Slideshow: Staff Picks: NYC Food Institutions We Can't Live Without

Gray's Papaya
Gray's Papaya
"Gray's Papaya. When I'm out of town for an extended period of time, there's nothing I want more as soon as I get back than a recession special. Two hot griddled hot dogs on crisp buns with a perfect snappy bite from their natural casings and that signature salty, smoky flavor of a great New York hot dog. I'm happy with just mustard on it, but throw on some sauerkraut and a papaya drink, and I'm in heaven." — J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Russ & Daughters
Russ & Daughters
"Russ & Daughters is a bastion of smoked fish glory on the Lower East Side. You'll find various types of cured salmon—from the classic, silky Nova to the sweeter, smokier Scottish style—as well as other treats in the fishy department (herring, sable, whitefish salad), cream cheese (chives, caviar, or maybe horseradish?) and my favorite loaf of babka (more on that here). Russ & Daughter's goes way back to 1914, and it's still run by the Russ family. It has that old-school feel inside; you take a number and wait for one of the lab-coated guys (or a Russ daughter!) behind the counter to yell for you. Whenever I'm hosting a special brunch or just feel like treating myself, I head over for some of the delicately sliced Nova." — Erin Zimmer

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Katz's
Katz's
"I'd probably live longer without Katz's, but I could also get hit by a car anytime I walk outside. ...I'll take a piles of pastrami on rye, please." — Robyn Lee

"I think for me it's a bagel and cream cheese, but my husband would be very upset if I didn't mention Katz's. Nothing says NYC like hand-cut pastrami on rye with a Dr. Brown's and maybe a knish too!! It's the ultimate comfort food." — Jen Weinberg

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Knish Nosh
Knish Nosh
"Knish Nosh isn't as famous as Yonah Schimmel's downtown, but the knishes are way better, and the Queens Boulevard knisherie is a borough-wide icon. Eating here with my parents—in the old location across the street, before it became a Starbucks—is one of my most important early food memories, and I don't think a childhood is complete without deciding if you're a potato person or a kasha person while still in velcro sneakers. A flaky-tender knish, a dough-wrapped hot dog, and a can of Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda ran you all of five or six dollars, and there's nothing you could do to improve it—except, of course, add lots of deli mustard. Truth be told I haven't had a Knish Nosh knish in years, but if they ever left the neighborhood, I'd be devastated." — Max Falkowitz

[Photograph: Knish Nosh]

Fairway
Fairway
"My parents used to drive from their apartment in Kips Bay to the Red Hook Fairway every other weekend to do a big grocery shop, so their wishes literally came true last month when a Fairway opened up downstairs from their building. I'm pretty jazzed about it myself." — Ben Fishner

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Bleecker Street Pizza and Joe's
Bleecker Street Pizza and Joe's
"Growing up as a Long Island girl, good pizza was never far off. Strange to say it, that's not always the case in the city. There's plenty of bad and strange and overly fancy pizza around, but it's a good slice joint that I depend on. Luckily two of the best are in my neighborhood—Joe's and Bleecker Street. They may be "enemies" in some peoples' eyes, but in my heart there is room for both." — Leandra Palermo

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez Alt (top), Adam Kuban (bottom)]