Some call it the Golden State for the riches found in its hills, others for the tawny hills that run throughout most of the state. Maybe it has to do with the star-studded streets of Hollywood – or the riches manufactured into existence in Silicon Valley. Whatever the reason, California is a special, unique part of the United States – and one that Anthony Bourdain visited many times in his career.
Over the course of all four of his shows, Anthony Bourdain explored California from north to south. Perhaps not as deeply as any of us who love California would have liked, he showed off the many facets of this populous, prosperous, and (often) politically fraught state through its food and people. In total, he filmed some 11 episodes there, making it one of the places he visited most often on-screen.
If you call California home (as I once did) or are just planning a trip, you might be curious about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in California. Below you’ll find a breakdown of the different cities and areas he visited, a shortlist of some of the best places he ate, and links to guides that give you all the detail you need to follow in his footsteps and forkfuls.
Ready to sink your teeth into all the interesting flavors and foods California has to offer?
When it comes to California destinations where you could eat for a few weeks before you run out of places Tony tried, that’s Los Angeles – in fact, the only city I think he ate at more places is New York City! There are over 40 restaurants where Anthony Bourdain ate in L.A., so it’s a bit hard to choose which ones to include here… but just to narrow it down, here are five great ones:
I also have a guide specifically to the Koreatown spots where Tony ate, which are well worth planning specifically to visit, since this is one of the best cities for Korean-American culture and cuisine in the country.
I wanted to call out the Napa Valley specifically because it was actually the primary focus of one of Tony’s California trips – his first on-screen one, in fact. In “The French Laundry Experience” episode of A Cook’s Tour, Tony and several other chefs and writer friends snag a table at one of California’s most coveted restaurants, and are treated to a truly special meal.
I wrote a full recap of all the courses they tried – each one personalized for the diner, so some 80 courses in all! – in my guide to where Bourdain ate in the Bay Area, since his trip also included a few San Francisco stops.
As many Angelenos do, Tony also made a few trips out to the desert to the Palm Springs area. There, he met up with fellow artist friends and ate well, of course. Here’s a list of the places he ate during his two trips that are still open today:
- JT Country Kitchen (Joshua Tree)
- Shields Date Garden (Indio)
- Ski Inn (Bombay Beach/Niland)
- Sky Cafe (Yucca Valley)
- Pappy + Harriett’s (Pioneertown)
If you want to plan a trip out to this part of California, be sure to check the complete guide to places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Palm Springs – or rather, the Greater Palms Springs area.
San Francisco Bay Area
Last but certainly not least, Bourdain also made several visits to the San Francisco Bay Area. He primarily focused his time on San Francisco, but did strike out to visit other cities like Oakland and San Jose too. In total he visited over 30 spots in this part of the Golden State, so here’s a shortlist of the ones I most recommend (as someone who lived in SF for four years, I feel qualified to narrow these down!):
- House of Prime Rib (Hayes Valley/SF)
- Li Po Lounge (Chinatown)
- Molinari (North Beach/SF)
- Red’s Java House (Embarcadero/SF)
- Swan Oyster Depot (Nob Hill/SF) (which he visited three times in four episodes!)
- Tonga Room (Nob Hill/SF)
- Trader Vic’s (Emeryville)
Be sure to check out the full guide to places visited by Anthony Bourdain in San Francisco if you want the full list and all the details.
Have any questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in California, and where he ate? Let me know in the comments below!