Expectations for culinary diversity and excellence are high. Which is why this ever-evolving food space makes dining out in the city so exciting. From jet black cocktails to the lesser-known grasshopper taco, we’re taking you on a journey through New York City’s most unexpected eats. A culinary tour of the city is an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone in the most delicious way yet.
1. Savory Donuts
New York proves that donuts are a blank canvas for more than just chocolate glazes and sprinkles. The Donut Project, for example, is famous for their everything bagel donuts with sweet cream cheese glaze, poppy seeds, and pepitas roasted with garlic and salt. They also turn out a black pepper and olive oil donut worth filling up a baker’s dozen. Mochinut, a shop serving Hawaiian-style donuts that combine both American and Japanese techniques, has creative donut offerings like black sesame. And Pop Pasta takes it a step further with pasta donuts: spaghetti noodles shaped into donuts, fried, and flavored with classics like carbonara or cacio e pepe.
2. Sushi & Ramen Burgers
A few spots in the city are using the burger concept to rearrange some of the most typical dishes. Red Eye grill, along with their traditional sushi menu, serves a sushi burger that’s quickly become a crowd favorite. Think spicy yellowfin tuna, pickled ginger, avocado, and wakame salad sandwiched between sticky rice “buns” and topped with sesame. Ramen is getting the burger treatment too in NYC. At Ramen Burger you can get a juicy burger patty stuffed into two thick rounds of crispy ramen noodles.
3. Bold Ice Cream Flavors
Ice cream has always been a vessel for culinary creativity, and ice cream shops in New York like Oddfellows are doing just that. They’ve become known for their out-of-the-carton ice cream flavors, like miso peanut butter brownie or the highly eccentric pork sausage with chorizo caramel. Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream also serves a jet black charcoal ice cream made from burnt coconuts, and Dominique Ansel Kitchen is whipping up scoops with silky Italian burrata cheese. You can also make your way to Soft Swerve for ube (a starchy purple potato) soft serve served in a homemade red cinnamon cone.
4. Rainbow Grilled Cheese
The New York transplants at Toastieland, an Australian bakehouse, are frying up Instagram-worthy sandwiches with one special and unexpected ingredient: rainbow cheese. Toasties, which are essentially the Australian version of an American grilled cheese, are layered on with a colorful Australian cheese that stretches across into a gooey rainbow when you pull apart the freshly toasted sandwich. The Rainbow Toasties, as they’re called, have a cute little smiley face seared onto the bread and some versions are coated in sprinkles, also known as “fairy bread.”
5. Funky Adult Beverages
Cocktails are bold and exciting in New York City, whether it’s the use of unexpected ingredients or surprising glassware. At Death Ave, bartenders mix up drinks like the Blank Ink Martini with sweet vermouth, distilled grape liqueur, a greek liqueur called mastiha, and yes, black squid ink to give it that mirky, mysterious look and an ocean-like flavor. Or, head to Thursday Kitchen where they’re serving adult versions of childhood throwbacks called Capri-Thursdays: cocktail pouches served like Capri Suns with tropical flavors, bright colors, and light up LED ice cubes.
6. Cultivated Meat
Folks in New York are all about experiencing the next big idea in food, be it the next crave-worthy combination or simply an out-of-the-box flavor. It is part of what makes New York the perfect place to try cultivated meat. If someone is dishing out novel eats and innovative dishes, New Yorkers will be there—cultivated meat included.
1. Cheeto Macarons
At first glance, everything seems perfectly ordinary at the Macron Parlor, with its dainty French cookies in an array of lovely pastels and delicate designs. But take a step closer and you’ll notice one particular flavor that’s a bit out of place: Cheeto. The bakers and owners of Macaron Parlor are known for their sweet and savory cheesy chip macaron made with a cheesy Cheeto-infused wafer, Valrhona white chocolate ganache, and a salty Cheeto dusting.
2. Edible Insects
People around the world have been eating insects for years, but it’s just now coming into high-end gastronomy, and in a whole new way. In New York City, the Mexican restaurant Toloache is famous for their addicting chapulines tacos, or crispy fried grasshopper tacos topped with onions, cilantro, jalapeños, and a punchy salsa verde. Or check out the Black Ant’s tlayudas, a Oaxacan-style crunchy tortilla smothered in guacamole and dusted with ant salt.
3. Broccoli Hot Dog
The hot dog carts lining the streets of Manhattan tell of New York’s love affair with the frankfurter. But chefs like Amanda Cohen are reimagining beef franks and looking to plants to replicate their flavors. Her restaurant, Dirt Candy, is famous for their smoked and sauteed broccoli hot dogs which mimic the textures and flavors of the all-American dish. Where else can you get this kind of wild plant-based snack? Try skipping the streetside frank and go green instead.
4. Beef Hearts
For those adventurous eaters fond of organ meat, a must-try is Peruvian anticuchos. Anticuchos are grilled, veal heart skewers marinated in Peruvian ají chili, and are traditionally served with boiled potatoes and choclo corn. Taste them for yourself at Peruvian restaurants around the city, like the traditional Peruvian haunt, Urubamba, or at Pio Pio 6 in Manhattan.
Filipino food has made quite the splash in the past few years, and New York is no exception. A popular delicacy in Filipino cuisine is what’s called balut, a fertilized duck egg sold from small carts on the streets throughout the country. The eggs are steamed and eaten straight from the shell and taste somewhere between chicken and a gamier version of a boiled egg. Order balut at Filipino spots like Dollar Hits in Queens, or at the Filipino-Japanese fusion concept, Gugu Room.
New York City is a culinary wonderland full of unexpected and unique foods that reflect its diverse cultural landscape. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, you’re bound to discover a new flavor that will leave a lasting impression. So don’t be afraid to venture out of your culinary comfort zone and try something new in this food lover’s paradise.