I like to eat. But I’m by no means a gourmet. I like to try international foods, and I especially like foods that are quick and cheap. Therefore, New York was basically heaven. And New York has pretty stringent food safety standards, so I saw nothing sketchy about getting something from a truck. In China, however … I’m way more cautious and therefore less adventurous. It’s a shame. Maybe once I’m sure my stomach has turned to steel again I’ll venture out more.
Anyhow, here are four of the foods I really, really miss from good ol’ New York City. To me, these foods are quintessentially New York.
1. Supermarket Sushi – The first time I had sushi was in New York. To be honest, I’ve never had real proper sushi, just the sushi that comes in a little plastic box and can be found in virtually every supermarket (at least every New York supermarket). The first few times I was a bit iffy, but after a while I fell in love. Especially because it’s so darn easy to eat. And one cannot live on deli sandwiches alone.
2. Dirty Water Dogs – Err … yeah. Normally I don’t call them “dirty water dogs” (my friend A likes to call them that). I do admit they’re a bit disgusting, but I like them! I only partake sometimes though! Too often and I’d probably keel over before I turned 30. Those little hot dog carts are everywhere and a hot dog is usually only a buck (some places charge up to two, which is a ripoff). By no means am I saying that they’re good, but after a day of museum hopping or shopping, nothing hits the spot like a classic American hot dog. Ketchup only, please.
However, if you’re looking for a really good hot dog, you can’t go wrong with New York hot dog staples like Gray’s Papaya (classic, LOVE), Crif Dogs (good dogs with good flavor options – like bacon), or Asia Dog (artisan dogs with trippy Asian toppings … kimchi, anyone?).
3. Falafel Sandwich – Otherwise known as falafel on pita, this is the classic food truck food. Again, these trucks can in no way compare to places like Mamoun’s Falafel in Greenwich Village, but is Mamoun’s on every street corner? Nope. You can’t beat the convenience of grabbing a four-dollar falafel sandwich on your way to school (at the truck a block from your apartment), or leaving work (a block from your office), or between classes (at either gate of your university), et cetera. In addition to the falafel sandwiches, these halal trucks all serve the standard fare of falafel, chicken, or lamb on rice.
4. Bagels – Last but definitely not least, the bagels. I always thought people were overstating how great New York’s bagels were. I concede that I was wrong on that point. THE BAGELS ARE AMAZING. Once I discovered the amazing-ness of a real New York hand-rolled water-boiled bagel, I couldn’t turn back. How could I have been so naive as to buy those prepackaged supermarket bagels? Ugh. The only downside is that you gotta eat these fresh, so you can’t get these on the street (do not buy a bagel from a food cart – it’s soooo not the same) and it’s more of a morning food than an all-day everywhere thing.
I usually go with a plain bagel or sometimes asiago cheese if the place has it, no spread or toasting. Oh, and pair a bagel with a Greek frap (aka frappé) and I’m in heaven. Best place to go for the combo? New York City Bagel and Coffee House (NYCBCH) in Astoria, Queens. Absolute Bagels on the UWS is also great, but unfortunately no fraps there.
And most unfortunate of all? New York doesn’t have any of this. Well, they have poor imitations of these things and they probably have really good real sushi … but it just ain’t the same. Sigh.