I always love when I’ve visited somewhere Anthony Bourdain visited at the same time of year he did; it creates this special connection through space and time. That’s how I felt watching the episode where Anthony Bourdain visits Finland; he spent time there during the frigid winter of 2011-2012; I did the same just after the new year in 2013 – and yes, it really is as cold as he suggests in his episode.
Anthony Bourdain visited Finland just once, as part of a social media campaign that inspired his trip; his on-screen trip is featured in episode 6 of season 8 of No Reservations. As far as we know from his shows and social media, it was his only visit to the Land of Thousand Lakes.
If you’re planning a visit to Finland and curious whether there are any spots visited by Anthony Bourdain in Finland, here’s your answer: yes! Below you’ll find the list of restaurants where Anthony Bourdain ate in Helsinki; this was the only part of Finland he visited.
Ready to sink your teeth into Finnish cuisine and sip a few fine spirits from the frozen north?
Kokomo Tikibar (CLOSED)
The episode opens – and later returns – to show Tony sitting in an Aloha shirt, sipping a tropical drink, and opining in the voice-over about warm destinations and sunny climes. It turns out he’s just at Kokomo Tikibar, Helsinki’s tropical drinking spot.
Unfortunately, this bar is now closed, but you can probably find the same drink Tony enjoyed – a Dark & Stormy – at other bars in town, especially during the summer months.
Rather than traveling north to Lapland in this episode as he did in Sweden, Bourdain heads to
– a spot that specializes in upscale versions of the same style of food. In particular, this restaurant is known for its reindeer dishes, but not with the same subsistence-style approach to the food that you’ll find among the traditional Sami people who live with and rely on their reindeer herds.
At Lappi Restaurant, Tony is again joined by Finnish musician Sami Yaffa (who also met him at Kokomo). They start with a shot of Koskenkorva, a traditional Finnish vodka, with frozen cranberries. Next, they have a plate of salmon tartar, air-dried reindeer, cheese, reindeer carpaccio, and whitefish roe; their entre is sharable platter of braised reindeer, reindeer sausage, roasted reindeer with sauteed vegetables.
As usual, Bourdain travels beyond the traditional bounds of Finnish food and culture, and visits a Romany pub: Päämaja. Here he listens to modern takes on Romany music, and enjoys a bowl of “Romano soup,” which has main ingredients of potatoes, carrots, onions and pork shoulder. He also samples cured horse meat and “Ron de Jeremy” rum.
Unfortunately, I can’t confirm whether Pāāmaja is still open; Google suggests it is, but the other websites I checked all link to a broken “Page not found.” If you live in Helsinki or ask someone while visiting, please let me know in the comments below, so I can update this page.
SpåraKOFF Beer Tram
While Bourdain and Jaffa don’t drink on the SpåraKOFF Beer Tram, they do show off its specialty – and laud the Finnish sensibility about having public transit that allows you to enjoy a pint while getting from one place to another.
In fact, SpåraKOFF doesn’t operate as part of the standard public transit system (anymore?), as Tony suggests. Instead, it runs on a set schedule and does a loop through the city. This does make it a great option for sightseeing and sampling local flavors simultaneously!
Kafe Moskova (CLOSED)
Next, Tony explores another aspect of Finnish culture: the influence of Russia, right next door. He heads to Kafe Moskova, which is now closed. This Russian-inspired pub offers a variety of Northern European food and drink, which is a friendly reminder to viewers that western Russia is culturally European in many ways.
There, Bourdain tries Żubrówka (bison grass vodka), samples a literal Smörgåsbord of sandwiches, and heartily enjoys black sausage and lingonberry jam. He also meets with the Helsinki local whose social media campaign inspired his visit.
Last but not least, Bourdain seeks out a late-night staple: mystery meat from a food stall. He visits the locally beloved which thankfully is not closed as of writing.
There he orders the “Everything” “meat” “pie” with ketchup and mayonnaise, then garlic, pineapple, mayo, relish, and some unknown cheese. More sandwich than pie, Tony seems generally underwhelmed – in part because the “meat” is buried and takes some large bites to find. He also orders sausage and fries with all the same.
Local Dining Experiences Tony Had
Anthony Bourdain often had local dining experiences while traveling, and one of his favorite types was the “grandma dinner,” where someone’s grandma made him a traditional meal. After appearing on local radio early in the episode, Tony meets up with a local Helsinki woman whose mother (and thus the grandmother of her own children) has offered to cook him a local meal.
In between many shots of “table booze” and Granny Slippers, they eat Karelian stew and pies, very traditional Finnish food, along with fried whitebait and foraged mushroom salad. While you can’t eat with the same grandma during your visit, you should definitely try these dishes if you find them on a menu!
Have any other questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Finland – or should I say, in Helsinki? Let me know in the comments below!