Last updated on May 30th, 2022 at 05:08 pm
When it comes to the best street food in New York City, one of the first things that comes to mind is hot dogs. Said to have been invented in 1867 by a German immigrant named Charles Feltman of Coney Island, hot dogs are sold from carts all over NYC. But New York street food is more than just a hot dog on a bun. And for the sheer variety alone, nobody does street food better than New York City.
So, let’s forget about those Michelin-starred restaurants, historic delis, and fine-dining establishments for a minute. If it’s an unforgettable Big Apple food experience you want, you can have it right on the street. With immigrants coming from the world’s six continents—seven if you include the penguins from Antarctica in the Bronx Zoo—the ‘city’ that never sleeps is a patchwork of ethnic enclaves. Naturally, New York’s multiculturalism is reflected in everything you can find in the city, including its food—especially its food.
Guide to Street Food in New York City
Whether you’re a foodie who’s just landed at JFK, or you’re grabbing bus tickets from Boston to NYC for a weekend away, you’re in for a treat. Exploring the Big Apple in search of the ultimate street food adventure is a gratifying experience. The city’s street food scene is vibrant; finding great street food can be as easy as turning a street corner.
Below is your guide to some of the best street food in New York City:
NY Dosas began serving vegetarian South Indian food in Washington Square Park in 2001. Since then, this humble food outlet has become a fixture in Greenwich Village, a local legend frequented by locals and visitors alike. Their dosa—a Tamil crepe made from rice and fermented lentils paired with vegetables, sambar, and coconut chutney—is entirely vegan, wheat-free, gluten-free, and 100% incredible.
The food stall also offers other Indian fare, such as rotis and samosas, which are hits with locals and visitors alike. NY Dosas is one of New York’s best street foods, having won the Vendy Award in 2007 for the Best Street Cart. Prices start at around $9, and they’re open daily from 11 am to 3 pm. NY Dosas can be found near West 4th Street and Sullivan Street.
The Halal Guys
The Halal Guys began as a humble hot dog cart in 1990. They began catering to Muslim taxi drivers in New York when they noticed the scarcity of authentic halal food. Now, The Halal Guys has franchises across the US and all over the world. They even have sit-down restaurants in some cities.
The Halal Guys’ menu is distinctly Middle Eastern. They’re famous for their falafel sandwiches and chicken or beef gyros served over rice platters, with sauces that many swear are the closest to what heaven must taste like.
Makina Café is New York City’s first authentic Ethiopian-Eritrean food truck. Its owner and founder, Eden Egziabher, opened Makina Cafe in 2017, and it quickly became one of New York City’s most sought-after food trucks. The menu features sambusa, injera bread, gomen, and other exotic East African dishes.
They serve proteins like doro wot, a chicken stew slow-cooked with berbere spiced sauce, and the siga wot, a tender beef stew with caramelized onions and berbere sauce. They also offer vegetarian and gluten-free dishes.
Makina Café can be found near the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, on 30th Street in Long Island City, and in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. The food trucks are typically ready to serve customers from 11 am to 10 pm, Monday to Saturday. Prices start at around $13.
Sabrett Hot Dogs
No New York street food list would be complete without mentioning hot dogs. New Yorkers refer to them as ‘dirty water dogs,’ but don’t be scared—they’re not referring to hygiene. They’re referring to the water where the hot dogs are boiled, which turns murky.
Sabrett Hot Dogs stands, with their distinctive blue and yellow umbrellas, are found everywhere in the city, but you can find them easily in Central Park. A basic Sabrett Hot Dog in a bun with mustard and sauerkraut starts at $3.
You can’t talk about street food in New York without talking about pizza!
Pizza, as we know it in the United States, was brought here by Italian immigrants. The first U.S. pizzeria opened in New York City around 1905 at Lombardi’s in Little Italy.
Although pizza has evolved over the last 100+ years to suit changing tastes, it is still one of the most popular foods in the country–and New York is still known as the pizza capitol of the United States.
Even with such a wide variety of pizzerias and so many styles of pies to choose from, there are still some pizzerias that have ascended to icon status. Since it’s impossible to pick just one “best” pizza in all of New York City, check out this list of 29 pizza restaurants spanning all five boroughs. Every every pizza-loving American should put these on their bucket list.
New York City’s street food scene is among the most vibrant in the world. You can find virtually every ethnic food being sold on its streets, and our list is a good place to start on your street food tour. Indeed, the best way for tourists to get to know a city might just be by sampling its street food.
What’s your favorite street food in New York City? Leave us a comment below.