A COOK’S TOUR
Anthony Bourdain Put These Restaurants on the Map
Over nearly 300 episodes of television, Bourdain turned these restaurants into destinations.
Anthony Bourdain always aimed high. Episodes of A Cook’s Tour, No Reservations, The Layover, and especially CNN’s Parts Unknown, were cinematic, ambitious and enlightening. But at their core, they were still travel shows. And throughout his 16 years on the air, Bourdain helped make hundreds of restaurants all over the world destinations for travelers who were eager to seek out the food meccas he graced with his presence.
Many of those restaurants became tributes to Bourdain while he was still alive and will likely become temples to him now that he is gone at just 61 years old. And for good reason. Through his TV shows, Bourdain put countless restaurants on the map, changing the lives of the people who run them and creating lines out the door at places that were previously under the radar.
Below is a list of just some of the restaurants Bourdain loved and generously shared with the rest of us. Good luck getting in if you go.
Bun Cha Huong Lien (Hanoi, Vietnam)
“Total cost of bun Cha dinner with the President: $6.00. I picked up the check,” Bourdain tweeted from Hanoi two years ago after he sat in this unassuming Hanoi dive with Barack Obama. On Friday, the 44th president tweeted, “‘Low plastic stool, cheap but delicious noodles, cold Hanoi beer.’ This is how I’ll remember Tony.” Bourdain made a very deliberate choice to take the president somewhere that pretty much anyone can afford to eat. And Obama loved it. Especially the beer.
Toriki (Tokyo, Japan)
Can grilled chicken skewers really be this good? Yes. Far from the center of bustling Tokyo, this cramped yakitori shop is hard to find. But if you do, you will experience pure heaven on a tiny wooden stick. Bourdain went here on a 2008 episode of No Reservations, but according to The Japan Times, owner-chef Kunio Aihara has not been overrun with tourists since. “Even with the trickle of foreign customers who manage to make their way to Hatanodai, Toriki still remains the archetypal neighborhood restaurant,” they wrote a few years ago.
Elkano (Getaria, Spain)
There’s one thing you have to order at this fine-dining seafood house on the coast of Spanish Basque country and it’s the whole grilled turbot. “That was like an anatomy lesson,” Bourdain said on a season nine episode of Parts Unknown after the fish was deconstructed table-side. The expertly cooked fish is priced by the kilogram and worth every euro cent.
188 Cuchifritos (Bronx, New York)
“This is pretty much the center of the pork universe as I’ve ever seen it in New York,” Bourdain told viewers on his first and only episode dedicated to the Bronx in 2014. “I don’t know any place porkier.” Bronx native Justin Fornal, who served as Bourdain’s guide at 188 Cuchifritos, said on Friday that he feels Parts Unknown “put the Bronx out as a culinary destination for the population as a whole, for people who are not from New York,” and he appreciated that the host did so in an “unpatronizing” way.
Maximo Bistrot (Mexico City, Mexico)
By featuring chef Eduardo García’s Maximo Bistrot on a 2014 episode of Parts Unknown, Bourdain helped American viewers see Mexico City in a new light. The restaurant, which combines the French technique García learned at Bourdain’s friend Eric Ripert’s La Bernardin with traditional Mexican flavors, has become a must-visit for young tourists who have flooded here in recent years.
Ganbara (San Sebastian, Spain)
Trying to navigate the pintxo bars of San Sebastian is no easy feat. But Ganbara has emerged as a must-visit location after Bourdain dropped in for their signature dish of fresh mushrooms and foie gras covered in gooey egg yolk last year. “Don’t come here,” he half-jokingly told Parts Unknown viewers of the city that has “more outrageously good restaurants per square mile than just about anywhere in Europe.”
Husk (Charleston, South Carolina)
Just as Bourdain didn’t really want any more people coming to San Sebastian, Bill Murray feels ambivalent about sharing the beauty of his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. Over dinner at Sean Brock’s restaurant Husk in 2015, Murray told Bourdain, “I’m right on the edge here of telling people this is a really nice place to come. Really, I don’t want anyone else to come. I like it the way it is.”
Casa Vieja (Ciales, Puerto Rico)
When Bourdain traveled to Puerto Rico shortly after Hurricane Maria hit this past fall, he had one of his favorite meals at this restaurant, about an hour outside of San Juan. “I hope people watch this episode and get a sense of who we are talking about when we talk about Puerto Rico—and what they have lost,” he wrote in his field notes about the trip.
Pizzarium Bonci (Rome, Italy)
The new Bonci location in Chicago probably owes its existence to Bourdain, who visited the original Roma shop in 2011 for The Layover. In both locations, diners can order slices of pizza by weight. You just demonstrate with your hands how much of each delicious square pie you want and they are delivered to you on metal trays at the counter. “Leave your family, abandon your children, touch yourself. You know you want it,” Bourdain says as he indulges in slice after slice.
La Cevicheria (Cartagena, Colombia)
Within the narrow streets of Cartagena’s old, walled-in city sits La Cevicheria, which just might have the best ceviche in South America. “Damn, that’s good,” Bourdain said when he visited nearly a decade ago. That pretty much sums it up.
Tacos Villa Corona (Los Angeles, California)
Since Bourdain stopped by this seemingly random window in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles in 2012 (on L.A. Times food critic Jonathan Gold’s recommendation), visitors can regularly find a line down the block. Show up early for an exceptional breakfast burrito.
Xi’an Famous Foods (Queens, New York)
When Bourdain ate the lamb burger at the Xi’an Famous Foods stand in Queens on the 2008 episode of No Reservations, chef David Shi didn’t even know who he was. “There’s a tall, old white dude here with a film crew; do you know who he is?” Shi reportedly texted his then college-aged son, Jason Wang, who identified the man as Bourdain. Since that episode aired, the restaurant has expanded to a dozen locations across New York City. Wang, who is now the company’s CEO wrote about Bourdain’s passing for Eater New York on Friday: “While he may have no idea what he has done for our family and business by simply saying he enjoyed the food, I wanted him to know it helped bring our family out from living in one room in Flushing to living the American dream.”
Dürümzade (Istanbul, Turkey)
Bourdain has called the doner kebabs wrapped in flatbread, or dürüm, from Dürümzade some of the best in Istanbul, making this small storefront a major destination for Western travelers to this Turkish city. The endorsement made such a big impact on the restaurant’s business that they blew up a giant photo of Bourdain on posted it right out front.
Lotus of Siam (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Of course Anthony Bourdain would go to Las Vegas for Thai food. Far from The Strip, adventurous tourists and locals alike can enjoy some of the most authentic Northern Thai cuisine you’re likely to find outside of Thailand at this restaurant in a strip mall. “You don’t do pad thai here,” Bourdain warned potential diners. Instead, go for dishes like spicy pork larb and sumptuous khao soi, which the host deemed “perfection.”
Au Pied de Cochon (Montreal, Canada)
Would Americans think of Montreal as a food destination were it not for Anthony Bourdain? According to CBC News, Bourdain “helped bring Montreal's flourishing culinary scene into the international spotlight.” And that was especially true when it came to the spotlight he shined on Au Pied de Cochon during a 2006 episode of No Reservations. Bourdain called chef Martin Picard "a personal idol, a counter-revolutionary and one of the best chefs in Canada."
Swan Oyster Depot (San Francisco, California)
“True love cannot be denied,” Bourdain said in 2015 about his favorite San Francisco haunt, Swan Oyster Depot, which he has featured on multiple episodes from this city. "A touchstone in my worldwide wanderings. A happy zone,” he added. “If I read about myself dying at this counter I'd say to myself, ‘That was one lucky guy.'"
Bánh Mì Phượng (Hoi An, Vietnam)
Of all the many times I have gone somewhere because Anthony Bourdain recommended it, this hole-in-the-wall banh mi shop in Hoi An is number one. In our three days in this port city, my wife and I ate at Bánh Mì Phượng three times, including once for breakfast at 7 a.m. before our flight out. I still dream about these perfect sandwiches and desperately want to have one again someday. Thanks, Tony.