Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan: 50 Spots Where Tony Ate

“Let’s face it, NYC is the best city in the world.” From his opening line in the first New York City episode of 2002’s “A Cooks Tour,” Anthony Bourdain makes no attempt to hide his love and fascination for the city where he was born, became the home he adopted as an adult, and has become synonymous with his name and story.

Anthony Bourdain filmed many episodes in Manhattan during his television career: episodes 19 and 20 of season 1 and episode 5 of season 2 of A Cook’s Tour; episode 8 of season 3 (“New York City”) and episode 8 of season 5 (“Disappearing Manhattan”) of No Reservations; episode 2 of season 1 of The Layover; and episode 7 of season 12 (“Lower East Side”) of Parts Unknown. All this also doesn’t include other parts of New York City that he visited – including all five boroughs.

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan Hero

Now, to be clear, it is impossible to create a complete guide of all the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan – after all, he lived there and surely went to lots of places that he never shared with the public (likely on purpose!). But below, you’ll find the list of everywhere Anthony Bourdain ate in Manhattan on screen, at least – and that’s quite enough to be getting on with.

Ready to explore Tony’s stomping ground and visit some of his favorite food spots? Let’s dig in!

Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Manhattan?
The A Cook’s Tour episodes can be found on Amazon and Apple TV; the “New York City” No Reservations episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV; the “Disappearing Manhattan” episode of No Reservations is available on AmazonHulu, and Apple TV; The Layover episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV; the Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Mohican, Wappinger, Schaghticoke, and Munsee Lenape peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

Where Bourdain Ate in Manhattan

Before jumping into the list of places Tony ate in Manhattan, I thought it might be helpful to use a map to show where all of the places are – as you can see, he ate in a variety of areas around the city.

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan Map
Click to interact with the map.

Using that map to get oriented, now let’s go through each of the places Tony ate, during each of his visits to film there.

A Cook’s Tour (Season 1, 2001)

With the city itself spread out over the five boroughs, it makes sense for Bourdain to begin the first of his many on-screen explorations of its vast culinary delights in the area around both his apartment and the legendary Les Halles restaurant so synonymous with his name – Manhattan. Here are the spots he visited during that very first season of television, over 20 years ago.

Barney Greengrass

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Smoked Salmon Eggs

A New York institution since 1908, Barney Greengrass is a deli founded by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, and the foods they brought with them still echo today in the largely unchanged menu.

All too familiar with what is on offer here, Bourdain keeps his order to the classics. A platter of smoked sturgeon (Greengrass’ has the nickname “the sturgeon king”), a type of fish that is flaky yet firm with an almost buttery taste served with an accompaniment of freshly sliced tomatoes, juicy olives, and a generous helping of pickle.

He also orders Nova Eggs, named after the smoked salmon from Nova Scotia that was previously used as the key ingredient of the dish, though whilst the name remains the salmon itself is sourced elsewhere. The salmon itself is scrambled together with caramelized onions and fresh farm eggs, then served together with a plain bagel and a generous helping of cream cheese.

Tony also takes full advantage of the establishment and orders some pate to go; chopped liver with an almost fluffy, ethereal texture, made with more caramelized onions and beaten egg mixture.

Veritas (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Ceviche

Anthony next visits Veritas, the restaurant of his good friend Scott Bryan who is also mentioned in Kitchen Confidential.

Veritas is more than just a restaurant though, and Scott works alongside sommelier Tim Kopec to create and curate dishes that are ably accompanied by the establishment’s 3000-bottle-strong wine selection.

The food on offer tonight is a firm example of this approach. For starters is a ceviche of citrus-marinated fluke together with a salad of shaved fennel, basil, chive oil, and a little tomato, accompanied by a German Riesling white wine, known for its sweeter and slightly more acidic taste.

This is followed by a dish of seared Atlantic black bass, served with shrimp lemon emulsion, together with a lighter Burgundy red wine for a different flavor combination to the usual white wine pairing so often seen with fish.

Next up is a dish known as ‘dueling foie gras’, goose liver served two ways. One side is served simply and elegantly in the classical style, the other a more rebellious version with a rhubarb and black pepper gastrique, a reduction of sugar and vinegar.

For the main course, there is braised veal cheek with a slice of sirloin, with luxurious shaved white truffle on top, served with a rich rustic red wine.

Murray’s Cheese Shop

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Bleu d'Auvergne

One of Bourdain’s favorite things is stinky runny cheese, and there are few places to find them stinkier or runnier than in Murray’s.

Less of a meal, more of a tasting menu, the cheeses on offer here ramp up in intensity. Starting with cheddar from Shelburne Farms, and a Grafton 4 Year, both from Vermont, the soft and creamy textures move on to stronger pastures with the introduction of the blue cheese.

For this, there is a Bleu d’Auvergne, a raw milk cheese with a creamy and full-bodied taste but without the usual sharpness usually associated with a thick and veiny offering. By law, Bleu d’Auvergne can only be made in the départements of Puy-de-Dôme (mostly made in the south of France) and Cantal (mostly in the north), and in the adjoining cantons of Aveyron, la Corrèze, la Haute-Loire, le Lot, and la Lozère.

There is also Vacherin, a very runny cheese with a luscious pudding-like texture, and a special backroom treat of another Bleu d’Auvergne, this time aged in a cave where the mold thrives in the constant temperature and humidity-controlled natural environment.

Papaya King (CLOSED)

Whilst Tony believes that the Upper East Side “largely sucks,” he does concede that there is one shining light, one temple of cuisine that is worth a visit – Papaya King.

Known for doing two things well, frankfurters and juice, Papaya King is a New York institution just as much as Barney Greengrass.

Tony takes his hotdogs one with sauerkraut, one with onions, and a papaya juice. The apex of the hot dog-making art, albeit Tony concedes that a hot dog is essentially just ground animal parts wrapped in intestines.

Amir’s Falafel Restaurant (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Shawarma

On the advice of his cab driver, and to the atmospheric strains of Bernard Herrmann’s Taxi Driver theme, Bourdain travels to Amir’s Falafel Restaurant, a late-night haunt of taxi drivers in need of quantity and quality at cheap prices.

Here, they both order the shawarma platter. Sliced stacked beef on a vertical rotating spit, slowly broiled then wrapped in pita with vegetables, with a couple of generous helpings of hummus and baba ghanoush (a roasted eggplant dip) on the side.

Despite all the mystery in the city that never sleeps, NYC is still as homely and inviting are your grandmother’s kitchen.

Les Halles (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Steak Frites

An establishment more closely entwined with Anthony Bourdain than perhaps anywhere else in his restaurant journey, Les Halles (now reopened as La Brasserie) is the next stop on the Cooks Tour introduction the Manhattan, and the wider city of New York.

We see Tony preparing his station elements that will be used in the dishes being served that day. These include the beef for the braised Daube beef, a dish similar to Bourguignon that can be made with white or red wine, is flavored with spices like cloves and orange, and often includes olives.

There is a bubbling pot of tomato concasse, a French cooking technique that involves scoring and boiling tomatoes in water to loosen the skins for peeling, then seeding and roughly chopping them. Eliminating the peel and seeds takes away any rough or bitter taste, leaving you with silky tomatoes to enjoy raw or made into a sauce.

Finally, there is a boned-out baby pig, slow cooking in the oven with mixed root vegetables until required.

Switching from sauté station to expedition, we see a flurry of coordinated dishes heading out of the kitchen to the waiting diners. There is Les Halles steak frites (fried twice to perfection), together with the mussels and frites made famous from the Les Halles cookbook.

Bellevue Bar (CLOSED)

The first of Bourdain’s visits to Bellevue, the now-closed but legendary dive bar, shows a who’s who of local cooks and restaurateurs enjoying some after-hour relaxation. Alongside owner Tracy Westmoreland is Drew Nieporent, owner of Nobu, Philippe Roussel, chef at Park Bistro, and Scott Bryan of Veritas. For this Manhattan exploration, the night ends with talking shop, smoking cigars, and enjoying a rich platter of sushi.

A Cook’s Tour (Season 2, 2002)

Just a few episodes later, in season 2 of A Cook’s Tour, Tony turns his camera back toward his hometown and explores what he considers to be the “Elements of a Great Bar” (the episode title).

Desmond’s (CLOSED)

As the night ends, so does the night begin, and our next stop finds us joining Tony on his ongoing quest to find the most suitable bar for a drink or three.

Desmond’s is a Park Ave South drinkery, and one of NYC’s oldest Irish pubs, the sort of place where everybody knows your name and the barman has the usual lined up as soon as you walk through the door.

In Bourdain’s case, this is a pint of Bass Pale Ale, a classic English-style pale ale. Bass has a beautiful chestnut coloring with aromas of nuts, caramel, dried fruits, and raisins. The taste is slightly sweet and a bit dry, with a nice balanced English hop finish.

As Tony enjoys the refreshing pint, he reflects on the role of a bar as a refuge, a sanctum sanctorum, where one can commiserate with other strugglers about the joys and tragedies of the human experience.

Dylan Prime (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Gin Martini

Of course, any serious drinking establishment needs a ringleader, an overboss, and/or a maniacal bartender who should combine a fierce concern for your current state of liquidity, with the tactful listening skills of a priest hearing confession, and it helps if they know one or two things about making a drink.

At Dylan Prime, they have such a curator in Dale Degroff, the master of the martini who has quite literally written the book on cocktails. Dale is also the only bartender Bourdain has ever met who shows up with his own knife roll, including a Wusthof, a knife that any kitchen chef would be proud to own.

Dale pours Tony a classical gin martini (vodka doesn’t bring any flavor to the party, he says) with a dash of vermouth, one olive, and a twist of flamed lemon rind.

Jeremy’s Ale House

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Oatmeal Stout

The morning after the night before, Bourdain starts the next day early with a trip to Jeremy’s on the south side of Manhattan, called one of the last great NYC dive bars. Whilst it doesn’t pack the excitement of an early morning board meeting, Jeremy’s provides an unrivaled atmosphere, with vintage bras and bric-a-brac decor adorning the walls and ceiling, and beer served in a variety of plastic and Styrofoam pint cups.

In lieu of traditional oatmeal, Tony goes for an oatmeal stout, a full-bodied beer with a rich, dark, chocolatey taste.

Corner Bistro

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - New York Cheeseburger

Though he has eaten bar foods as diverse as chicken yakitori and still beating cobra heart, Anthony Bourdain knows that few such dishes can top the classic New York cheeseburger.

Made here at Corner Bistro with 90% beef, cooked medium and served on a toasted bun with a slice of American cheese, pickle, tomato, and lettuce, this is the perfect kind of drinking (or post-drinking) food, one that can be eaten with one hand, and a beer in the other.

Rudy’s Bar

Rudy’s has a unique selling point as far as catering to hungry bar flies, with each beer coming with a free hotdog. Not exactly the height of culinary sophistication, but after a couple of beers an excellent idea.

Tony enjoys his free dog guilt-free, served with only a dash of mustard, a perfect accompaniment to another pint of Bass.

Chicama (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Shrimp Ceviche

A change of style now as Tony visits the now sadly closed Chicama, a now-closed Peruvian restaurant.

Accompanied by a refreshing and dangerously easy mojito, he enjoys an Ecuadorian shrimp ceviche, marinated in lemon juice with tomatoes and onions. There is also a smoked marlin dip served on tiny tortillas, and the overall mix of heat and smoke, sweet and cool flavors inevitably lead to Bourdain ordering another mojito…

Bellevue Bar (CLOSED)

Looking to maintain his steady buzz, Tony returns to Bellevue for a day session rather than an after-hours unwind.

A subtle way to keep a boozehound firmly affixed to their seat when their brain might otherwise be telling them to call it a day, Bellevue’s generous buyback policy – where every third or fourth drink comes with a free one – coupled with its eclectic and dialed-in playlist is a perfect example of Tony’s belief that no matter what you’re looking for, somewhere there is a bar stool with your name on it.

No Reservations (2007)

Starting to step into his own as a television host, Bourdain’s first dedicated “New York City” episode happens quite early in his career, but it’s the first of many and shows off some of his favorite places.

Gray’s Papaya

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - New York Hot Dog

Bourdain’s love for all things street meat shines through once again, as he visits Gray’s Papaya. Similar to Papaya King, this is a place to swing past after a couple of drinks for a cost-efficient snack.

With Gray’s, this takes the form of the ‘Recession Special’; 2 franks with Sauerkraut and a juice for $2.75 inc tax (2007 prices).

Meat, starch, and veg all in a few mouthfuls, with a side of papaya juice… everything a late-night participant needs to help steady the boat.

Siberia Bar (CLOSED)

Another shining example of a dive bar, where journalists, restaurant industry folks, musicians, and the lost all brush shoulders in the hopes of finding their daily salvation at the bottom of a glass, with an accompanying soundtrack of everything from Velvet Underground to Danzig.

Bourdain dips into Siberia to enjoy a couple of cold beers with Bizarre Foods host and Food Channel compatriot, Andrew Zimmern.

Sake Bar Hagi

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Yakitori

Answering the long-pondered question of where sushi chefs go after work, Bourdain visits Hagi, a typical izakaya, a cozy Japanese tapas bar that serves everything from yakitori to sushi.

Amongst the family-sized servings of savory food and copious amounts of beer, this kind of establishment is where one heads in both Japan and New York to take the edge off.

Bourdain and his chef compatriots enjoy a selection of dishes, including yakitori to start, grilled meat on sticks, in this case, chicken skin, crispy and fatty with a drizzle of soy sauce, yam jelly, and sesame seeds. There is also yellowtail collar, similar to what can be found in the Shinjuku district in Tokyo, broiled until chargrilled, and finally, some wasabi shumai, which are steamed dumplings with a fiery finish.

Sakagura

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Sake

With a name like Sakagura, it’s only natural that the Japanese rice wine sake would be involved, and this underground bar hidden under an office building delivers just that.

Sake is an alcoholic beverage of Japanese origin made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran, and with over 260 kinds of carefully selected sakes available, Sakagura more than earns the tag of ‘hidden gem’.

The Spotted Pig (CLOSED)

The Spotted Pig was a gastro pub lovechild of celebrity chefs, musicians, record label execs, and hip hop superstars with two floors of dining, but it’s the private third floor* that Bourdain is taken to for a personal tasting.

Here chef April Bloomfield serves up a dish Bourdain had only heard discussed in whispered tones prior – a whole sheep head, roasted to perfection, cut in half, and seasoned with garlic and rosemary.

*In what’s a frustratingly common occurrence in the restaurant industry, The Spotted Pig was embroiled in controversy after its owner Ken Friedman was accused of sexual misconduct in late 2017; the restaurant closed in 2020.

No Reservations (2008)

Not all places stand the test of time, and in 2008 Bourdain took a journey around “disappearing Manhattan,” the name of the episode he produced. During that show, he visited the old-school establishments that defined the city as one of the epicenters of excellent cuisines, brought by immigrants traveling to the new world and bringing their old-world food with them.

Russ & Daughters

Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side - Lox Bagel

Russ & Daughters is a family-owned shop offering Jewish comfort food, specializing in smoked and cured fish since 1914.

Known for its wafer-thin sliced smoked salmon and herring fillets in cream sauce, both of which are on offer today, Tony is especially excited for a timeless New York classic of bagel, cream cheese, and lox. Lox is never cooked; instead, it’s made by curing a salmon belly fillet in salty brine, traditionally for three months. This technique gives Lox its signature salty flavor and makes it perfect for adding the necessary twang to cut through the cream cheese.

Katz’s Delicatessen

Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side - Pastrami on Rye

Tony next visits NYC’s oldest and most famous deli Katz’s, which has been around since 1888, a living museum and a celebrity in its own right.

Sandwiches are the order of the day, with Bourdain going for the pastrami on rye, whilst Joel has pastrami and chopped liver.

The sandwiches at Katz’s follow the classic deli style. The meat is all hand cut, thick slices, a mix of fat and lean, and must be put on rye bread, warm, fresh, and with a generous smear of brown mustard, and some sour pickles on the side, with a cream soda to finish off the dish.

Esposito Pork Shop (CLOSED?)

One of the last really great butcher shops, Bourdain visits Eposito’s with Michael Lomonaco, former chef at LeCirque and legendary establishment 21 Club, now Porter House. Both long-time NYC residents lament they are “Losing the hell in Hell’s Kitchen.”

Here they sample a ‘perfect’ breakfast of calves’ feet, honeycomb tripe (stomach lining), and smoked pigs’ tails.

Recent research suggests Esposito’s may have closed in early 2023. If you’re able to confirm, please let me know in the comments.

Manganaro’s (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Spaghetti and Meatballs

An Italian market and deli on Ninth Avenue in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood since 1893, owned by the same family and largely untouched by time, Manganaro’s was famous for providing New York versions of classic Italian dishes to turn-of-the-century workers.

Here, this home-cooked style of food helped with taking sauce from being an accompaniment to a lead component of the meal. Paying homage to this tradition, Bourdain and Lomonaco order traditional spaghetti and meatballs, served on the same plate rather than separately as one would find in Italy, and a freshly baked lasagna.

Keen’s Steakhouse

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Prime Rib

They say that when you’re good at something, why change? – and Keen’s Steakhouse is the perfect example of that, serving meat and liquor since 1885.

Accompanied by Josh Ozersky, better known as author and blogger Mr. Cutlets, Bourdain finds a steakhouse that flies in the face of modern-day chain restaurants, and is decked out inside with all the trappings one would expect, including oil paintings, wood paneling, dead stuffed animal heads… and maybe a wedge of iceberg salad.

Scotch with the meal, rather than wine, is the preferred drink, and the meat speaks for itself. On the menu are lamb or mutton chops, steak, or a mammoth slab of bleeding roast beef, to be accompanied only (and we mean only) by creamed spinach and maybe some hash browns.

Bourdain and Josh opt for respectively a king-cut prime rib, and a double porterhouse-sized cut of lamb mutton chops that causes the serving plate to groan under its weight.

Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Tuna Salad Sandwich

Similar to such places as Russ and Daughters and Katz’s deli, Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop, right across from the Flatiron Building, is a prohibition-era holdover, still serving the working person’s lunch and non-alcoholic beverages, noted for their sandwich selection including hot pastrami, salami, bologna, roast beef, and cured ham.

Accompanied by food tour operator Famous Fat Dave, Bourdain opts for an old favorite of tuna salad, with Dave going for a tuna melt.

In addition to the hefty sandwiches, they order a couple of classic nonalcoholic drinks: an egg cream and a lime rickey. An egg cream is a cold beverage consisting of milk, seltzer water, and chocolate flavored syrup, as a substitute for an ice cream float, which despite its name contains neither egg nor cream. A lime rickey is a delicious and refreshing blend of syrup, seltzer water, and lime juice (a gin variation is also possible, though not available at Eisenberg’s).

Schaller & Weber/Heidelberg Restaurant

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Schweinskopfsülze

Refreshed but not quite full, Bourdain and Fat Dave make their way to Heidelberg, right down the street from Papaya King, in the former German neighborhood of Yorkville, home to a once sizable German community.

This restaurant still serves the German staples of meat and, of course, beer, this time served in an oversized glass boot which Bourdain admits would feel a little kinky if it were to have a high heel on the end of it.

For starters, the two are served a sausage platter, consisting of white sausage, Bratwurst, and Bauernwurst, a spicier, stronger-flavored cousin to the bratwurst.

This is followed by beef tongue, together with pork headcheese otherwise known as Schweinskopfsülze, a cold cut mix of flesh from the head of the pig, set in jelly, served with an array of sauerkrauts.

For the main course, as if the starters weren’t enough, the duo orders Jaegerschnitzel, veal cutlet with mushroom gravy, as well as Schweinshaxe, a truly gargantuan crispy German pork shank with a near-perfect combination of brittle crackling skin giving way to soft, tender meat.

Hop Kee

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Sweet & Sour Pork

Moving to another part of Manhattan now, Bourdain finds himself in Chinatown together with chef Chris Cheung to sample old-school Cantonese food at one of the few places left that offers such a regional cuisine. Hop Kee is noted as being famous for having a secret second menu that wasn’t offered to non-Chinese patrons on the assumption they wouldn’t enjoy it.

Bourdain and Cheung decide to order both sides of the menu to cover their bases. Bourdain opts for the standard Cantonese options – wonton soup with dumplings of juicy pork and shrimp, crispy egg rolls, BBQ spareribs, pork fried rice, and pungent sweet & sour pork.

For the off-menu, Cheung orders from memory the old-timey dishes from his past. Cantonese crab in a sauce of chili, egg, and soy sauce, and periwinkle snails, smaller than your French escargot, in a black bean sauce.

The meal is finished off with pan-fried flounder Cantonese style, with a sweet soy sauce, made using some of the fry oil, and plenty of fresh cilantro and scallions.

Le Veau d’Or (CLOSED?)

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Peach Melba

As a lover of classical French gastronomy and presentation, to say Bourdain is in awe of Le Veau d’Or is an understatement. Opened in 1937, with famous customers including Marlene Dietrich and Orson Welles, this is a restaurant that truly defies fashion, time, logic, and reason.

Together with Michael Batterberry, famed food writer, Bourdain finds himself the guest of owner Robert Treboux and his daughter Catherine, as he enjoys a selection of food unchanged practically since it opened.

The menu is a journey through the past, of dishes that were old even when Bourdain was a boy. For starters, celery remoulade, made from fresh raw celery sticks tossed in a creamy mayonnaise and Dijon mustard sauce, Saucisson Chaud, a type of cold sliced garlic sausage, and pate de chef, typically made from pork meat and duck liver.

The main course is Poussin En Cocotte, roast baby chicken with white wine and mushrooms, carved tableside by the owner (“Who does this anymore?!?” exclaims Bourdain), whilst Michael gets the Grenouilles Provencal, frog legs in tomato and garlic.

To finish off this feast of dishes that nobody does anymore there is peach melba, a dessert of peaches and raspberry sauce with vanilla ice cream. and Oeufs A La Neige, consisting of meringue floating on crème anglaise (a vanilla custard).

Sophies

With a tour around old dive bars now sadly closed, including the legendary Siberia and Bellevue, Bourdain settles at Sophie’s with writer and poet Nick Tosches, to reminisce over a pint of Guinness of bars and liquors lost to time and gentrification.

With a jukebox playing anything from Stones to Sinatra, Bourdain and Tosches reflect on how New Yorkers are an obstinate lot, stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so.

The Layover (2011)

Returning for one of his jam-packed episodes of The Layover, Tony packs as much of Manhattan as he can into a short time – and manages to show off a lot of the borough despite these constraints, perhaps because he knows the area so well.

Note: Given how fast Bourdain moves through each of these spots, I don’t cover them in quite as much depth.

Bemelmans Bar

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Dry Martini

Bemelmans is a classy venue, and a classy venue, Bourdain notes, deserves a classic drink. And what better than a dry martini? Served the quintessential way, with an extra olive.

Burger Joint

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Cheeseburger

The Layover is known for its whistle-stop highlights of establishments, and whilst some are familiar, there are still some hidden gems. Tony recommends the subtly named Burger Joint, hidden in a corner of the Parker Meridien Hotel.

One of the city’s great incongruities, you’d never even know it was there simply by walking past, but the burgers here are well worth the detour. Bourdain orders his usual when it comes to burgers – a medium raw cheeseburger with everything, and a cold beer.

Subway Inn

Tony next meets with regular collaborator, David Chang. Chang is a restaurateur, author, podcaster, and television personality, and is the founder of the Momofuku restaurant group.

Although their travels together on this episode will take them outside of Manhattan for a time, in Subway Inn, a genuine dive bar, situated across the street from Bloomingdales, they plot their moves together over a couple of rounds of beer.

Note: This great dive has moved a few times since Tony’s visit.

Crif Dogs

A faster pace of visit for Bourdain was when he dropped into the Lower East for a couple of stops for The Layover. Needing meat in tube form, he meets first with David Chang, restaurateur, author, podcaster, and television personality, as they visit Crif Dogs, a compact place pioneering a form of deep-fried, bacon-wrapped hot dog.

Bourdain keeps it light to begin with and goes for a hot dog with cream cheese and sesame seeds, and tater tots with molten yellow cheese.

Please Don’t Tell

Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side - Deep Fried Bacon Wrapped Hot Dog

Next door to Crif Dogs, however, is where the magic happens. PDT (as it’s known) is a speakeasy-type bar adjacent to Crif Dogs, accessed secret agent style through a fake wall in a phone booth in the back.

A laidback purveyor of classic and tweaked cocktails with a refreshing no-standing policy, Bourdain wets his whistle with a classic NY cocktail, a Manhattan.

However, David Chang’s Momofuku has been providing a number of recipes for hot dogs that – whilst they are prepared at Crif’s – are only available at PDT.

Naturally, Bourdain opts for a Momofuko special, wrapped in bacon, deep fried, smothered in spicy kimchi. David orders a Wylie Dog – deep fried, tube of fried mayo, tomato molasses, and iceberg lettuce.

Takashi

Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan - Yakiniku

At the time, Bourdain refers to this as his “favorite new restaurant in New York,” and with a menu on offer of yakiniku, a mix of Japanese and Korean BBQ, it’s not hard to see why.

There is a focus on horumon, literally discarded goods in Japanese, that sets it apart from its contemporaries.

Bourdain is served a veritable feast of dishes, highlighting this unique take on Far East cuisine. There is an appetizer of cold beef noodles with uni (sea urchin), beef testicles served escargot style with a squeeze of lemon and lightly grilled, as well as niku-uni, chuck flap topped with sea urchin and fresh wasabi over a shiso leaf and toasted seaweed.

The meat dishes are served raw and cooked at your table over a small built-in hot grill, with the majority lightly marinated in a mix of sesame, orange marmalade, sake, and a little salt and pepper.

For this, Tony tries shio-tan, beef tongue served with a scallion salad, tsurumi (beef cheek), shibire (sweetbread marinated in the restaurant’s special mix), and thin cuts of fatty beef belly.

Big Gay Ice Cream Truck

Something sweet next to counter the salty, as Bourdain tracks down the ever-moving and ever-popular Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. Torn between several choices, he eventually settles for the ‘Salty Pimp’ – creamy vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, and sea salt, then dipped in chocolate.

Baohaus (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side - Taiwanese Sandwich

Later, Bourdain meets with chef and raconteur Eddie Wong, at his restaurant Baohaus to try some Taiwanese-style sandwiches.

There is a Chairman Bao consisting of pork belly, crushed peanuts, house relish, Taiwanese red sugar, and cilantro, as well as a Birdhouse Bao, which is chicken brined in a five-spice Taiwanese mix for five hours, then dipped in sweet potato starch and deep fried, served with red pepper powder, cilantro, peanut, and sugar.

Tammany Hall (CLOSED)

Following this, Tony and Eddie (together with Eddie’s crew), move to Tammany Hall, a tri-level bar with a street-level live music space, a balcony lounge & a basement drinks den. After the amazing sandwiches, they relax with some music and some cold beers.

Great NY Noodletown

A legendary late-night chef-friendly Chinese restaurant, Great NY Noodletown has been providing after-shift sustenance to the kitchen staff of NYC since its inception. Traditionally a good place to go and get some after-work food and a couple of drinks, although Bourdain does not specifically mention what he tries on this visit.

Other Places Tony Suggested in The Layover

As usual for episodes of The Layover, Bourdain also suggests some places that he doesn’t visit on-screen. Here’s a quick breakdown of those places in Manhattan:

  • Shake Shack – Tony recommends a classic – the Shack Double with a milkshake. While a chain restaurant might not sound like Tony’s style, Shake Shack is a true NYC institution and undeniably delicious.
  • Minetta Tavern – While he recommends a few cheap cheeseburger options (including directly above!), he also has a splurge option: “The best, if priciest, burger in New York City, that’s probably the famous Black Label Burger at the Minetta Tavern.”
  • Ess-A-Bagel – Another option for a bagel breakfast, Ess-A-Bagel should be on your list if you’ve already visited the other spots Tony suggests.

Parts Unknown (2018)

Returning to the Lower East Side in 2018 for what would become the final episode of Parts Unknown, Bourdain draws upon the vast array of inspirations, both cultural and musical, that the Lower East Side is famous for.

For this last trip, there is no voiceover; it has a gritty opening, VHS style, with an intercut new-wave aesthetic continuing throughout the episode. This is less about the food and more about the people and passion that made New York and the Lower East Side the cultural volcano that it was in the 70s and 80s when Tony was coming up there.

Ray’s Candy Store

Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side - Chocolate Egg Cream

Meeting first with Harley Flanagan founder of the band The Cro-Mags and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt (currently working at the legendary Renzo’s as a coach), the two reminisce about music, and the somewhat ‘tough’ reputation some neighborhoods had.

At Ray’s Candy Store, an ice cream store, they enjoy a chocolate egg cream. This is a mix of cold milk, carbonated water, and chocolate syrup that contains neither egg, nor cream, but is very refreshing.

Veselka

Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side - Pierogi

Veselka is a Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village, offering patrons no-frills takes on dishes from the motherland.

Here, Anthony dines with Danny Fields, music manager, publicist, journalist, and author. To say punk rock would not exist without Fields is an understatement. His accomplishments include signing and managing Iggy and the Stooges, signing MC5, and managing the Ramones.

Pierogi is the order of the day here. Filled dumplings, pierogi are a unique fusion of flavors, textures, and aromas that will transport you to the bustling streets of Kyiv or the charming cafes of Warsaw. They can be boiled or pan-fried, and fillings include potato, short rib, and pulled pork among others.

John V. Lindsay East River Park

A park bench in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge is Tony’s next stop, together with artist Kembra Pfahler in the peace and tranquility of the East River Park.

They enjoy a simple bodega sandwich together, not too dissimilar to the one that is included in Bourdain’s Appetites cookbook. The typical bodega sandwich is known as a BEC – short for bacon, egg, and cheese. Salt and pepper to taste, ketchup optional, kaiser rolls essential.

John’s of 12th Street

Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side - Linguini with Clams

A traditional gravy and red-sauce Italian food joint, making dishes since 1908, John’s is a throwback to the classic Italian-American restaurants that served the city’s immigrant population at the turn of the century.

With painter Joe Coleman, Bourdain orders a meal that whilst not specifically mentioned, appears to be an authentic red sauce spaghetti, together with red clam sauce over linguini.

El Castillo De Jagua Restaurant

Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side - Pernil

Not just known for its art, the Lower East also has its connection to music, and Tony’s next dinner date is a perfect encapsulation of just how culture can shift when those two intersect.

Fab 5 Freddy – emcee and hip-hop legend – is known for his pioneering work in helping to spread graffiti and breakdancing across the globe as part of the hip-hop explosion which turned the genre into a global mega power.

They meet at El Castillo De Jagua, a longstanding Dominican restaurant with a largely unchanged menu since the 70s. On offer today are some of the house specialties. There is arroz amarillo (white rice tinted yellow turmeric), together with Dominican fried pork chops known as chuletas fritas.

Also on the table is a mouthwatering plate of pernil. Pernil is a slow-cooked pork roast, usually a shoulder, rump, or leg, that is very typically enjoyed during the holidays. It is a classic Puerto Rican dish, and a classic dish in the Dominican Republic, though unsurprisingly there are small differences that mean a lot.

The Dominican take on the recipe typically uses lime and orange juice, together with oregano, to achieve its delectable mix of crispy skin and succulent meat.

Emilio’s Ballato

Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side - Veal Parmesan

Two of Fab 5 Freddy’s fans who helped spread his message to a wider audience join Tony next, as he sits down with Deborah Harry, lead singer of Blondie, and Chris Stein, co-founder and guitarist.

Their venue is Emilio’s Ballato, a longtime Italian restaurant and celebrity hangout known, with white coat-wearing old-school waiters and walls adorned with fading 6x9s of famous patrons.

Whilst the food is not specifically mentioned, Emilio’s is known best for its pasta and comfortingly outsized plates of veal parmesan.

Public Kitchen (CLOSED)

The outspoken musician and actor Lydia Lunch is next to join Bourdain, this time at Public Kitchen.

Whilst their conversation is extended, the food is again sadly not mentioned, save for Lydia’s decision to order the grilled octopus. Bourdain, for his part, appears to order grilled cod, served on a bed of pan-fried shallots and sugar snap peas.

Home-Cooked Meal

Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side - Hard Boiled Eggs

For the final televised meal of his career, Bourdain meets with painter John Lurie at his home. As they discuss art and its influences on the city of New York, Lurie prepares perhaps one of the simplest meals Tony has ever eaten on camera: eggs, hard-boiled in New York tap water, and then eaten plain with no condiments.

To close a show and end a legacy of traveling, eating, discovering new places, and trying new things, all the while showing that the world may be a scary place, but the people and experiences that lie within it are what make life worth living.

Have any questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Manhattan? Let me know in the comments.

Matt Young Headshot

Matt Young is a street food fanatic and world traveler, currently splitting his time between Europe and South East Asia.

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