Despite his hardened visage and acerbic wit, we can all agree Anthony Bourdain was a sentimentalist. Many of his travels – even when driven by show style or network demands – allowed Bourdain to explore those places that were interesting or important to him personally.
One of the best – and perhaps most meaningful – episodes that exemplify this is when he visited Arcachon, France. As Tony put it, there are “generations of Bourdains” from Arcachon; if you want to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Arcachon, it is one of the most personal places to do so.
Anthony Bourdain visited the Arcachon area just once during his television career. It was during season 1 of A Cook’s Tour, and the episode was released in 2002 titled “Back to the Beach.” What made this episode particularly special is that, in addition to visiting his “ancestral homeland,” as he called it, Tony was joined by his brother Christopher to explore the area. Together, they relived childhood memories, reminisced about family visits, and ate foods that held special meaning from bygone years.
There are no multi-course meals – or even many locations of note – in the Arcachon episode, which is actually filmed primarily in the neighboring commune of La Teste-de-Buch, or just “La Teste.” Nevertheless, Tony is an excellent guide to this place which holds so much meaning for him. Here are the places to visit in Arcachon if you’re inspired by Anthony Bourdain.
Note: In an attempt to make sense of this episode, I’ve re-ordered the locations to focus first on those in Arcachon/La Teste.
This post was originally published in July 2022, and was checked most recently in October 2023.
After an extended intro, Tony and Chris meet up in Arcachon and head straight for a treat: gaufre from a local food stand. They share that this was a sweet treat they weren’t often allowed as kids, but decide to break the rules right away and enjoy these French waffles sprinkled with powdered sugar.
If you want to enjoy the same, an ELB reader Degas shared the details. Head to Le Kayola right along the Port de Saint-Jean-de-Luz; this is the spot the Bourdain brothers eat and it’s still open today serving the same sweets they enjoyed twenty years ago.
Boulangerie Clarens (CLOSED)
Unfortunately, another of the places the Bourdain brothers visit is no longer in business. The boulangerie Clarens, formerly at 3 Rue du Captalat, is now permanently closed. It was, for a time, replaced by another bakery called “O Marie,” but that is now closed too. It seems that, like many older businesses these days, the building has been torn down and replaced by housing (this is per Google street view with an image capture from May 2022).
In any case, you could visit another boulangerie in La Teste; there are several. When you do, grab fresh baguettes and pain au raisins if you want to at least eat the same bready treats that Tony and Chris do.
Le Bistrot du Centre
The star of the Arcachon episode is Le Bistrot du Centre in La Teste. Located at 3 Avenue Charles de Gaulle, Le Bistrot du Centre is still in business, and presumably still serves the beloved fish soup that the Bourdain brothers enjoyed. (It’s worth noting that it is not on the menu and likely only offered as a daily special, per this helpful, on-the-ground report from La Teste).
As mentioned, the thing to order here is the fish soup (Bourdain calls it “Consommé”), served with crutons, gruyere, and garlic and pepper mayonnaise, with a glass of house red wine.
Boulangerie Patisserie Vincent Cherin (CLOSED)
Unfortunately, the only other La Teste location in this episode is also closed; Boulangerie Patisserie Vincent Cherin was formerly at 340 Avenue Denis Papin. There, Tony and Chris stock up on saucisson au lait (garlic sausage), cheeses, baguettes, and wine for a beach picnic at Cap Ferret Beach.
There are other locations in La Teste where you can find these ingredients to have your own beach picnic, should you desire.
BONUS: Cafe Français Bistro (Bordeaux)
Finally, I’m including the opening restaurant – Cafe Français Bistro – as a bonus on this list, because it’s in the Arcachon episode… but it’s not actually in Arcachon or La Teste.
Cafe Français Bistro is actually in Bordeaux, which is one of those surprising places Tony never made an episode about. It’s likely that Anthony and his crew stopped off here for lunch en route to Arcachon and La Teste, and that’s why it made the episode.
In any case, if you want to eat the same thing Bourdain did, opt for the steak frites with a beer.
While there aren’t many stops to be made while following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Arcachon, there are a number of other destinations he visited in France worth adding onto your itinerary, including Paris (of course), Provence, Burgundy, and Marseille. Have any other questions about this episode and the places Anthony Bourdain ate? Let me know in the comments!