As a New York native, I’m already positive that it’s the best place in the world. Not only do we have the greatest city in the history of the world located at the southern tip, but we’ve actually made hella contributions to the food world. Get your pom poms up if you’re a native New Yorker like me, and if not, get ready to bow down. Here are 25 things that y’all need to stop taking for granted and thank New York for.
For you college kids, this is an especially important one. Without Jell-O, we’d have no Jell-O shots, no festive Fourth of July treats, and no fruit wedge Jell-O shots to spice up your drinkin’ experience.
Although the origin of gelatin desserts is unknown, the desserts date back to Napoleon’s reign and were both expensive and time-consuming to make. However, New York comes in with Knox, an American gelatin company in Johnston, NY, who decided to make the switch from sheets of gelatin into powdered gelatin.
Pearle Wait, a carpenter, began experimenting with the odd power and eventually added fruit flavors to it, creating what we now know today as Jell-O. The formula was sold to Orator Frank Woodward, owner of the Genesee Pure Foods Company. The product started a revolution – anyone could now make gelatin food for just pennies (dollars now). So next time you’re making (and taking) Jell-O shots for your night out, make sure to take an extra one to thank New York for its good work.
2. Club Sandwich
The club sandwich, a quintessential American dish, is stuffed with chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. The brilliance of this delicious sandwich is all thanks to the Saratoga Club-House, a gentlemen’s gambling club in Saratoga Springs, where it first appeared in 1894.
The sandwich continued to gain its popularity as it popped up in various cookbooks over the years including the 1903 edition of “Good Housekeeping Everyday Cookbook.” Now, it’s in every diner. Clearly New York’s been full of foodies for hundreds of years.
3. The Potato Chip
The potato chip is a classic while we’re growing up and an even more classic college student food. Whether we eat them for breakfast, dinner, drunchies, or during 2 am hunger pangs, we all indulge in potato chips at some time or another during our college experience.
In 1853, Native American George Crum worked as a chef in a resort in Saratoga Springs. A guest of the hotel claimed that Crum’s French fries were too thick for his liking and sent them back. Crum, feeling quite agitated, decided to piss his guest off by making fries that were too thin and crisp for a fork to pick up. However, the guest ended up drooling over these “fries,” creating the birth of the potato chip. Sometimes bad things happen for good reasons.
4. Reuben Sandwich
For those of you who aren’t New Yorkers and don’t keep up with classic delis, a reuben is an American sandwich stuffed with corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on Rye bread.
The Reuben came about one evening in the 1920s when the star of a Broadway show came into Reuben’s Restaurant and Delicatessen and asked the owner’s son to make her a sandwich because she was “so hungry [she] could eat a brick.” The result of her hunger pangs was a sandwich piled high with deliciousness – what we now call “a Reuben sandwich.” Thank goodness for hungry Broadway stars.
5. The Cronut®
The Cronut® is a brilliant mix between a croissant and donut. The pastry is fried, sugared, filled and glazed. Time Magazine named the delicacy as one of the “25 best inventions” of 2013.
This incredible invention was created in 2013, when Dominique Ansel hoped to bake a delicious new item to add to his menu. When he realized that he didn’t have any donuts on the menu, he began to work with the croissant recipe that he had. Eventually, he created a dough which baked into a pastry with a flaky, fried outer layer that was perfect to add fillings into.
After a blogger from Grub Street tried the Cronut® and reported about it quite positively, the pastries began to fly off the shelves and bakeries around the country (and world) began to follow behind Dominique Ansel’s brilliancy.
6. Eggs Benedict
Since New York is known highly for its food (and especially its brunch) it only makes sense that they’d be the creator of this incredibly famous brunch delicacy. This delicious brunch dish consists of an English muffin topped with bacon and a poached egg, drizzled with hollandaise sauce. Heaven in a bite.
The famous dish came about in 1894 when Lemuel Benedict, a Wall Street Broker, ordered “some buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs, and a hooker of hollandaise sauce” to sooth his hangover at the Waldorf Hotel. We thank you for your hangover, Lemuel.
7. NY Style Pizza (Coal Oven Pizza)
New York’s cheesy, well-known pizza had to start somewhere. There’s a reason no matter where you are in the United States, there’s a restaurant trying to mimic our delectable slices.
The history of pizza starts in lower Manhattan in 1905 when Gennaro Lombardi acquired the very first license in the US to sell pizza. Lombardi was originally from Italy but had come to America with the hopes of baking and selling pizza. After getting his license, he opened America’s first real pizza business at 53 Spring Street, cooking only a classic tomato and mozzarella cheese pizza in a coal-fired oven. Gennaro, you started a revolution.
8. The Hot Dog
What’s more summer than a hot dog at a BBQ? In fact, hot dogs are one of America’s most symbolic foods, but what makes them even better is that they come from our very own New York.
During the 1870s, German immigrant Charles Feltman began selling sausages on rolls on Coney Island. In approx. 1906, carts began selling hot dogs around the city – 2 for 5 cents. That was the good life, amirite?
9. Fried Chicken & Waffles
A personal breakfast favorite of mine, chicken and waffles gets the job done when you’re craving sweet and salty, breakfast and lunch – you don’t even have to begin to make the decision.
This weird (but f*cking amazing) combo was first created in Harlem, New York in the 1930s. The idea came about when famous celebrities couldn’t decide between breakfast and lunch at the late hours of the night – so they got both. Brilliant, I know.
What would America do without the burger? What would we do without Shake Shack, Burger King and In N’ Out? The burger has become a classic American food, and it’s all thanks to German immigrants in New York.
Although the actual hamburger patty was made first in Hamburg, Germany, the sandwich concept was created around the time that German immigrants began arriving in New York and opening many of their own restaurants. During the Industrial Revolution, factory workers were served Hamburg steaks from food carts – but since they were so difficult to eat while standing, one brilliant cook sandwiched the patty between two slices of bread, thus creating what we now call the hamburger.
11. Bread Knives
Since Americans are so fond of bread, shouldn’t we think the brilliant mind behind the bread knife?
In 1893, Joseph E. Burns of Syracuse, New York created a knife design with sections of grooves that formed individual cutting edges, creating a knife that cut with extra pressure – essentially cutting bread like a saw – keeping the cut clean and straight. Gooood call Joseph.
America runs on Dunkin Donut’s drive thru at 7 am, McDonald’s for lunch and Panera for dinner. Drive thrus keep us moving as fast and speedy as we do here in America – and it all started in New York.
In the late 1940s, Merchants National Bank and Trust Company created the first “drive-in bank” in Syracuse, New York. Although it wasn’t food, the bank started a precursor for one of America’s most valued facets today. Burger King, In N’ Out, and many others followed quickly after.
13. Chewing Gum
Chewing gum is essential in all of our lives. Whether we’re chewing it to entertain our taste buds or to freshen up in just a couple of seconds, we’d be lost without it.
Chewing gum was first produced in the 1860s when former Mexican president, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, brought chicle from Mexico to New York where he gave it to Thomas Adams as a rubber substitute. However, Adams found a better use for the chicle – chewing gum.
Chicle was cut into strips and sold as “Adams New York Chewing Gum” in 1871. Eventually, synthetic chewing gum took over, but Thomas Adams was brilliant enough to understand the importance and need of chewing gum.
14. Waldorf Salad
The Waldorf salad stands as a light meal or quick snack at lunch, something we’d expect the famous Blair Waldorf to order for her lunch on the steps of the Met. The salad is made of apples, celery and walnuts on a bed of lettuce dressed with mayo. Since it has originated, it has expanded quite a bit and has room for plenty of additions (like chicken or craisins).
The salad was created in the 1890s at the Waldorf Hotel (what we know now as the Waldorf-Astoria) by Oscar Tschirky, one of the hotels maitre d’hotels. It first appeared in cookbook “The Cook Book” by “Oscar of the Waldorf” in 1896.
If anything in our childhood was worth remembering, it’s Entenmann’s soft chocolate chip cookies, blueberry Little Bites and delectable chocolate frosted cakes. If you’re ever craving any carb-y sweets, Entenmann’s has got you.
Entenmann’s originated over 100 years ago in New York City when William Entenmann, a baker from Germany, opened a bakery on Rogers Ave in Brooklyn that he eventually moved to Bay Shore, Long Island. In time, William’s son, William Jr., took over, and the bakery flourished – even Frank Sinatra was a weekly customer.
In 1951, William Jr. died, but his wife and children kept the bakery going. They decided to focus on pastries and cake, beginning to supply grocery stores instead of delivering to local homes. The family invented the famous “see-through” cake box in 1959 (thank you, Entenmann fam).
In 1961, the business began to open more bakeries and even factories. The expansion nationally occurred in 1970. Since its first opening, the company has sold more than 700 million of its famous “all butter loaf cakes” among all of its other fabulously delicious goodies. Thanks Entenmann’s, for providing to us for our childhood, college-hood, and well, entire life.
16. Dean and Deluca
If you’re looking for a quote-on-quote “trendy” place to buy your groceries, Dean & Deluca has got you set. It should be no surprise that this shop first opened in SoHo, Manhattan.
The first Dean & DeLuca was opened in 1977 by Giorgio DeLuca, a “school teacher turned cheese merchant” and Joel Dean, a publishing business manager. In 1988, the second market was opened at the corner of Broadway and Prince, continued by several other locations around New York and Washington D.C.
We’ve all chased a shot with an Arizona iced tea at some point in our high school and college lives. Common, if you haven’t, you’re kinda falling behind – although your chaser choice could definitely be better… or worse.
Arizona Beverage opened when John Ferolito and Don Vultaggio opened a beverage distribution business in Brooklyn in 1971. However, the company mostly distributed beer. In 1990, the two saw the success of Snapple’s bottled juices and teas and decided to produce their own product. In 1992, they made the first bottles of Arizona tea. Nothing better than some friendly competition to create something legendary.
Ice cream is essential in every person’s (especially college kids) daily life. What would we do to survive finals week, heartbreak, and drunchies without dulche de leche, butter pecan and dark chocolate almond Häagen-Dazs?
Thanks to Reuben Mattus, we’ll never have to know. Mattus, who lived with his uncle in Brooklyn after WWI, worked with his family making (and delivering) ice pops, chocolate-covered ice cream bars and sandwiches under the company name “Senator Frozen Products.”
In the 1950s, however, large mass-produced ice cream companies began to push Mattus’s family ice cream business out of the running. So, in 1959, he decided to form a new company with a Danish-sounding name: Häagen-Dazs. Since then, the famous Häagen-Dazs has been providing us high-quality ice cream for our high-quality needs.
19. Hebrew National
If the hot dog wasn’t a good enough creation, us New Yorkers also created a high-quality brand to sell the delicacies in bulk.
The company was founded on the Lower East Side in 1905 by Theodore Krainin, a Russian immigrant. Hebrew National served Jewish neighborhoods in Manhattan and quickly developed a well-liked reputation by them.
However, the company was eventually purchased by Isadore Pines, a Jewish Romanian immigrant butcher. Isadore’s son quickly took over the business, creating the slogan “We answer to a higher authority” – referencing and respecting Jewish dietary laws and the high quality of the products themselves that appealed so many.
Today, the company sticks to recipes with as little artificial color and flavor as possible, making it so incredibly popular among the BBQers, dads, 7-year olds and of course, us college students, around the world.
20. T.G.I. Friday’s
There’s nothing more important than a prime, casual location to hold your girl’s night dinners, date nights with mom or just an escape from the caf. For someone like me (who goes to school in bumblef*ck), T.G.I. Friday’s is the perfect place to get my chicken wings and spinach dip fix.
T.G.I. Friday’s was opened in 1965 by a New Yorker with no restaurant business experience, Alan Stillman, who hoped to meet women. Stillman lived in the east side of Manhattan, where many airline stewardesses, fashion models, secretaries and other young, single women resided and he hoped to recreate an atmosphere like that of a cocktail party – comfortable, fun and exciting.
With $10,000 dollars, Stillman purchased a bar on the corner of 63rd and 1st Ave and named it T.G.I. Friday’s after the well-known expression “Thank God it’s Friday” (from his days at BucknellU – ‘RAY). The restaurant served American cuisine, bar food, and alcohol.
In 2004, I’d say just about the best burger joint in the history of the world originated in our very own New York. That’s right – that delectable ‘Shroom burger (a fried portobello burger stuffed with cheese), crinkle cut cheese fries, and black & white shake are from the one and only Shake Shack… that deserves a moment of silence.
The birth of Shake Shack began in 2000 when NYC began to rebuild Madison Square Park. As part of the rebuilding, restaurateur Danny Meyer established a hot dog cart, which eventually became incredibly popular with locals and tourists alike.
In 2004, NYC began searching for someone to open and operate a kiosk-style restaurant in the park. Meyer quickly offered to do the job and opened the first Shake Shack in the summer of 2004. The restaurant did not open with the intentions of becoming a chain restaurant, but as sales continued to grow, the business realized how much room (and money) there was for expansion.
Shake Shack is now incredibly popular in locations around the country. Its average store performance is over twice that of McDonald’s (with good reason). God bless Shake Shack.
22. Nathan’s Famous
For anyone who’s been to a sports game, you’ve had a Nathan’s hot dog alongside their perfectly fried crinkled French fries. Well that delicious concoction had to start somewhere – and it did – right on New York’s very own Coney Island.
Nathan’s first popped up as a tiny hot dog stand selling a hot dog for a nickel in Coney Island in 1916 (thank you, Nathan Handwerker, for your hard work). The hot dog recipe was created by Nathan’s wife, Ida, and Ida’s grandmother whipped up the “secret” spice recipe. The couple collected their $300 of life savings and started a small business that would soon expand to make history.
The expansion of Nathan’s was dealt with mostly by Nathan’s son, Murray. Branches in Oceanside and Yonkers opened and the company finally went public in 1968. In 1987, the company was franchised and a large number of establishments were opened around New York City and eventually around the country. Thanks Nathan’s, for providing me with a terribly unhealthy (but completely worth it) meal at every football and baseball game my dad drags me to.
New York’s famous cheesecake wouldn’t be the same if it couldn’t be purchased online, in local supermarkets, and of course, on the actual streets of Manhattan.
Junior’s story began in Downtown Brooklyn in 1929, when the Rosen family owned and ran a diner. In 1950, the diner changed its name to Junior’s where it began to create and serve its famous cheesecake and become an equalizer for all – good food and service meant more than the color of the customers’ skin in the 1960s.
Rosen and master baker Eigel Peterson teamed up to create the restaurant’s well-known cheesecake based on an old Rosen family recipe. While Junior’s is known best for its cheesecake, it also serves classic American dishes.
True story: In 1981, the restaurant caught on fire and a crowd of people surrounded it chanting “Save the Cheesecake” – you can tell us New Yorkers prioritize food over safety.
We’re voting pizza for president, right? Better yet, pizza from a pizza joint that’s become almost worldwide? That’s what I thought.
Sbarro was first opened in 1956 by Carmela and Gennaro Sbarro, Italian immigrants. The family also opened an Italian grocery store in Brooklyn which became extremely popular for its fresh Italian food. The success of the grocery store led to the opening of several locations across New York City and even in various shopping malls and can now be found in countries around the world. Pizza world takeover, am I right?
I can’t imagine there’s anything better than being told someone loves you through a large pile of fried rice. Food spreads love more than anything or anyone. And plus, who doesn’t love watching their food get prepared right in front of them? Thanks for the brilliant idea, Hiroaki Aoki.
In 1964 in New York City, 25-year-old Hiroaki Aoki, a wrestler, opened Benihana with $10,000 that he had earned driving an ice cream truck.
The company was founded in 1964 on West 56th Street in New York City by 25-year-old Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki. His concept was that the meals should be theatrically prepared – funny and entertaining whilst cooking at a hibachi-style barbecue grill.
The restaurant failed at first until 1965, when a writer for the New York Herald Tribune raved about it. Even celebrities like The Beatles and Muhammad Ali tried the newly-popular restaurant. Within a year, Aoki expanded and opened a bigger restaurant. In 1968, he opened his first restaurant outside of NYC in Chicago. Today, there are over 60 locations around the country and even more that have mimicked the entertaining cooking style that Aoki introduced – we love hibachi almost as much as we love Aoki.
Xoxo, a New York native who wants everyone to appreciate the best state in the USA.