nice combination of high end and street food, and cultures.
Bob R (Portland)
Pizza that looks like school cafeteria pizza (but probably tastes a little better) and a hamburger that looks like what I grill during the Summer (with meat from a farm) on a slow day, with 3 fries.
C J (Mahopac NY)
Seriously, $14 for a bowl of Clam chowder? $22 for a burger? Some people could eat for days on $36. I don't buy a cup of coffee out, I buy a can of Chock 'l of Nuts on sale for the cost of a cup.
Ben (Seattle)
Thank you for sharing your life habits and preferences. Personally, I don’t mind paying a little more for good things, especially when it comes to food and coffee, and I think a lot of others would agree.
Max (Brooklyn)
Yes, the cheapest may, but the cost of low prices often is at the detriment of paying people decent, living wages. And yes, most restaurant meals (or cups of coffee, or having a beer at a bar) can be performed at home for way less than the cost of going out, but some people just enjoy going out with friends and family every once in a while.
Jason (Uzes, France)
@C J - $120 for a fish pie?
India-Jane (Massachusetts)
I really don't think I want to spend $120 on a fish in pastry. How bloody pretentious can you get....
Peter James (New Zealand)
Great that you want to eat plants but it was our adaptation to eating meat that enabled us to develop our brains to make us the the humans we are. This is the science of our development. Yes our diets today could be better, less refined foods , sugars, and fats, but we need protein and the best and readily available source of that for humans is red meat.
Palmer (Va)
@India-Jane I am always amused by those who comment on dishes they've never eaten; substituting their uninformed opinion over actual experience.....
tuts (BK)
@India-Jane I really want it
Morris (Seattle)
I'm done with this kind of food. Now eating plants.
Dorner (Amelia Island)
That’s good for you, Morris, seems it makes you feel quite superior. Let the rest of us enjoy a diverse and balanced diet, with the occasional splurge.
Bronwyn (Canberra, Australia)
@Dorner No. It's disappointing to find a list of top NY dishes that doesn't contain at least one that is wholly plant-based. It's not a case of feeling superior at all.
Walsh (UK)
I'm waiting on the evidence that a side effect of plant only eating is sainthood.
Abe (Here)
When when a New York Times food critic has fallen to referring to pizza and hamburgers as "dishes," I'm afraid to state of cuisine in New York City must be very low indeed.
Fritz Raim (NorCal)
Overwhelmingly flesh based. So innovative. So bold. So boring. So 20th Century.
Palmer (Va)
@Fritz Raim Mayhap you would prefer the "Vegan Times" food section to the "New York Times" food section. You *choose* your diet; don't presume to choose mine with snide post about "so 20th century" commentary.
rpe123 (Jacksonville, Fl)
Expensive food. What a great investment! Every dollar spent goes right down the toilet in 24 hours or less.
Remarque (Cambridge)
@rpe123 Some people relish in the experience. Everything in life is transient - including life itself.
sca (Colorado)
People complaining about the cost of these dishes are missing the point. This isn't a "best food under $10" list. If you want that, go do a google search. This is the NY Times restaurant and food review. Go ahead and scoff at the idea of a $6 slice of pizza - but you clearly didn't read this list if you missed how the owners clearly invested significant time and money into crafting something of high quality that has made a lasting impression on the writer (and likely others as well).
Lorenzo (New York)
@sca Thing is, things cost too much in NYC, all because of greed, not necessarily quality or service.
lenni (nyc)
i thought the F&F pizza slice/s (i tried several different ones), while made with quality ingredients, were just ok. especially disappointing after all the press about how they came about with the recipes, sourced the ingredients, etc.
S. Green (NY)
@lenni Absolutely agree, underwhelming. For something truly extraordinary the slices at Mama Too are something to go out of your way for.
Jam (Indianapolis)
Yuck....where is regular everyday food?
Ground Control (Los Angeles)
@Jam In Indianapolis?
Abraham (DC)
Super-size me.
Mia (Oakland, CA)
That perfect burger pictured, although it looks delectable served with steak fries, is listed on the menu as being served with frites – which they're not.
Jeff Verkouille (Raton NM)
I've got to echo the other commentators: these are all epic fails on price. I get it, I've still got friends in NYC and return to visit when I can. The city is expensive. Still not carving out space for at least one decent deal for a regular New Yorker is a bit insane. $6 for a pizza slice? These may be great deals for wealthy folks, but plenty of city residents are on a budget, not least because of rent and other fixed costs. How about an almost as good but actually reasonably priced for what you get alternative? I think this article could have been vastly improved by including reasonably priced alternatives for each meal.
michael h (new mexico)
@Jeff Verkouille Having lived in New Mexico for more than 20 years, I can speak with some authority about “bargain” meals in a state with lots of people on a limited income. In short, I would rather have a six dollar slice of outstanding pizza than an eight or nine dollar combo meal from a New Mexico drive-thru. The former will taste good, likely be made with quality ingredients, and be memorable. The latter: (well, you must know the rest of the story)
moondoggie (Southern California)
@Jeff Verkouille I was not surprised but still shocked as I perused Pete's 2019 second tier review. My wife bets that you can get a deal in the Bronx, though.
berman (Orlando)
@Jeff Verkouille The article states $3.75/$4.00 for a slice.
Pabs (Vienna VA)
No plant-based food is good enough for New Yorkers?
mbg14 (New Jersey)
@Pabs these are Pete's personal picks, not necessarily New Yorkers
Dan (SF)
Anyone who considers an over-stuffed burger too big to fit in a normal person’s mouth that is accompanied by THREE French fries “the best” is clearly and outrageously off-base.
Nancy Combs (Seattle)
@Dan But those fries are big!
Matt (San Francisco)
@Dan That burger is a piece of sculpture. If it was sliced into three parts horizontally each of those pieces would STILL be too big to fit in a normal person's mouth. I don't see how it would be successfully consumed. It seems that one would have to cut it up into pieces ( maybe forty or so? ) and then eat them with a big soup spoon. American cheese? The coup de grâce. How soignée.
Leon (NYC)
@Dan, of all the dishes, I am hungry for that burger...
Gig (Spokane)
22 bucks for a burger? Did I miss the part where it comes with two pints of beer?
George (Virginia)
Ah, very NY. $22 burgers with three fries. Right.
Ronald (Lansing Michigan)
@George I’d give them $7.00.
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
I tentatively agree with Mr. Wells on clam chowder and gruyere fritters, but never on pizza. Bon appétit to all New York gourmets!
michael h (new mexico)
Why are the “best of” food reviews for New York so much more hunger inducing than the West Coast counterpart? Simplicity? Anyway, I want the burger, the pastele, and the gruyere stuffed churros. Now!!!
Bello (Western Mass)
@michael Me too!
John Dietsch (West Palm Beach FL)
@michael h Me, I'll take the chowder. Don't get no here in sunny south Florida (ok, conch chowder, but still).
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
I can hardly believe my eyes that this article was written by Mr. Wells. Pizza again?! It lacks only a return to ubiquitous chicken, turkey, hamburger, and peanut butter. But what is there to expect of NYC, the US capital of multinational cuisines, that has succumbed to the militant vegans and banned duck pâté de foie gras? Sic transit gloria boni saporis = So passes the glory of good taste, according to the English-Latin Internet translator.
Fritz Raim (NorCal)
Why quibble? Dead Meat is Dead Meat. ZZZzzzzzzzzzz...
Andrew S (Sydney)
Given most of the dishes contain meat I hardly think NYC has succumbed to the “militant vegans”. In my experience also, there is a cornucopia of delicious food available without having to torture a duck.
Palmer (Va)
@Fritz Raim And rude comments from Vegans still abound.....
See also