New York City is known as one of the culinary capitals of the world. The city is home to more than 13000 restaurants and consequently food and ‘eating out’ are extremely important to New Yorkers who enjoy discovering new foods and tastes.
However, there are certain foods like Nathan’s Hot Dogs (of Coney Island) bagels and big salty pretzels that are sold from street vendors which are considered to be quintessential ‘New York’ foods. A new addition to this list is ‘the cupcake with butter frosting’ which was made famous by the TV series and movie – Sex and the City which attracted a huge global audience. These cupcakes today day are sold by almost every deli and bakery in New York but to taste the cupcakes that were made famous by Carrie and the gang in Sex and the City (SATC) you have to join the long line outside the Magnolia Bakery in the West Village, for this was the bakery that achieved worldwide fame when it was featured in SATC.
People often tend to say that New Yorkers are always dining out and don’t cook at home but this not altogether true as the city is home to countless supermarkets, specialized grocery stores, and greenmarkets which are frequently patronized by the residents of the city. TV shows devoted to cooking and food like Bravo TV’s ‘Top Chef’ and New York City resident celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ which is a food travelogue that is broadcast on the Travel Channel, enjoy a huge fan following in New York City.
The culinary landscape in New York City is dotted with all kinds of establishments like fast-food outlets, 24-hour delis, mid-range restaurants, chain restaurants, steakhouses, and upscale restaurants like Per Se where dinners cost upwards of $250 per head. All these restaurants are subject to periodic checks by food inspectors who have no qualms in shutting down a restaurant if it has significantly violated health and safety regulations.
New York City is also home to a large immigrant and foreign population, which is made up of various nationalities and accordingly it has a vast number of ethnic restaurants (Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Ethiopian, African, Caribbean, British) which cater to their populations and New Yorkers alike.
The city has a vibrant street food culture that is dominated by street cart vendors who sell various different kinds of meals (gyros, rice-based meals, coffee, and bagels). These street cart vendors are licensed vendors who are allowed to set up their carts at designated spots on certain streets throughout the city. These carts are largely operated and owned by members of New York City’s large immigrant community but nowadays their territory is being invaded by young enthusiastic ‘chefs’ who retail gourmet foods like artisan ice cream and Belgian waffles from their carts. Every year New Yorkers nominate their favorites street cart vendors for the annual ‘Vendy awards’ which are judged by a panel of celebrity judges (http://streetvendor.org/vendys/).