It is difficult to get more than a few blocks away from an amazing restaurant in New York and they aren’t all pizza places and burger joints. The beauty of New York is that, rather than being a “melting pot” where people assimilate to American culture, it is a boisterous conglomerate of too many nations to count. There is amazing pizza to be found, for sure, but there are so many unique flavors to try that I may go weeks without a slice. I am an adventurous eater, as my co-editor will tell you, willing to try anything once. So I love diving in to a new culture through its cuisine, and luckily for me, that is easy to do in my neighborhood.
Fort Greene, Brooklyn is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country and the variety of restaurants really shows that diversity. Within spitting distance of my house, I can eat more typical Chinese, Japanese, Mediterranean and Italian, but I can also sample South African samosas, Thai curries and Haitian akras. Then there are the fusion restaurants, offering mixtures of Asian, French and American cooking to create wonderful dishes all their own. And although my neighborhood has a lot to offer, I have also come to realize over my years here that certain neighborhoods in New York specialize in cuisines of the people who live there. Here are some suggestions of neighborhood cuisine you may like to sample:
Best Chinese food: Chinatown, obviously.
If you have never been to New York’s Chinatown for a meal, you are missing out. Peking ducks hanging in storefronts, fish on blocks of ice and buzzing with flies, the smell of garlic and soy sauce in the air, Chinatown is full of foods that you won’t find at your corner restaurant. Try dim sum at a restaurant where no one speaks English or visit a restaurant that serves traditional fish stews. The food is incredible if you are up for adventure.
Best Indian food: Jackson Heights, Queens.
Being half Indian myself, I rarely eat Indian food out, but I have heard that the food in Jackson Heights is as good as it gets in New York. Jackson Heights is famous for its ethnic foods in general, and the best Greek food in the city can also be found in this neighborhood. Not to mention that Queens is a nice place that most people, myself included, don’t visit enough.
Best Mexican food: Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
I work with someone who is married to a Mexican man and they swear by the food in Sunset Park. You can get tacos the real Mexican way, just meat, no cheese, with many salsas to choose from. It is also the place for Mexican grocery stores, where you can pick up Mexican staples that you won’t find at a regular grocery store, so it is a must for anyone who likes to cook authentic Mexican food.
Best Polish food: Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Looking for some fresh pierogies, kielbasa and potato pancakes? Head on over the Williamsburg Bridge to Greenpoint, where there is a collection of Polish restaurants catering to local Polish immigrants and newbies alike. Despite my Polish heritage, I never learned my grandmother’s recipe for pierogies so I have to rely on others to provide me with some every now and then.
Best Domincan food: Washington Heights, Manhattan
Working at a predominantly Dominican public school for two years, I learned a lot about Dominican cooking and how it differs from other Caribbean and South American cuisines. Rice and beans are a staple of this cuisine, but meat or fish stew are popular, including bacalao, which is dried codfish. There is a large Dominican population in NYC, so you don’t have to go all the way up to the Heights for Dominican food, but there are a collection of highly regarded and authentic restaurants there.
There are so many amazing cuisines in New York that I could go on for ages. If you have a favorite restaurant or neighborhood to get ethnic food in the city, please share it with us!
Photo Credit: Brian Vecci, Clinton Hill Foodie