It takes a lot to live in New York City. It's even harder when you're homesick and you can't go across the street to your favorite hometown spot and eat your favorite hometown dish. I mean, how am I to find genuine Maryland Crab Cakes when I'm not back home in Baltimore?
How would someone from St. Louis get access to their precious Provel without leaving the outskirts of NYC? I'm here to show you how to find your piece of home right here in New York. Here's where to find some of America's best comfort foods in NYC.
1. Philadelphia Philly Cheesesteak: 99 Miles to Philly
This 3rd Ave spot is a cash-only hole in the wall-style sandwich shop that specializes in one Philadelphia powerhouse: the Philly cheesesteak. They have your classic cheese whiz and steak style, but they also have provolone, American, or even with no cheese! They also have a variety of meats and toppings and even a low-carb no-bread type situation.
However, it all comes down to their classic cheesesteak. As a previous resident of Pennsylvania and a lover of cheesesteaks, I understand the difficulty in finding a genuine cheesesteak outside of Philly. 99 miles, however, is so true to Philly, they even import bread typically used for cheesesteaks in Philly from the famed Philly bakery Amoroso's!
2. Pittsburgh Pierogies: Veselka
Since 1954, this 24-hour Ukrainian Village staple has sat on the corner of 2nd Ave and 9th St serving up everything from goulash to stroganoff to some killer pierogies. A large, diner-style seating area (counter included) invites you in for a nice warm bowl of borscht.
You really can't go wrong at Veselka, whether it's a late night drunken pierogie parade, or a mid-morning hungover craving for potato pancakes and kielbasa. Veselka will welcome you the Ukrainian way at anytime of day.
3. New England Lobster Roll: Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co.
Cold lobster. Hot brioche bun. These are the components of a classic New England lobster roll. Some debate it as just lobster and warm butter, but it's my understanding that you can't find a better lobster roll than at the restaurant, market, and raw bar Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. in Brooklyn. They're a local fishermen-based joint that wants to provide what the land can give.
4. Boston Clam Chowder: Grand Central Oyster Bar
The Grand Central Oyster Bar isn't just a restaurant in a train station for tourists. It's an institution. Since 1913, this restaurant has been serving up the city's freshest seafood, all while perched in the heart of the Grand Terminal. While their oyster variety is unbeatable, you really have to try their clam chowder.
5. Wisconsin Cheese Curds: Murray's Cheese Bar
Selling cheese since 1940, and serving cheese since 2012, this Bleecker St Bar O' Cheese has got all of your cheesy needs. From mac and cheese to raclette to fondue to their classic Buffalo cheese curds. In Wisconsin, you find cheese everywhere in every way. You find the same at Murray's, but instead of eating these at a Packers game back home, you can enjoy them on the cozy little corner of Bleecker St after a long dairy-less day.
6. Michigan Cherry Pie: Bubby's Pie Co.
Known for its attention to comfort food, Bubby's has been open since 1990 and serves everything from grits to apple pie. This place is all about showcasing the wonderful bounty America has to offer, all from its locations in Tribeca and on the Highline.
What they really do well though is pie. They take their pie so seriously you have to order whole pies 24 hours in advance for pickup. They do wedding pies, and they'll even ship pie anywhere in the US. What's special is their sour cherry pie, made with real Michigan cherries!
7. Chicago Deep Dish: Emmett's
Emmett came to New York from Chicago and brought with him the pizza he felt New York needed: genuine Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Open since 2013, this slice of MacDougal St has been hopping with beer and essentially a bread pie every night! Step into Chicago without leaving NYC at Emmett's.
8. Pennsylvania Scrapple: Delaware and Hudson
Scrapple is essentially fried pork mush. It's a Pennsylvania Dutch dish also known as "pan rabbit" and is a combination of pork scraps and spices. It's a meatloaf of sorts, and while it may sound unappealing, I can assure you scrapple and eggs will quickly become your perfect hangover cure.
The owner of Delaware and Hudson, Patti Jackson, is a Pennsylvania native and she serves scrapple with pride at her old-fashioned Brooklyn restaurant. If scrapple isn't all you want, she also serves house-smoked Pennsylvania trout, hoagies, wimpies, and even non-Pennsylvania treats like funnel cake and cream soda.
9. Maryland Crab Cakes: Chez Josephine
As a Marylander myself, I understand how difficult it is to find good crab cakes outside of the Chesapeake. Seriously, you'd be surprised. However, Chez Josephine's take on them take the cake, literally.
This classic French cross between bar, cafe, and cabaret includes live music, French women on the walls, and some truly delicious food. It's a classy spot to take parents in Midtown, and a classy spot where you can get away with eating snails and crabs that are actually delicious.
10. North Carolina Pulled Pork: Arrogant Swine
There is a history to Carolina whole hog barbecue. Tyson Ho values the history and fulfills his need for it in NYC by serving it up in Brooklyn at his BBQ joint Arrogant Swine. It's not just a bar-style BBQ spot, it's also a 3,000 square foot beer garden. With your pork and beer, you can also get vinegar slaw, collard greens, and all the fixins'. Oh, and don't worry, you can order an entire pig.
11. Georgia Chicken N' Waffles: Amy Ruth's
Established in 1998 in real Harlem with real love in the form of carbs, carbs, chicken, and more carbs. Voted #2 best fried chicken in the country, Amy Ruth's fried chicken is the only place you should go beside your family's kitchen for some real soul food.
You'll find family-style seating and large tables to fit not just all the food, but your family before and after you eat it. You can't go wrong when you're eating at a place named after a real life southern Grandma.
12. Cuban Sandwich: La Flor de Broadway
My roommate is from Miami. She cares about Cuban sandwiches. I've had one good Cuban sandwich in my life, and that was south of Miami at a small family run shop on the side of the road. It sounds simple: Cuban bread, ham, pork, cheese, pickle chips, and mustard. What matters is how you assemble and how you prepare.
Luckily, La Flor de Broadway's got it right. This Harlem sandwich shop has come to be known as the place to get a good Cuban, all because of their attention to detail.
13. Louisiana Beignet: Infirmary NYC
Red booths, brick walls, long bars, and hot beignets. In the Upper East Side, you can find Cajun food, cocktails, and a good time at this NOLA-inspired restaurant and bar. You can find lunch, brunch, dinner, and even a special "Sunday Supper" with all of your Louisiana faves: gumbo, po' boys, red beans and rice, and mouthwatering beignets.
14. Kentucky Hot Brown: Bar Americain
A Louisville lovefest can be found in the form of an openfaced turkey sandwich served at Bobby Flay's Bar Americain. Now, this is an upscale joint, so it may not be suitable for late-night hot brown needs, but it's definitely the place to take anyone on their way to a show in Midtown who wants a piece of Kentucky cooking before experiencing Midtown at its fullest.
It's also truly an American bar where you can find full, spacious seating with staples from across the country. It's a good place to take your friends visiting from around the country who all need something from home.
15. Ohio Cincinnati Chili: Edward's
First of all, there's indoor and outdoor seating in this Tribeca American bistro. Edward's is already a classic American booth and counter top-style diner with everything under the sun. However, one magical night a month they serve Cincinnati chili. Made with real Skyline chili, this dish is simple and fantastic—chili and cheese, served on top of perfectly cooked spaghetti. It's a simple pleasure, and when done right, it can make your day.
16. Minneapolis Juicy Lucy: Whitmans
You want a burger stuffed with cheese and cooked to perfection? You don't have to be in Minneapolis at the actual Juicy Lucy to get one. All you have to do is make your way to the East Village on 9th St and walk into Whitmans.
This burger is also not your average angus beef. Their Juicy Lucy is made with a beef short rib stuffed with pimento cheese. Once you bite in, it's a river of dairy wrapped in tender goodness. If that isn't how you'd describe the Midwest, then you've never been embraced by a Minnesotan.
17. St. Louis Provel: Speedy Romeo
Their first try compared to most recent Provel. The #GlowUp is REAL. Provel is a combination of cheeses originating in St Louis. The dish with Provel is this pizza with jalapeños. It can be found only at Speedy Romeo in Brooklyn. Speedy Romeo alone is a great pizza joint with wood-fired pizza and an open oven, but what sets them apart is their Provel. They even import the cheese from St Louis!
18. Texas Brisket: Mighty Quinn's BBQ
Where did I go on Mardi Gras? Mighty Quinn's. I got four things: brisket, a sausage sandwich, potato salad, and mac and cheese. That brisket was gone faster than you could spell D-A-M-N. Hugh Mangum is a Houston native who handles the pit at this fine establishment, and his brisket means business. It's a drier style barbecue with some real southwestern spice. Mighty Quinn's black interior and serious spice bring a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Don't Mess With Texas."
19. SoCal Fish Tacos: Los Tacos No. 1
Chelsea Market is a hub of great food right on 9th Ave off of the Highline. It's a pretty popular spot too, considering every time I go there it seems to have half of NYC's residents wanting breakfast, lunch, supper, or a snack. I understand why though, especially at the taco stand Los Tacos No. 1.
There's always a line, and for good reason. It was started by three friends from California, Mexico, and Tijuana. They care about the culture, and they care about the ingredients. And that's all you need for a good taco.
20. San Francisco Bread Bowl: Lobster Place
Next stop in Chelsea Market: Lobster Place. First thing's first, it's basically fish market inside of a market. San Fran bread bowls contain anything your heart desires, and at Lobster Place, you not only get local seafood chowder, but bread from right across the hall at Amy's Bread.
21. Washington Cedar-Plank Salmon: Blue Water Grill
You're at Union Square. You're from Washington State. You need good salmon and you need it now. Salmon is so important in the northwest that it's served on a plank of 100% cedar wood. Blue Water Grill is the perfect place to get your fix.
22. Hawaiian Spam Musubi: Onomea
First of all, if you're here all the way from Hawaii, then you deserve your spam, and you deserve it along with lots of other Hawaiian dishes from this Brooklyn spot.
You'll find not just Musubi, but Loco Moco, poke, and even pig and cabbage! This minimalist Brooklyn restaurant prides itself in its authentic Hawaiian cuisine.
That about wraps it up for this list of comfort foods in NYC. I hope you found what you're looking for, or maybe even found something you've never seen before. Why not explore the US within one city?