If you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple—and aren't sure where to start your food journey—check out this list curated by Padma Lakshmi, a NYC resident and frequent visitor of these establishments.

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With so many cultural influences from around the globe, America just might be the most exciting, delicious place to eat. Our series, American Food Today, guest-edited by award-winning cookbook author and TV host Padma Lakshmi celebrates the rich diversity of American food.

If you're a food lover, this guide is for you. From bagels to pizza, New York City is known for many iconic foods and dishes. These food destinations are perfect for any palate, whether you're after fine French cuisine or a food-truck dosa.

A man making Dosas at a food cart in New York City
"Dosa Man" Thiru Kumar serves up lunch at his NY Dosas food cart in Washington Square Park.
| Credit: Andrew Scrivani

Padma Lakshmi's 10 Favorite Food Destinations in NYC

La Mercerie

One of my favorite places to eat in NYC, this wonderful and unpretentious French restaurant is a great place for meetings, dates or a celebration with friends. The burger alone is to die for. They have a large shop with home furnishings, like couches, linens and pottery, that's perfect for browsing in case you've arrived early for your table. 53 Howard St.; lamerceriecafe.com

A restaurant waiter carrying two glasses of wine on a nyc sidewalk
La Mercerie
| Credit: Penny Los Santos

NY Dosas

This is a cart located on the south side of Washington Square Park. They sell a typical South Indian lunch Monday through Saturday—perfect for a quick vegetarian or vegan meal of crispy dosas in the park. There's always a line two blocks long—but don't worry, it moves fast. I love the owner, "Dosa Man" Thiru Kumar, so much, I featured him on my show Taste the Nation. Washington Square Park, south side; nydosas.com

Kitchen Arts & Letters

New York is rich with gorgeous little independent bookstores, but this is the best place for cookbooks and other food- related books (you can even find some autographed copies). I can spend hours in their small shop without ever getting bored. If you can't get to NYC, you can order online—or call or email—and they'll ship right to your door. 1435 Lexington Ave.; kitchenartsandletters.com

Essex Market

This neighborhood institution moved to a new space two years ago, and it's a serious upgrade! There are all kinds of food stalls, from bakeries to charcuterie to Latin vegetable markets and even a small Japanese grocer. It's my one-stop food hall for fish, meat and bread. Remember to bring a cart or backpack—I've never walked out of here without a load of goodies. 88 Essex St.; essexmarket.nyc

Los Tacos No. 1

In the Chelsea market, this is what I make a beeline for first. There is no better place for a quick stand-up taco with all the fixings. Their adobada and nopal (cactus) tacos are excellent. 75 Ninth Ave.; lostacos1.com

Indochine

I had my 40th birthday party here and still go at least a few times a month. Some of my favorite dishes at this French Vietnamese restaurant are Fried Spring Rolls and Amok Cambodgien. The menu includes many lighter options too. It's also great for people-watching, and the waitstaff is some of the most fashionable I've ever seen. 430 Lafayette St.; indochinenyc.com

Global Table

I have found so many curious items to decorate my table with at this shop. They have great plates, place mats and all kinds of giftable items. It's located in the heart of SoHo, so give yourself a bit of time to stroll around the neighborhood. 107 Sullivan St.; globaltable.com

Union Square Greenmarket

Four mornings a week—Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday—this is the place to be for everything from potted herbs and plants to vegetables and microgreens. I personally like Martin's Pretzels and the jam sellers Berkshire Berries and Beth's Farm Kitchen. North & west sides of Union Square Park; grownyc.org

Murray's Cheese

This downtown cheese mecca is a wonderful place to discover all the varieties you never knew you needed. It's a great place to make a killer gift basket for a loved one (you can even build your own on their website). 254 Bleecker St.; murrayscheese.com

Kalustyan's

If I could pick only one store in the world to shop for spices and condiments, this would be it. I have been coming here since I was 4 years old. If you're going for the first time, give yourself a couple of hours to peruse the aisles in peace. 123 Lexington Ave.; kalustyans.com

This article first appeared in EatingWell Magazine, October 2021.