Cheesecake is believed to have originated in ancient Greece by the Romans and later served to the athletes during the first Olympic Games held in 776 B.C. Apparently cheese making dates back even further! The earliest cheesecake recipes called for fresh curds, and thickened cream with eggs, responsible for the heavenly result of the thick center we look forward to in cheesecake today. Italian and German immigrants to New York brought their own recipes, some of which used cottage cheese or Farmer’s Cheese.

Over time, New Yorkers have raised the bar of NYC cheesecake making using original ingredients, but swapping out crusts for cookie crusts, adding unique toppers such as pistachio creme and even going as far as going vegan. With so many American innovations, cheesecake has become the signature dessert offering at steak houses, Italian restaurants, diners, and beloved bakeries in New York City. These are the 12 you gotta try before you die.  

1. Junior’s Fabulous Original Cheesecake

cream, dairy, dairy product, cheese, cheesecake, milk
Megan Peterson

First things first, start off as classic and traditional as possible to warm up for what else NYC has to offer. A slice of Junior’s Fabulous Original Cheesecake is as classic as it gets. Having a velvety vanilla cake crust the actual cheese cake part is both thick and creamy. It sticks to the roof of your mouth just as you want cheesecake to do so!

They have been making Junior's cheesecake the same way since 1950, that includes premium cream cheese, fresh heavy cream, eggs, and a touch of vanilla.

2. Billy's Bakery's Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Cheesecake

pretzel, pastry, sweet, cream, cake, caramel, chocolate
Megan Peterson

Given all the cheesecake possibilities after you have experienced a famous classic what better way to go with something salty and sweet? I came to discover Billy's Bakery in Chelsea. Good luck making a decision here, everything looks incredible. Pear hand pies, homemade frosted cupcakes, and then the selection of bars...I cannot wait to return for the peanut butter and jelly bar.

But the chocolate caramel pretzel cheesecake is one for the books, as its crust is made of crunchy salted pretzels. The next layer is their decadent chocolate cheesecake, followed by a slab of rich caramel, and then a mini pretzel to top it all off for that final bit of salty crunch, making for the perfect sweet and salty treat.

3. Pasticceria Rocco's Red Velvet Cheesecake 

sweet, pastry, red velvet cake, pie, chocolate, cream, cake
Megan Peterson

You may feel that a crust is so "been there, tasted that," but the red velvet cheesecake from Pasticceria Rocco is truly a cheesecake to die for. Layer by layer you have a red velvet cake and a cream cheese filling, followed by a layer of original cheesecake, then another layer of cream cheese filling, then white frosting and rainbow sprinkles to finish it off.

This is a huge slice. You are not shy of any of this treat’s components. The cheesecake layer itself is dangerously addicting, just accept the fact that you are going to attack it after one bite. Your girlfriend who insisted you two “share” it is not going to share so fairly!

4. Two Little Red Hens' New York Style Cheesecake

What exactly is true New York style cheesecake? We ventured to the Upper East Side to go find out at Two Little Red Hens. A buttery graham cracker crust is the start to this star of a cheesecake. Their New York Style Cheesecake is truly everything that NY-style cheesecake should be.

It is a must for the graham cracker crust-lover that we all are and the thick layer of a rich, creamy chilled filling. It is a bang for your buck at $4.50 considering other slices in NYC range from $7 to $14. 

5. Eileen's Special Cheesecake's Salted Caramel Cheesecake 

At Eileen's Special Cheesecake, amazing things are offered in small packages, so you get your cheesecake fix in a reasonable portion without feeling as though you grow an extra love handle. This delightful cheesecake has a lot going on despite its miniature size.

The sweetness of the heavenly cheesecake and oozy caramel balances perfectly with the slight saltiness from sea salt on top. If that weren’t enough, the last thing you taste is the crumbly, buttery graham cracker crust!

6. Peacefood Cafe's Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Who would have thought something lacking any butter, eggs, or milk could be so indulgent? With this sweet vegan slice of deliciousness from Peacefood Cafe, you won't miss the real stuff one bit. The peanut buttery cream is the star of this cake, with just enough fudge-y, chocolatey topping, and a chocolate cookie crust to hold it all together.

Peacefood Cafe is animal product-free indulgence at its finest. Everything here is vegan, so call your vegan friends, meet them here, and don’t hate on them for being vegan, because this is mad good.

7. Magnolia Bakery's Pumpkin Cheesecake  

buttercream, cream, whipped cream, cake, pumpkin
Megan Peterson

Make sure you are a party of one after ordering the pumpkin cheesecake from Magnolia Bakery. If you have a friend with you, expect to ignore them while this thing is in your possession for a short time. You can always tell a white lie that the cheesecake really isn’t good, insisting they keep it safe and go with a banana pudding.

You will get hooked bite after bite to this spicy, nutty, buttery crust that screams fall comfort. The whipped cream with a dusting of walnuts is smooth perfection. Worth every calorie, the pumpkin cheesecake is shareable yet easy to hog all to yourself at the same time. Thank God they have this year round and not for a limited time, because without it life is just not worth living. 

8. Martha’s Country Bakery's Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake

It takes a while to wrap your head around the fact that a cheesecake served at Martha’s Country Bakery begins with a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough, creamy cheesecake in the center, then wrapped and topped with crumbs of the best tasting, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Martha's Country Bakery in Williamsburg is home to the ultimate dessert experience.

This limited special cheesecake is thick and creamy and pairs amazingly with the crumbly, chewy chocolate chip cookie bits covering the top. If your night involves eating this chocolate chip cookie cheesecake alone in your bed, consider it a successful night. 

9. Clinton Street Baking Co.'s Blueberry Cheesecake

First things first. If you have not had breakfast at Clinton Street Baking Co. you have not lived. You must splurge with the blueberry pancakes here before you depart New York City. They are ridiculous, as is their Blueberry Cheesecake. When this cheesecake is served to you, the homemade blueberry compote is dripping down the side. If you haven’t ever taken a “foodie” picture in your life, you probably will put the forth the effort for this. The house made blueberry compote is so juicy, you can absolutely taste the house made love put into it.

Talk about creamy decadent perfection, you are not going to want to stop eating this bad boy! Next time you say you want to “get out” of NYC, but don’t see the possibility of actually going anywhere, come here. You will have a brand new perspective on life after your first bite of the blueberry cheesecake at Clinton Street Baking Company.

10. Marta's Cannoli Cheesecake

Holy cannoli. Talk about another picture perfect slice. Marta really knows what's up when it comes to house crafted cocktails, Italian wine and cannoli cheesecake with pistachio creme. When this thing comes to your table, you cannot take your eyes off the gorgeous pistachio creme, dusted with candied pistachios. Pistachio-lovers, this cheesecake is calling for you. The candied pistachios alone are dangerously addicting, but the cheesecake itself truly screams cannoli filling. 

11. La Pecora Bianca's Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

A ricotta cheesecake is naturally going to be light as a feather. Thanks to dairyman William Lawrence accidentally developed a method for producing cream cheese, we have it accessible to mix with heavy cream today.

Cream cheese and heavy cream result in more density, whereas a ricotta cheesecake, which the Italians love to make, paired with Marscarpone cheese is going to turn out exactly the opposite. What more perfect than a refreshing lemon ricotta cheesecake topped with an olive oil drizzle, from La Pecora Bianca. La Pecora Bianca's light, refreshing, not overly rich ricotta cheesecake, certainly stands out from the rest of these. The lemon zest, and ricotta really comes through in each bite. You just can't get enough of their homemade whipped cream!

12. The Cheesecake Factory's Peppermint Bark Cheesecake 

The Cheesecake Factory is known for having the nation’s longest menu, over 250 items. This beloved national chain has 37 cheesecakes for you to choose from year round, and a few of them are seasonal offerings. Around the holidays, you’ve got to go for their peppermint bark cheesecake. The chocolate cookie crust is irresistibly addicting. You may need to order an extra slice if you are "sharing" just to get a fair dosage.

And peppermint actually has some health benefits! The white chocolate cheesecake is the hint of flavor that makes the taste of this cheesecake sweeter than usual. Topped with white chocolate mousse and sprinkled with chopped peppermint, this makes for one cool tasting dessert to die for.