When you’re buzzing around New York City in need of a quick bite, it’s easy to grab something on the go. Restaurants, snack stands and street food vendors serve plenty of scrumptious, savory and sweet pocket-size pastries bursting with flavor. Many of these creations are versions of the “patty,” or meat pie; a variety of shapes are possible, but they all involve some kind of dough wrapped around a filling and then typically baked, steamed or deep fried. Almost every cuisine has its own take, with sometimes subtle differences in spices, dough and filling, which might include meat, veggies, fruits or sweet cream. Try these global flavors at the places below, and learn a bit about the stories behind the (usually) handheld treats.
164-17B Jamaica Ave., Jamaica, Queens (with four additional locations in Queens)
One of the best places to get a beef patty, Jamaican Flavors offers a time-tested recipe originating from Kingston, Jamaica. Carefully ground fresh meat and vegetables are baked inside a flaky, yellow-tinted shell. Tropical seasonings like scotch bonnet pepper give the filling a spicy, distinctive flavor. While the beef patty is most popular, this savory pastry can come stuffed with curry chicken, fish, steamed vegetables or a half dozen other possibilities. Pair one (or more) with coco bread to make a filling breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack.
1000 Morris Park Ave., Morris Park, Bronx
Empanadas have Iberian origins—a recipe appeared in a Catalan cookbook from 1520—and are a popular street food found in most Latin American cuisines. The (usually savory) pastries can either be fried or baked. La Masa, a Colombian restaurant, serves varieties such as cilantro lime chicken, sauteed shrimp and the sweet dulce de leche and cheese. More creative entries include chicken in vodka sauce and the Hawaiian.
255 Wilson Ave., Bushwick, Brooklyn
Pastelitos are small fried turnovers with thin dough that can be savory or sweet. Like empanadas, they are popular in Latin America, especially with Dominican and Cuban households. At Pastelitos Elvys you can try varieties that range from the typical (chicken, cheese) to the unusual (pizza, tuna, conch).
9-06 36th Ave., Astoria, Queens
Samosas are fried pastries with savory fillings that are typically served in South Asian, Middle Eastern and East African cuisines. Bangladeshi restaurant Aladdin Sweets makes popular versions with spiced potatoes and ground chicken; they come with tamarind chutney for dipping.
40-06 70th St., Woodside, Queens
Lumpiang Shanghai, or lumpia, is a Filipino deep-fried appetizer wrapped in a thin egg crêpe. These fresh vegetable- and meat-filled spring rolls are wrapped and deep fried. They are also popular in Indonesia and have some Chinese influences, so you may find variations according to a restaurant’s cuisine. Often served with a savory peanut sauce or sweet chili, as at Ilhawan, they make a satisfying bite.
11 W. 32nd St., Koreatown, Manhattan
Jjinppang-mandu, or Korean steamed buns, are hot, fluffy and good for a wonderful dessert or light snack. The sweet red bean filling is a staple; find examples inside Food Gallery 32 at this stall.
197 Patchen Ave., Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
Haitian patties have an extremely soft and flaky dough. This baked puff pastry is filled with savory fillings such as beef, chicken, herring or codfish. Green seasoning—usually a blend of peppers (such as scotch bonnet, bell and pimento), onions, garlic, parsley and celery—gives the mixture their flavor but is still mild enough for those with sensitive taste buds. Stop by Grandchamps for a patty and a ginger tea or coconut limeade.
1300 E. 222nd St., Williamsbridge, Bronx
Meat pies are popular in West African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana, where pastries come filled with minced beef, potato and carrots. At EazyLife you can try this staple ipanu (finger food), which looks like an empanada and has hints of spicy curry and cayenne powder.
295 3rd Ave., Gowanus, Brooklyn
Baba’s potato pierogi are made using a Slovakian recipe that has been passed down through the generations but also incorporates an ingredient that “Baba” used when she came stateside: American cheese. Those and all Baba’s other pierogi—there are 10 or so different flavors, plus vegan options—are handmade and served fresh to order.