13 Restaurants That Anthony Bourdain Absolutely Loved
For some people, dining out is a cherished pastime. For Anthony Bourdain, it was much more than that. Going to restaurants was Bourdain’s profession and what the late celebrity chef, who died in 2018, was known for. His television programs "No Reservations" and "Parts Unknown" featured Bourdain as he traveled the world, hopping from eatery to eatery and experiencing various cooking styles.
Dining out also allowed Bourdain to connect with people. Throughout his years as a television host, Bourdain discussed everything from racism in Brazilian politics to cooking in the Gaza Strip while sharing meals abroad, with locals. These experiences equipped Bourdain to judge the food of a restaurant, as well as each place’s connection to its surroundings.
Since Bourdain was such a celebrated chef, experienced restaurant critic, television host, and charismatic personality, many people are still eager to discover the eateries he loved most. Thankfully, his recommendations cover a wide range of tastes, locations, and budgets. They include things like Hawaiian hot dog spots to European fine dining. Here are 13 restaurants that Anthony Bourdain absolutely loved.
1. Le Dôme Café — Paris, France
Anthony Bourdain famously loved French cuisine, and one of his favorite restaurants of all time was Le Dôme Café in Paris. Located in the neighborhood of Montparnasse, this classic brasserie offers Parisian dining at its best. Its elaborate seafood platters are served with good wine on spotless white tablecloths.
Bourdain recognized the uniqueness of this locale on the début episode of "No Reservations," which he cheekily nicknamed, "Why The French Don’t Suck." It was perhaps one of the most impressive restaurants, from Bourdain’s perspective. The TV host told his viewers, "If there are two things you do in Paris, this would be one. It’s an old classic, and I mean classic with a capital C, brasserie in the Montparnasse district," (via Food & Wine). Considering that another thing that Bourdain considered an essential Parisian experience was the Eiffel Tower, we think this is a huge compliment to Le Dôme Café.
While it might seem absurd to compare a restaurant to a monument, Bourdain was probably on to something. Indeed, Le Dôme Café is almost as old as the Eiffel Tower — and history has taken place on the restaurant’s premises. Opened in 1898, it was once a gathering spot for cultural icons like Piet Mondrian and Pablo Picasso (via the Mondrian Route).
2. Side Street Inn — Honolulu, Hawaii
On a trip to Hawaii, Anthony Bourdain sampled foods from all kinds of establishments, not just fine dining places. Bourdain visited the city of Honolulu, stopping by the eatery Side Street Inn. Bourdain sampled the authentic Hawaiian fare offered there, calling it, "hearty, unpretentious food."
He enjoyed a variety of dishes served at Side Street Inn, ranging from fried chicken to baby abalone. The experience helped Bourdain challenge his own preconceived notions about Hawaiian food. The television host remarked, "Once again, my ill-informed preconceptions of what to expect in Hawaii end up buried in an avalanche of great food" (via SFGate). These days, you can still head over to South Street Inn to enjoy local favorites such as fried rice, ribs, and poké. If you want to indulge in a dish that made Bourdain fall in love with the restaurant, you can order a sizzling plate of fried chicken gizzards — a dish made from the digestive tract of the birds.
3. Ganbara — San Sebastián, Spain
Pintxos — also known as pinchos — are an essential part of Basque cuisine. This category of food includes small plate dishes that are eaten with your hands. Many of them involve stacking different ingredients on a single slice of bread. These bite-sized delicacies create strong flavors. Red peppers, goat cheese, sardines, and other ingredients make a delicious treat to enjoy along with a refreshing cup of beer or a nice glass of wine.
During his time in the Basque Country — a region which exists in parts of Spain and France — Anthony Bourdain enjoyed a pintxo or two. One of his favorite pintxo places was Ganbara, a wonderful bar located in San Sebastián, Spain.
Describing his relationship with Ganbara, Bourdain once admitted that he could never seem to resist this marvelous little spot: "I come here every time, like a heat-seeking missile," (via The Guardian). Never mind that the Spanish city is full of fine dining — even Bourdain admitted that San Sebastián had no shortage of Michelin-starred eateries — Ganbara was always the place that drew him back. As far as food went, the TV host recommended ordering "seared wild mushrooms and foie gras with a raw egg yolk over the top."
4. Osteria dal 1931 — Rome, Italy
It’s no secret that there is a lot of great food in Rome, thanks to its wealth of authentic Italian pizzas and pasta dishes. Anthony Bourdain understood this, calling Rome, "a city where you find the most extraordinary pleasures in the most ordinary things," (via Far Out Magazine). However, Bourdain had a particular affection for Osteria dal 1931.
At this fantastic Roman restaurant, Bourdain was known to order a few things. He would get a dish of prosciutto and artichokes, before digging into some basil ravioli. During the antipasti course, the celebrity was so moved by the quality of the food that he exclaimed, "I love this place. I want to die here already, and I might yet," (via Eater).
Bourdain had high praise for Osteria dal 1931. But he didn’t love every restaurant in Rome. To avoid the bad ones, he said that tourists should not patronize anything recommended by the hotel concierge. That advice works well for cities other than Rome, as well.
5. Katz’s Delicatessen — New York, New York
Anthony Bourdain was a true New Yorker. He was born in the Big Apple and worked there for several years as a chef. Naturally, the food icon knew where to find the best eats there. He was particularly fond of Katz’s Delicatessen. Founded in 1888, the famous Manhattan restaurant is still in business today, more than a century later. It serves everything from pickles to mini latkes to brisket. But the locale’s piece de resistance is its pastrami, which is served as part of the spot’s massive sandwiches.
The incomparable food made at Katz’s did not go unnoticed by Bourdain. Commenting on the fact that the restaurant has survived for so long, the celebrity chef said: "When you’re the best and everybody agrees that you’re the best, and has always felt you’re the best, you tend to stay open. I mean, this is an institution in the best sense of the word," (via YouTube). In Bourdain’s eyes, Katz’s iconic food had become synonymous with the city itself.
6. O Afonso — Porto, Portugal
In the city of Porto, Portugal, the Francesinha sandwich is king. Although there is no way to verify the exact origins of this delicious dish, rumor has it that the first Francesinha was invented at A Regaleira, a local pub, during the 1950s. Apparently, the owner of the locale, Daniel David Silva, invented the sandwich after trying the famous French croque monsieur. Silva wanted to add a unique twist to the French classic, so the recipe came out a little different. A Francesinha normally consists of a sandwich filled with ham, sausage, and steak. The exterior of the sandwich is covered in cheese, as well as a sauce made from beer, tomatoes, and other ingredients. Sometimes, it’s also served with a cooked egg on top or a side of French fries.
On a visit to Porto, Anthony Bourdain dug into a Francesinha and absolutely loved it. The television host got his sandwich from an eatery called O Afonso. As he peered at the enormous sandwich that was served to him, Bourdain exclaimed: "Wow, what a construction! Meat, cheese, fat, and bread. It’s the immortal combination," (via YouTube). Luckily, Bourdain loved O Afonso’s take on the Porto-style classic, calling it delicious.
7. Parrillada El Alemán — Montevideo, Uruguay
Due to the small size of this country, some folks think of Uruguay as an extension of neighboring Argentina, a much larger country. But Anthony Bourdain did what he could to challenge this preconceived notion. The celebrity chef, who saw Uruguay for the unique, independent nation that it is, said: "When people think of this often-overlooked little country, if they think of it at all, they tend to think of it patronizingly as Argentina’s little brother. Not so," (via Explore Parts Unknown).
He even said that Uruguay’s cuisine offers a similar quality to that offered in culinary hotspots like Spain or Italy. He particularly enjoyed morcilla, a type of blood sausage. Bourdain ate a few at Parrillada El Alemán in Montevideo, Uruguay. After he ate a scrumptious forkful, Bourdain shared, "Every great culture does this. It’s moist. Look, when they kill me, that’s the way I want to go. Keep the heart beating, pump the blood into a bucket, let the village women come and make sausage," (via Eater).
8. Joe’s Kansas City (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s) — Leawood, Kansas
There is plenty of debate about which city has the best barbecue in the United States. Anthony Bourdain seemed to prefer Kansas City. In an article that he wrote for Men’s Health, Bourdain shared a list of 13 places to eat before you die, and the final was a Kansas City barbecue restaurant called Oklahoma Joe’s, which now goes by Joe’s Kansas City. Of course, Bourdain understood that his choice was risky — plenty of foodies feel that barbecue from North Carolina or Texas is superior.
However, in his restaurant evaluation, Bourdain addressed these concerns, outlining why he believed it offered the better experience: "People may disagree on who has the best BBQ. Here, the brisket (particularly the burnt ends), pulled pork, and ribs are all of a quality that meet the high standards even of Kansas City natives." He further explained his love for Oklahoma Joe’s, writing: "It’s the best barbecue in Kansas City, which makes it the best barbecue in the world."
9. Feijoada da Lana — São Paulo, Brazil
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There might be no dish more popular in Brazil than feijoada, a delicious stew consisting of beans and meat. But the dish has a complicated history. Its origins can be traced back to the 1800s, around the time of the Portuguese colonization of Brazil. The stew was born out of attempts to make cozido, a boiled meal made of various ingredients eaten in Portugal. Although some see feijoada as the South American version of a European dish, enslaved Afro-Brazilians are credited with inventing it, and making it entirely its own thing.
During his time in Brazil, Anthony Bourdain learned about the racial dynamics present in this classic food and other Brazilian dishes. In an episode of "The Layover," Bourdain admired the way that this dish has been reclaimed from its origins of hardship and turned into a source of culinary pride, noting that feijoada has been: "elevated into something that everybody loves," (via Eater). Of all the restaurants in Sao Paulo that offered this dish, Bourdain chose to go to Feijoada da Lana.
10. The French Laundry — Yountville, California
If you want to eat like Anthony Bourdain did, you might need to get your name on a waiting list. One of the celebrity chef’s all-time favorite eateries was The French Laundry, a restaurant located in California’s Napa Valley region. It can take weeks to get a table at this famous wine country establishment. Even so, some things in life are worth the wait.
To Bourdain, The French Laundry was a reservation that was worth waiting for. This upscale eatery — which is one of the most famous businesses run by chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller — offers tasting menus that are constantly changing. These menus often include the best versions of coveted ingredients like caviar, black truffles, fine cheeses, and more.
Writing for Men’s Health about another Keller eatery, Bourdain opened up about why he loved this restaurant so much. A lot of his compliments had to do with the creativity of The French Laundry and its tasting menus. The TV host explained: "The best sit-down, multicourse, white-tablecloth meal of my life was at the French Laundry … There’s no better way to go than the full-on tasting menu, a once-in-a-lifetime marriage of the best ingredients, creative thinking, and high standards, along with the personal imprint of the most respected chef in the world." For Bourdain, a dinner at The French Laundry was always a top experience.
11. Sukiyabashi Jiro — Tokyo, Japan
For a true Japanese dining experience, head off to Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo. This restaurant serves old-school, authentic sushi that tastes so good that it could very well haunt your dreams. In a piece for Men’s Health, Anthony Bourdain wrote that the precision that goes into every piece of Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi is reflected in the flavor. He attributed the high quality of this food to chef Jiro Ono, who had dedicated decades of his life to perfecting the art of sushi.
Bourdain explained the chef’s process: "Jiro Ono is more than 80 years old, and he’s been doing old-school Edo-style sushi his whole life. Every piece of fish is served at precisely the right temperature and the rice and seaweed alone are blackout good." According to the television host, the result is a type of sushi so spectacular that, "Ono will ruin sushi for you from anywhere else." He even hinted that Sukiyabashi Jiro might have the best sushi in the world. This means a lot coming from a restaurant expert like Bourdain. Who wouldn’t want to try a place like that?
12. Puka Dog — Koloa, Hawaii
Anthony Bourdain sampled many unpretentious recipes, including many beloved by home cooks, during his years traveling the world and trying different restaurants. The American celebrity chef also happened to love hot dogs. While filming in Koloa, Hawaii, Bourdain headed to a casual eatery by the name of Puka Dog.
There, Bourdain experienced the unique local take on the classic sausage and bun combination. After all, Puka Dog does not simply serve a regular hot dog on a grocery store bun. Instead, the establishment prepares Polish sausages and then serves them with homemade Hawaiian sweet bread. The best part is that this bread is in the shape of a tube, ensuring that you get a taste of its soft sweet dough with every bite. Those adhering to a vegetarian diet can also request a veggie dog, instead of a Polish sausage.
Of course, Puka Dog’s local interpretation of hot dogs is indicative of a widely-known pattern. People will often adapt popular eats to their own customs, resulting in different local variations on common recipes. As Bourdain said in a "No Reservations" episode: "Every great culture has its own strange, local, mutant form of the hot dog. And Hawaii is no different," (via SF Gate). That being said, Bourdain found the Puka Dog hotdog unique enough to earn the title "kooky." But in the end, he was ultimately won over by it.
13. Bún Bò Huế Kim Chau — Huế, Vietnam
The city of Huế, Vietnam was not one of the first places that Anthony Bourdain visited. However, it ended up being one of his favorites. This cultural capital is famous for its delightful cuisine, which you can sample in the famous Dong Ba market. Bourdain wove his way through its various stalls – selling anything from bananas to clothes — to find Bún Bò Huế Kim Chau. There, Bourdain sampled the relatively unknown restaurant’s traditional Vietnamese fare.
It was in this location that Bourdain tried bún bò Huế soup. The celebrity chef described this dish as: "An elaborate broth of mixed bones scented with lemongrass, spice, and fermented shrimp paste … rice noodles heaped with tender, slow-cooked beef shank, crabmeat dumplings, pig’s foot, and huyet blood cake. Garnished with lime wedge, cilantro, green onions, chilli sauce, shredded banana blossoms, and mung bean sprouts," (via The Guardian).
All in all, Bourdain adored this combination, referring to it as, "the greatest soup in the world." Indeed, upon trying bún bò Huế for the first time, Bourdain could barely believe his taste buds. He even went so far as to declare, "In the hierarchy of delicious, slurpy stuff in a bowl, bún bò Huế is at the very top." As if that wasn’t complimentary enough, the celebrity chef said the soup was "as sophisticated and complex a bowl of food as any French restaurant." He clearly loved this eatery.