1. Borscht and challah at B & H Dairy Restaurant
Cold or hot, the soup from the famous East Village diner is tangy and sweet and flecked with dill. It’s served with a dollop of sour cream to swirl into it, transforming the red into magenta, and two thick slices of crusty homemade challah slathered with butter.
2. Russian pastries from the Brighton Beach sidewalk
Unless you read Cyrillic, you never quite know what you’re going to get when you select one of these flaky, cheesy, jammy pastries from the bin, which is part of the fun. Whatever it is, it’s offered simply on a paper napkin and is the perfect accompaniment for the elevated train ride home from the beach.
3. Sri Lankan roti at New Asha Restaurant
Flaky and buttery and deliciously chewy and stretchy, this bread from the Staten Island hole-in-the-wall is pretty much impossible not to keep eating, peeling off morsels and folding them into your mouth. The best part is the thick, rounded edges, where the bread is still doughy inside.
4. Mango with salt and hot sauce from a street cart
Meltingly sweet and stringy, with a bite of salt, sting of bottled lime juice, and spike of hot sauce, eaten with a plastic fork out of a ziplock bag. The carts–usually metal grocery carts filled with mangos and topped with a tray of condiment bottles–are parked on sidewalks throughout the city, especially in the spring.
5. Lahore Deli samosas and chai tea
This Pakistani cabbie takeout spot on Crosby Street serves the perfect snack 24-7: a vegetarian samosa reheated in the microwave (crisp edges, mushy middle) and a cup of milky-sweet chai tea (ask for two sugars).
6. Charlotte Russe from Leske’s Bakery
This push-up dessert from the Bay Ridge bakery is a Brooklyn speciality: layers of dryish sponge cake layered with real sweetened whipped cream and topped with a maraschino cherry, all encased in a cardboard sleeve with a movable disc at the bottom. Lick around the cream, push the cake up, lick again, and bite, creating the perfect messy ratio of cake to cream.
7. Orwasher’s New York rye
This loaf from the nearly century-old Upper East Side bakery epitomizes the iconic bread of New York City: it’s tangy, chewy, and dense, with the crunch and prick of licoricey caraway seeds and a crisp crust that clips the tongue with each bite and peels off satisfyingly in a single strip.
8. Peanut Punch from Sybil’s Bakery and Restaurant
This Richmond Hill Guyanese spot’s peanut drink packs a punch with hints of vanilla, almond extract, brown sugar, milk, and honey, and the chill and consistency of a milkshake that’s okay to drink for breakfast.