Among the many beautiful cities in Europe, Cologne is usually not one that makes the top list. In fact, as Bourdain points out, Cologne is usually considered to be one of the less aesthetically pleasing places to visit, even just within Germany – but that doesn’t detract from the flavors and foods you can enjoy in Cologne or Köln.
I never saw Cologne as ugly at all. I always saw it as charming, in the least patronizing sense of the word.Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain visited Cologne in season 7, episode 7 of Parts Unknown; it was his only on-screen visit, though he alluded to other visits in the past that inspired filming an episode there. Best of all, every place visited by Anthony Bourdain in Cologne is still open today, meaning visitors in the 2020s can enjoy the same dishes and drinks that he did.
If you’re planning a trip to Cologne and want to follow in the forkfuls and footsteps of Tony Bourdain, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find a guide to each place Bourdain ate, as well as the foods he enjoyed, so you can do the same during your visit.
Places Anthony Bourdain Ate in Cologne
Before jumping into the full list of places Bourdain ate in Cologne – all of which are still open! – it’s helpful to get oriented. Below you’ll see a map of the different spots Tony ate, and I’ll be creating a walking food tour guide soon!
Ready to learn more about each of these places and what Anthony Bourdain ate at each place? Let’s jump into the full list!
Brauhaus Zur Malzmühle
There is perhaps no better place to start sampling the unique flavors of Cologne – Köln – than with a glass of Kölsch. On his visit, Bourdain does this at Brauhaus Zur Malzmühle, a famous brewery known for its small glasses of beer and traditional regional German foods.
Tony meets up with Heinz Grüne, a local beer expert, to learn more about Cologne beer culture and share a meal. Over several glasses, they enjoy Mettbrötchen (minced raw pork with onions on an open-faced roll), Halver Hahn (aged gouda on rye), Himmel un Ääd (blood sausage, fried onions, and mashed potatoes with applesauce), and Paeffgen (boiled pork shank).
Bei Oma Kleinmann
Next, Bourdain heads to Bei Oma Kleinmann, another spot for traditional German foods. Here he is joined by a friend and American expat, Tracey, and her German friend Anke. The trio enjoy more Kölsch with pâté and schnitzel, and discuss Cologne’s 40-day annual carnival celebration; Tony feels validated that the local – Anke – agrees that it can be an uncomfortable experience despite Tracy’s enthusiasm for the festivities.
At the time of filming (2016), a recent influx of immigrants from Syria and Turkey had caused headlines in Cologne and the discussion was ongoing about the city’s ability to take in and support immigrants. This sparked Bourdain’s interest, and he spent time exploring the role of immigrants in shaping Cologne’s culture and culinary scene.
As part of this conversation, he meets with Melek Yaprak, a Turkish-descended German and they share a meal of great Turkish food at Artistanbul while discussing the importance of Turkish immigrants and food in the city. They enjoy mezze, grilled minced lamb with tomato sauce and sheep butter, and roast lamb with feta, bulgar and roast vegetables, with glasses of raki – flavors that transport Tony and his guest back to a place they both love.
Ox & Klee
For a nice meal, Bourdain heads to chef Daniel Gottschleish’s restaurant Ox & Klee for a creative culinary experience. Over the course of several courses – grilled Scallop with black salsify, consomme of burned hay, lemon gelée, and walnut oil; grilled lobster with eel, marinated algae, fermented kale, and yuzu froth; and braised ox cheeks with marrow, beetroots with mustard, gratin potatoes, black truffle – Tony chats with Irmin Schmidt about Krautrock music genre and the timeless nature of some cultural themes across generations.
Though it’s deceptively simple, currywurst is one of those truly special German dishes that you just can’t find done properly anywhere else in the world. (I did once know a place in London that had an awesome though overpriced currywurst compared to what I enjoyed in Germany – but it didn’t survive the pandemic.)
In any case, Bourdain is known for seeking out late-night sausages… in the least innuendo-laden way possible. In Cologne, that means meeting up with fellow chefs at De Fressbud for currywurst with fries and spiced braten. While noshing on these dishes, they discuss the merits – and irreplaceable nature – of mayonnaise on fries in certain European countries.
After introducing artist René Stessl and his contemporary art/culinary project at the time of visiting, Bourdain meets up with Stessl at Kleine Glocke for a meal and conversation. The two discuss whether cooking counts as art over sauerbraten (horse meat pot roast) and potatoes, and are a bit divided in their opinions in line with their respective professions.
Trattoria Bar Celentano
Last but not least, Tony sits down for a meal with another Cologne resident – he’s introduced as Italian since the two will talk about different waves of immigrants in the city, but really hails from Sardinia and that fact sparks a conversation about regional differences in itself.
The two sit down at Trattoria Bar Celentano, a traditional Italian restaurant that shows how immigrants have bought unique flavors to the patchwork of options in Cologne. There, they enjoy antipasti of carpaccio, grilled zucchini, Mortadella, and more, and Bourdain enjoys Spaghetti alle Vongole (spaghetti with white clam sauce) which makes him truly satisfied.
Cologne Food Tours to Try
If you’re sold on tasting all that Cologne has to offer, a food tour – or a beer tour – is a great way to enjoy even more. Here are a few food tours you might want to enjoy during your Cologne visit, that will allow you to try some of the same flavors and foods that Tony did during his:
Have any other questions about finding the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Cologne, or what he ate during his trip? Let me know in the comments below!