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On an NYC Street Food Crawl? Don’t Forget the Wine Pairings

Join us in a celebration of the multitude of snacks, bites, mini-meals and morsels available on and just off New York City’s sidewalks. You can eat all of these handheld delectables while walking—even if it does make things a bit messy. Each has our suggested pairings. We might not recommend imbibing at the same time as ambulating, but, hey, you’ve got two hands.

NYC Bagel

There are few foods as revered and argued over as the NYC bagel. Sure, Montreal may have its own version—a pillowy ring of warm dough—but when most people close their eyes and think of a bagel, they picture the dense, pock-marked puck with a hole in the center you’ve been able to find on the Lower East Side since the Bagel Baker’s Guild of Manhattan codified the form in 1907.

With just the right amount of chew, a slight crunch to the outside (possibly so distinct because of how the City’s hard water reacts with the dough during boiling), the bagel is a singular City icon.

Bagel and scallion cream cheese

Wine Pairing:

Crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside, with the tang of cream cheese and chives, your best bet is a sip of traditional-method sparkling. Even better if you can splurge for a vintage Champagne Blanc de Blancs. Made from 100% Chardonnay, with age the white wine imparts a baked bread nuance among the already savory tones from extended lees aging.

Simple Slice

A simple slice, heated hot enough to burn the roof of your mouth if you don’t wait (you won’t), properly “doctored” with red pepper flakes and oregano and eaten probably standing with a paper plate held under it to catch the dripping grease and melted cheese, is one of life’s great pleasures.

NY Pizza Slice

Wine Pairing:

Lambrusco’s the name of the pizza-pairing game—a sparkling red from the heart of Italy. There are several different Lambrusco varieties—from the deeply hued, full-bodied Lambrusco Salamino to the paler, lighter Lambrusco di Sorbara. Most wines are blends with refreshingly juicy acidity, bright red-fruited aromas with some imparting just a kiss of sweetness.

You May Also Like: The Ultimate Guide to Pairing Wine with Every Kind of Pizza

Hot Dog

The humble hot dog is the stalwart of street corner epicurean delights. From carts peddling dirty water dogs to the various warring factions of Papaya dogs to the granddaddy of them all, Nathan’s Famous, a pressed tube of meat in a bun topped with sauerkraut and maybe some mustard and ketchup (go crazy) has been a mainstay.

classic NY hot dog

Wine Pairing:

Hot dogs are salty. Mustard can be spicy—and salty. Ketchup: sweet, acidic and … salty. For red wine lovers, look for a basic Beaujolais Village. Light in body and tannins, the wine has a calm red-fruited aromatic profile and a juicy-tart acidity that will perfectly counteract the saline injection that is your street snack.

Candied Nuts

A somewhat fading find, you are more likely to spot carts hawking these warm bags of savory-sweet treats during winter—a snack score after ice skating in Rockefeller Center or Wollman Rink. The decadence of the candy coating threatens to overshadow the nuttiness of each bumpy bite, but it’s a nostalgic nibble.

roasted nuts

Wine Pairing:

Chenin Blanc has a natural nuttiness all its own—often akin to beeswax or honeycomb—that can bring out the savory-umami innate in the underlying nut. The wine also has a naturally high level of acidity that will perfectly counterbalance the sweet candy coating and leave your palate crisp and clean.

Potato Knish

The traditional potato-packed delight known as a knish might be getting more difficult to find on City streets than in the past, so you can now add the descriptor “fleeting” to “filling.” Get ’em if you can—and keep in mind that creamy potato wrapped in fried dough serves as the perfect platform for mustard.


Wine Pairing:

Cut through the cream, dough and crispy coating with an off-dry Kabinett German Riesling. With juicy acidity, notes of fresh citrus and stone fruits and just a hint of residual sugar, a sip of this wine and a bite of kinish will leave you thinking salted caramel corn-like thoughts.

Street Meat

Halal and other grilled meat carts are plentiful in all parts of the City and can provide a quick lunch or late-night snack. Some offerings are little more than chicken on a stick, while others provide a variety of spit roasted options including beef and lamb. Heated on the fire and grilled to order, the true charcoal character and spices offer depth of flavor way beyond what you may expect from a five-minute meal.

Chicken on a stick

Wine Pairing:

Smoke, char and aromatic spices can be a hard combo for wine pairings. Instead, think about structure and texture. This hearty meal packed with umami would benefit from a wine light on its feet, like a Provence rosé. High in acid, it’ll cut through the richness of any sauces or fattier cuts of meat; the relatively low(er) (12— 13%) alcohol won’t fight with any extra added hot sauce heat.

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This article originally appeared in the May 2024 of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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