The Eastern Canadian island of Newfoundland (pronounced ‘Newfunland,’ if you’re not familiar with the name) is not a popular destination by any stretch – but that’s never been a reason Anthony Bourdain wouldn’t visit a place… especially when that place has a reputation for celebrating all of nature’s bounty on the table.
Anthony Bourdain visited Newfoundland to film season 11 (episode 3) of Parts Unknown; it was his only trip to the island but one of many he made to Canada as a whole. Setting out on this “bro-cation” with Bourdain are chefs Frédéric Moran and David McMillan (both from Montréal) together with the “Jeremys” of Raymond’s restaurant (Jeremy Charles is co-owner and head chef, Jeremy Bonia is co-owner and sommelier).
If you’re planning a trip to Eastern Canada and want to eat at the same places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Newfoundland, below you’ll find a guide. It primarily focuses on the restaurants where he and his chef friends ate that you can also visit; I also include a recap of his unstructured dining experiences so you might seek out similar meals if possible. Make sure you bring your appetite; basing yourself in the city of St. John and you certainly won’t be hungry during your visit.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Mi’kma’ki and Beothuk peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present peoples of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Bourdain’s first stop is to meet with Dale Jarvis, who works with the Intangible Culture Heritage office of Newfoundland, at Chafe’s Landing, a family-owned and operated restaurant.
Despite the 1992 moratorium placed on cod fishing, cod is still plentiful within the local restaurants, and Chafe’s serves up deep-fried cod, and homemade fries, served with a squeeze of lemon and a cold beer.
The now sadly now-closed Raymonds is Tony’s next stop, as together with Frédéric and David they experience just what made this establishment so renowned.
With Jeremy Charles again at the controls in the kitchen, the food on offer here is jaw-dropping. For starters, there is a literal tower of seafood, made up of razor clams, snow crab, mussels, capelin (a small fish with a taste similar to herring), whelk (sea snail), and sea urchin.
There are also boquerones, raw sardines in olive oil and vinegar, as well as tuna tartare, and scallops crudo with chives and lemon, nasturtium, and sliced radishes. Reflecting the local wildlife offerings, this is followed by caribou heart tartare with alder and chantarelle mushrooms.
Charred whelk with braciole of seal and crispy cod sounds are next to be served; this is accompanied by cod fillet with cod liver quenelle, a partridge profiterole, and a take on the classic Jigg’s dinner, a traditional Newfoundland Sunday meal of beef, split peas, and root vegetables, here reimagined into a pasta dish.
This gastronomical experimentation and innovation is capped off with a dessert of chantarelle ice cream.
The Big R
For all the haute cuisine on offer, there are times when comfort food is necessary as a familiar counterpoint, and for this, Tony, Frédéric, and David next travel to The Big R.
When you’re craving simple slabs of familiar food like mom’s meatloaf, then The Big R provides exactly the sort of warming dishes you’re looking for. There are no roasted beets and goat cheese here. The food is simple, filling, and delicious – fried bologna, fried clam strips, liver and onion, and pan-fried cods tongues.
Finally, there is a Jiggs dinner, the ultimate Newfoundland classic served here in its regular form. Boiled salt beef, cabbage, turnips, potatoes, and peas pudding, topped with lots of gravy, all combined for a satisfying dish that transports you back to a Sunday family meal.
After some ill-advised axe throwing, Tony and the boys hit their final spot in St. John’s. Found in the legendary St John’s nightlife district of George Street, Christian’s Pub is home to the ancient order of Screechers, and tonight, Bourdain is to be “screeched-in.”
A bawdy drink-oriented affair, the “screech-in” is a ceremony performed on non-Newfoundlanders (known to Newfoundlanders as a “come from away” or “mainlander”) involving a shot of screech, a locally made rum, and a slice of Newfoundland steak, fried bologna cooked in rum and sprinkled with cinnamon for an impressive burst of flame in the pan. Oh, and a kiss of a local Newfoundland cod!
Other Dining Experiences Tony Had
- Private Shed Meal – Every Newfoundlander has a shed to hang out in, and it’s here that Tony finds himself together with his boy’s club of compadres. Jeremy Charles prepares a meal of fish and brewis, a hearty sailor’s meal consisting of cod and hard tack, a type of dense cracker biscuit. This is served with scrunchions: salted pork fat which has been cut into small pieces and fried. Both the rendered fat and the liquid fat are then drizzled over the fish and brewis.
- Outside Feast (Buchans) – Despite being on a rain-flecked northern beach, the meal itself is by no means lacking in style and delicious dishes. With an accompaniment of local white and rose wine, there is a starter of oysters, together with dry-cured ham similar to Spanish jamon. This is followed up with jellied fois gras, terrine of wild hare drizzled with sauce, then another terrine, this time of peasant, wild duck, and guinea hen, loaded with pleasing chunks of fois gras and topped with slice black truffles, both canned and fresh, before yet another terrine of wild boar. The main course of moose shoulder and ribs arrives next, the meat having been cooked over and in the fire respectively, together with moose neck braised in red wine, wild mushrooms, and grilled Scots lovage, a flowering plant with a flavor resembling parsley or celery, and finally roasted chestnuts, bacon and pearl onions.
- Home-Cooked Meal (St Pierre and Miquelon) – Bourdain and crew visit the home of Maïté Legasse, a local cook and “director of an ambassadorial food project”, to experience traditional French style home cooking with a Newfoundland influence. For starters is a mouthwatering sea urchin pate, made from plump sacks of roe fresh off the beach formed into a loaf, and then cooked with bread, garlic, and onions. For mains, there is stuffed squid over rice, braised halibut with French potatoes, and finally a dessert course of local cheeses with a baked apple and blackberry tart.
Have any questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Newfoundland? Let me know in the comments below!