In a city of a thousand cultures, the options for dinner are nearly endless. But if you’ve narrowed the menu down to at least two choices, have no fear—the likelihood is that you can have both.
The New York “melting pot” metaphor can be taken quite literally within the city’s food culture, as there are a number of restaurants that specialize in not one, but two or three types of cultural cuisine. Some — like a DJ with an ’80s power ballad and current pop hit — mash up the flavors of both cuisines into brand new meals, while others simply offer classic dishes from both cultures.
Whether it be because of rich immigration histories or the creativity of the chefs and owners, these combo spots are perfect for when indecision next strikes. And, knowing the number of takeout menus in your drawer, you know it will.
Asian + Latin American
Chinese-Cuban seems to be one of the more popular cultural mash-ups in NYC. Though crema de maiz (cream of corn) soup served alongside wonton and egg drop seems like an unlikely combination, the history behind the menu might surprise you. Thousands of Chinese immigrants traveled to Cuba during the 19th and 20th centuries, and there was a booming Chinatown in Havana. But as Fidel Castro came into power, many fled to the U.S., especially New York, where they opened restaurants again. Whether you want a side of rice and beans or lo mein, or both, you can have it at La Caridad 78.
Japanese meets Dominican at MamaSushi, where executive chef David Nuñez uses his wide range of experience in Asian-Latino fusion to offer a whole new kind of sushi. Try rolls stuffed with plantains, chimichurri-style meat, yuca fries and the item that brings the two food groups together: avocado.
What began as a food truck now has three brick-and-mortar locations in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, and of course trucks still circling around the city that you can keep up with on social media. Started by Queens native and Columbia grad Edward “3D” Song, Korilla BBQ transports the best of Korean barbecue cooking via a Mexican standard: the burrito. This means loading up a tortilla with bulgogi or gochujang pork, rice (sticky, fried or black), kimchi, beans and a killer sauce. Owners say the idea came from the need for convenience, and wanted the “fusion” element to be obvious in their name.
“At Korilla, we want to ensure you can enjoy Korean barbecue on-the-go, and a burrito is the perfect vehicle,” co-owner William Song said. “Our name, Korilla, can be pronounced like Korea as you would ‘tortilla.’”
Italian + Greek
Just a boat ride away from each other in geography, and with some common staple ingredients like fresh tomatoes and vinegars, it makes sense to combine these Mediterranean staples. Telio serves both Greek and Italian specialties — from moussaka and kotopoulo paidakia to linguine carbonara, veal parmigiana and brick oven pizzas.
If you ask a Greek person where the best gyro is near Ditmars Avenue in Astoria, you might be shocked to hear “Pizza Palace.” But this is actually a common thread in the neighborhood known for its Greek influences (see: Romano’s Famous Pizza, Gyro Uno, Boston Pizza). Most pizzerias in Astoria serve gyros and platters alongside pies, and most say — perhaps unsurprisingly — that they are the best picks at these restaurants, named for something else entirely.
Japanese + Italian
For a more high-end fusion experience (and no option to order-in), try Basta Pasta in Chelsea. The restaurant originally opened in Tokyo in 1985, where the open-kitchen concept was introduced, and five years later came to NYC. Watch as chefs cook your meals of spaghetti and mozzarella with shiitake mushrooms, or linguine with fresh sea urchin and basil.
Restaurateur Barbara Matsumura brought together Italian chef Andrea Tiberi and sushi chef Hiroyuki Nagao to create a menu that combines the tastes of Italian and Japanese cuisine in truly unique ways. Green tea ricotta flatbread, chicken katsu penne and Ciao Meatballs (with basil pesto teriyaki) are just a few examples of how unlikely flavors can come together deliciously.
Asian Fusion may be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of “fusion restaurants,” which started as far back as the 1960s, but really came into full force in the ’80s and ’90s when non-Asian chefs started adding Eastern ingredients to their dishes, mostly within French cuisine. Now it can mean anything from a combination of different Asian cuisines to a combo of Asian and American tastes. 66S Fusion in Brooklyn offers more Japanese/American choices, from burgers to sashimi to filet mignon with shishito peppers.
Known for its extremely fresh fish and the best sushi on the island, if not in the city, Miyabi II is a must-visit. The diverse menu includes Malaysian curry, Thai red snapper, hibachi and bento boxes, truly living up to its name in both hot and cold options.
Mexican + Italian
There has been many a late night (or early morning) where the grand debate between “pizza or tacos?” has taken place. But luckily both of your drunk cravings can be satisfied in this city. From quesadillas, burritos and tacos made with hand-rolled corn tortillas, to a wide variety of pizza flavors (including chorizo and jalapeno toppings), comfort food has a whole new meaning at Emilia’s.
A bit of a hole-in-the-wall, Great Burrito’s sign can make you do a double-take. The self-explanatory name is right in the middle, and then immediately to the left it reads “Italian Pizza” in large letters. Still, don’t be fooled by its identity crisis. Find authentic Mexican street food here, in large (and cheap) portions, alongside pizza pies if you find yourself craving a slice to wash down your torta. Open 24 hours, and cash only.