When I say New York, you probably immediately think of good old NYC, right? Of course you do. After all, it’s the largest city in the United States, so it’s hard to miss.
However, despite popular belief, there is so much more to New York than just the Big Apple. Seriously, New York is a HUGE state. We’ve got Western New York, which has cities like Buffalo and Rochester. Then there’s the eastern side of the state with the Adirondack Park, a.k.a the largest publicly protected area in the United States (bigger than Yellowstone, heck yeah). And there’s plenty in between. I mean, if that doesn’t prove how big New York is, then I don’t know what does.
And New York City may very well be a foodie’s paradise with its treasure troves of cuisine waiting on every street corner, but the rest of New York certainly does not starve. We have some unique delicacies of our own. Here are 11 foods from upstate that the rest of us New Yorkers are excited to eat when we return home.
1. Garbage Plates
Despite the name, garbage plates are delicious and adored by upstate New Yorkers young and old. This delicacy originated in Rochester at a joint called Nick Tahou Hots. If you’ve never had one, here’s what you can look forward to: a layer of home fries next to macaroni salad or baked beans, topped with burgers or hotdogs then slathered in meat sauce, onions and sometimes cheese. Time to break out the stretchy pants.
2. Buffalo Wings
Sure, you can get wings at any sports bar in America. But until you have eaten wings in Buffalo, New York, you have not had an authentic Buffalo wing. Check out Anchor Bar, the birthplace of the Buffalo wing, to chow down on the best wings of your life. Don’t forget the blue cheese.
3. Salt Potatoes
Taste a little piece of upstate New York history by indulging in salt potatoes. These babies were the primary food of the Irish immigrants who mined salt in the Syracuse region of New York. Even today, salt potatoes are beloved by natives of the region. So simple, yet so delectable.
4. Chicken Riggies
Chicken Riggies are the cornerstone of Italian-American cooking in Utica, New York. And good luck finding this dish outside of upstate New York. Many restaurants lay claim to its origin, but each one relies on the same basic ingredients: Rigatoni pasta, chicken, hot and sweet peppers, tomato cream sauce and Italian spices. The best part about the dish? It’s a breeze to replicate at home.
Binghamton, New York truly spoke to the hearts of carb and protein lovers when they created this dish. What is a spiedie, you might ask? It consists of chunks of meat that have been marinated in a zippy marinade for 1 to 3 days, grilled and then laid on a thick bread roll. No condiments necessary, it’s that good.
6. Utica Greens
Many cultures have versions of boring braised greens, but in upstate New York, we have Utica Greens. And these have much more character. This spicy mix of bitter greens piled high with hot peppers, cheese and Italian cured meats is enough to make any kid want to eat their vegetables. Like Chicken Riggies, Utica Greens showcase the Italian-American heritage of Utica, New York.
7. Thousand Island Dressing
Ranch dressing? Nah. Italian dressing? Forget it. In upstate New York, we prefer Thousand Island dressing. This mayonnaise-based dressing can include any number of ingredients, including ketchup, chili sauce, sugar, vinegar, pickles, orange juice and the list goes on. Originating in Clayton-Alexandria Bay, this dressing will always be offered to you by an upstate New Yorker.
8. Peppermint Pig
If an upstate New Yorker threw a Christmas party without a Peppermint Pig involved, did they really throw a Christmas party? This pink, peppermint confection even comes complete with a tiny hammer used to break it into pieces for everyone to share. It’s also a classic holiday gift in upstate New York.
9. Melba Sauce
Now Melba sauce is definitely not uniquely an upstate New York thing, but mozzarella sticks dipped in Melba sauce certainly is. Imagine pairing cheese and fruit together. The only difference here is that the cheese is fried and we all know everything is better when it is fried.
10. Sponge Candy
Sponge candy is a favorite in Buffalo, New York. For those who have not experienced this treat, it’s honeycomb toffee coated in a layer of rich chocolate. And if you’re still having trouble imagining it, think sugar dipped in chocolate. That has to be good. If wings are an iconic dinner in Buffalo, then this baby is the perfect dessert.
11. Stewart’s Ice Cream
You all probably have your favorite mom-and-pop ice cream place in your town but that’s not what this is. Stewart’s happens to be a gas station (yes, a gas station) in upstate New York and they are killing the ice cream game. Imagine creamy, rich ice cream served the perfect consistency every time in flavors such as Brownie Cookie Sundae and Peanut Butter Pandemonium. My mouth is watering.
So if you’re in the mood for something other than New York pizza or bagels, take a gander up north and find out what you’ve been missing out on. You just might be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.