New York's reputation as a destination for foodies obsessed with the latest trends and exciting restaurant openings has long centered on New York City. To be sure, NYC's reputation as a dining destination is rivaled only by top-tier cities like Paris or Hong Kong. To focus all of the interest solely on downstate would be a mistake, however, as the entire region has blossomed in its unique, regional ways into one of the best states in the country to grab a bite to eat.
Along the ample shoreline of Long Island, seafood restaurants that range from simple surf shacks to gourmet menus serve up fresh seafood in both regional preparations and globally minded dishes. North of the city, in the fertile Hudson Valley and majestic Catskills, wood-paneled taverns harkening back to the glory days of the region and new gastropubs make full use of the agricultural bounty of the area. Farm-to-table food of all varieties can be found across the region. Modern American – with all its simply prepared fish and bountiful plates of colorful vegetables – is the current trend in the area. Also in the Hudson Valley is the campus of the Culinary Institute of America, which has several restaurants where you can eat food prepared by the iconoclast chefs of tomorrow.
Further north you begin to see more French-Canadian influence on the menu. Poutine (gravy and cheese curds on top of french fries, what more could you want?) can be found everywhere, with many places adding their own spin to the classic dish. The long, cold winters of the north inform a lot of the popular dishes there. Hearty winter greens, rich roasted chicken and generous servings of pasta often dominate the menus.
Ithaca, a small college city in the heart of the Finger Lakes, is one of the more underrated food destinations in the state. There are dozens of noteworthy restaurants in this city of only 30,000. The college town vibe is strong, so get ready for lots of great hole-in-the-wall takeout and sandwich shops that never seem to have a slow time of day. The fine dining options are just as plentiful. French, Italian, pan-Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines are all well represented.
To the northwest, Rochester and Buffalo each have a beloved populist food crazes, as well as growing restaurant scenes that rival any city of their size. In Rochester, the local delicacy is called a garbage plate. Unless you've made a wrong turn somewhere, none of your ingredients will be plucked out of the trash. Instead, you can expect a base of starch (french fries, macaroni salad, baked beans, etc.) topped with ground meat and finished off with hot sauce or spicy mustard. Buffalo claims parentage of the USA's most iconic addition to bar food: the buffalo wing. While you can still get your fill of these local classics, it's worth diving deeper into both city's food scenes. They are brimming with inventive chefs and mixologists who are taking farm-to-table, nu-American food to another level, adding fusion elements and the cities' own culinary history and proximity to fresh produce and meat to create dishes that deserve to be tasted.
Even in many smaller towns in New York state, you'll find a top-tier restaurant choice. Most casual places don't require reservations, but it's a good idea to reserve a table for places with buzz. If you're dining alone ask to sit at the bar, where you can usually still get the full menu.
- Restaurants In New York you'll find everything from grab-and-go grill fare to the some of the most exclusive fine dining in the world.
- Bars, Taverns & Pubs Tend to focus on tasty, popular fare (burgers and sandwiches).
- Cafes Usually serve lighter dishes during breakfast and lunch only.