New York City is an eclectic mix of cultures and people that creates an extraordinarily unique place to live. However, what stands out more than the skyscrapers or the bustle of the city itself is the food. Save for Mexican food, New York City is home to a near perfect mix of food from around the world, and the gourmet cuisine from each country is noteworthy and worth every penny. However, despite the culinary prowess of these establishments, the best food that the city offers lies in its hot dog carts, bagel shops and pizza places — all for under five dollars.
In a city littered with grand bistros and Michelin-starred restaurants, the best food that can be bought here is still dirt-cheap and found on nearly every corner. No place in the world has quite mastered the hot dog in the manner that New York has. Sitting in steaming water that hasn’t been changed in about two decades, a hot sausage served with a few onions and mustard remains the pinnacle of Manhattan dining. As the costs of living and food in the city keep increasing, nothing will ever beat the pure ecstasy of biting into a piping hot slice of 99 cent pizza at three in the morning or a toasted bagel with cream cheese the next morning. It is a tradition of NYU students to grab a slice at Joe’s or breakfast at Bagel Bob’s, and every person who lives in the city has their own spots that are just as unique and delicious. These foods continue to stand as pillars of the New York City identity in ways that no gourmet dish ever could. All great cities in the world, save for London, are filled with extraordinary high-end food worth shelling out dollars for, but not every city has food that is just as tasty for spare change in your pocket.
These iconic street foods are as synonymous with New York as the Empire State Building, and the tastes they cultivate are just as grand. No matter which new restaurant opens, whether it has a world-renowned chef or top quality ingredients, it will have to stand second to beat-up carts and hole-in-the-wall establishments serving food at comically low prices. The best food in New York will always be less than five dollars and taste like a million bucks.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 3 print edition. Email Thomas Price at [email protected]