It is impossible to visit Armenia without acknowledging the dark chapters in the country’s history, inflicted upon them by its neighbors. Never one to shy away from such topics, Anthony Bourdain was eager to visit and share his thoughts – all it took was an invite from the right person.
Anthony Bourdain visited Armenia once to film season 11 (episode 4) of Parts Unknown; it was his only on-screen visit to the “small, landlocked, Christian nation surrounded by mostly non-Christian neighbors” (in Tony’s words) – including Turkey, with whom Armenia has a deeply dark chapter of history.
Tony visits Armenia with Serj Tankian, known as the frontman for System of a Down. And talks with Richard Giragosian, Director of the Regional Studies Center (RSC), about Armenia’s heritage and cultural survival, as well as several other Armenians who share their thoughts.
If you’re planning a trip to Yerevan or another part of the country, you might wonder about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Armenia. Below you’ll find a guide to the places Tony ate in Armenia, as well as what he ate, to plan your own meals. Despite being a small country, Armenian culture and cuisine play big, and you’ll undoubtedly have a delicious and thought-provoking visit if you experience all Armenia has to offer. Let’s dig in!
Anthony Bourdain’s first (on-screen) meal in Armenia takes place at Dolmama, with Serj Tankian. Though Tankian is pescetarian, they are both able to find something delicious on the menu at this top restaurant in the capital city of Yerevan known for its “modern versions of Armenian classic dishes.”
Tony enjoys Khashlama – braised lamb shank with rice pilaf – and Serj tries a vegetarian version of Manti (Armenian dumplings) which are usually made with meat and that Tony says can probably be traced to Marco Polo’s journies through the Caucasus bringing culture and food back and forth between the East and West.
While we don’t see Tony on-screen at Yerevan’s Gum Market – nor does he eat there – I wanted to include this spot as it’s somewhere you should absolutely try to visit and find a bite to eat if you’re visiting the country to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Armenia.
See, in addition to Bourdain always loving a good market, his local hosts go shopping there (on-screen) to stock up on ingredients for a local dinner he later enjoys with several generations of Armenians, both born in the country and “re-pats.”
The menu for that meal? Lavash – Armenian flatbread – with Ghapama, a dish of dried fruit, almonds, honey, and rice baked inside a pumpkin. Tony observes that there are other dishes from around the greater region, including hummus and muttabal; these show the way culture and cuisine have crossed paths in Armenia throughout history.
Gayanei Mot (CLOSED)
Tony’s next meal, with Serj, happens at a restaurant that’s now closed: Gayanei Mot (“At Gayane’s”). This restaurant, which specializes in traditional Armenian food, offers another interesting dish that you might not expect from a land-locked country. Bourdain tries trout, wrapped in Lavash and then baked, and follows it up with apricot vodka.
Though he certainly slowed down from it later in his television career, it’s good to see Tony enjoying a pint or two during his trip to Armenia. He meets up with several young Armenian men – entrepreneurs and tech guys – at Dargett Brewery to learn about how Armenia came to be known as an intellectual capital of the former Soviet Union. As one might expect, they try the local craft beer during their conversation.
Traveling outside Yerevan, Bourdain also visits the Gyumri, Armenia’s second-most populous city. There he enjoys lunch with three young Armenian women at Poloz Mukuch; their conversation focuses on the future of the country and how young generations are driving it forward.
At this meal, he tries traditional oxtail soup, Tjvjik (stewed liver and heart with tomato, onions, and herbs), and Qyalla (baked sheep’s head) that Tony and the women playfully fight over for the best parts.
Local Dining Experiences Tony had in Armenia
In addition to the local dinner he enjoyed with the spoils of Gum Market, Bourdain has a few other incredible local dining experiences – and they were the ones that made the most headlines following his visit and the episode airing.
- During the episode, Anthony Bourdain visits the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, located fully within the country of Azerbaijan (and as a result, he becomes “persona non-grata” in Azerbaijan and never visits that country. While there, he has lunch al fresco near the city of Shushi. There he is joined by Armenian historian Tatul Hakobyan and others for a meal of Armenian and regional dishes: Jingalov Hats (lavash stuffed with greens and onions and cooked on cast iron sheet), Khorovats (Armenian barbeque, described by Tony as “meat on a stick”), and plenty of vodka which they use to toast for peace.
- Bourdain also visits the town of Dilijan near Lake Sevan, to eat a local meal at a “home restaurant” owned by a local Armenian woman Milena. There he tries Khash, cow’s leg bone broth, with lavash, vodka, and toasts for the future of Armenia and peace in the region.
Armenia Food Tours to Try
As usual, you might want to sample even more of the Armenian cuisine during your trip; in that case, a food tour is a great option. Here are a few that caught my eye that might fit well into your itinerary and offer you a delicious experience.
Have any questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Armenia? Let me know in the comments below.