Anthony Bourdain in Philadelphia: 9 Spots Where Tony Ate

Say what you will about Philadelphia and how it’s been portrayed in pop culture over the decades, but there’s something pretty cool about this historic Pennsylvania city. It’s only a few hours from New York City, though most people on the Eastern seaboard never give it the time it deserves as a destination in its own right.

Anthony Bourdain visited Philadelphia to film season 2 (episode 3) of The Layover; it was his only visit to the City of Brotherly Love, but not his only visit to Pennsylvania – he also spent time in Pittsburgh, if you’re planning to explore more of the state too. As was the case for most episodes of The Layover, Tony’s trip is a bit of a whirlwind with a lot of spots and not a ton of screen time spent on each one.

Anthony Bourdain in Philadelphia Hero

Whether you’re short on time (as he was) or have plenty of opportunity to savor the flavors of Philly, you’ve come to the right spot. Below you’ll find a guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Philadelphia and what he ate at each one. Use it as a guide to plan your own exploration through the city’s European, Asian, and distinctly American influences.

Want to watch the episode where Anthony Bourdain visits Philadephia?
The Layover episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Lenapehoking (Lenni-Lenape) people, 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 people who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

Where Anthony Bourdain Ate in Philadelphia

Before jumping into the list, I thought it would be helpful to have a map to orient you to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Philadelphia. 

Anthony Bourdain in Philadelphia Map
Click to interact with the map

Ready to learn about each one and what Tony ate there? Read on!

Di Bruno Bros.

Anthony Bourdain in Philadelphia - Stichelton

In South Philly on 9th Street sits Di Bruno Bros., an artisanal cheese shop that is owned and operated by Emilio Mignucci and has been operating in one form or another for over 80 years. Di Bruno’s offers a deli counter and over 350 types of cheeses, and cured meats from all over the globe.

Tony is surprised to see that they even serve Stichelton, which is an English bleu cheese that was outlawed in a similar form since it was being made in England and not designated bleu cheese provinces. Bourdain gets himself a serving of the Stichelton before moving on down the rest of South 9th.

Paesano’s

Anthony Bourdain in Philadelphia - Italian Sandwich

Located in the Italian Market on 9th, Paesano’s is a sandwich shop with a classic Italian twist. Serving most of their sandwiches on hoagie rolls with ingredients like a fried egg, roasted lamb, or liver, Tony can’t decide on just one sandwich, so instead he orders four.

Starting his Paesano’s experience off, he gets the “Arista” sandwich with roasted suckling pig and broccoli rabe. Next is the “Gustaio” wrap, which is a roasted lamb sausage, sun-dried cherry mustard, gorgonzola, roasted tomatoes with fennel, and some fresh arugula.

Following that, he has the “Liverrace” sandwich, his favorite of the four, which consists of fried, crispy chicken liver, salami, orange marmalade, onion, tomato, garlic mayo, and gorgonzola. Finally, he can only take a few bites of his “Paesano” sandwich, named after the restaurant, and served with fried egg and brisket. After four sandwiches, it’s no surprise he can’t finish them all!

Stateside

If you want to get an idea of South Philly’s bar scene, Stateside is just a few blocks from Paesano’s and has a focus on United States-made craft beers and spirits, mainly bourbon. Bourdain gets a draft beer but the real gem of this visit is the glass of hard-to-find 20-year Pappy Van Winkle with a single ice cube.

Amis

Anthony Bourdain in Rome - Cacio e Pepe

Although permanently closed since the filming, this was the third restaurant owned by Marc Vetri, a high-end and Italian-trained Chef. Tony comes in after his history tour in Center City for a slightly more elevated dining experience at Amis Trattoria, which is Italian fare with a focus on more Roman-styled dishes.

He starts off with a glass of red wine and house-made mortadella with hazelnut honey, followed by grilled veal tongue with a pepper mostarda or candied fruit, and finally, a classic tripe stew with white beans which Bourdain considered “mind-blowing.” For his main dishes, he orders the simple yet classic cacio e pepe (one of his favorite dishes), and a bowl of bucatini all’amatriciana

Dirty Frank’s

Meeting up with owner and Philadelphia Chef, Han Chiang, Tony next stops by the cash-only dive bar Dirty Frank’s for multiple “city-wide specials.” The Philadelphia “city-wide special” varies a bit at each establishment but at its core consists of a shot and a beer for a discounted price, Anthony gets a hefty shot of Jameson and an IPA.

Pho 75

Anthony Bourdain in Philadelphia - Brisket Pho

After a night of heavy drinking, nothing clears the mind like a steaming bowl of Vietnamese Pho. Bourdain heads to Pho 75 to recover over a Vietnamese coffee and the classic, brisket Pho, a brothy noodle dish, garnished with basil, mint, sprouts, cilantro, jalapeno, and lime. A huge bowl of Pho to cure a hangover is a surefire way to get yourself back on track.

Chef Ken’s Café (CLOSED)

Although now permanently closed, Chef Ken’s was located in the Mount Airy area of Philadelphia. Chef Ken’s served southern-style style soul food like chicken wings, ribs, mac and cheese, and collard greens. Bourdain ordered the wings, mac and cheese, and collared greens with cabbage; these are more of his favorite dishes whenever he’s choosing cuisine like this.

Zahav

Anthony Bourdain in Philadelphia - Hummus & Laffa

At the south end of Old City close to the Delaware River sits an Israeli restaurant owned and operated by Chef Michael Solomonov, Zahav.

Tony starts off with a bowl of hummus and laffa bread, an Iraqi-style flatbread that is perfect for dipping. He doesn’t order any more specific dishes and instead lets Solomonov send whatever dishes he wants; this begins with some tasting of roasted zucchini with Kashkaval cheese which is fairly similar to a yellow cheddar. After that is a serving of Kibbeh Nayeh, a ground lamb kebab with spiced walnuts alongside a watermelon salad with a black olive puree, and feta cheese.

Bourdain is then served a plate of grilled duck heart and cippolini onion rings with a kebab of foie gras and spiced pistachios. His last dish is a half lamb shoulder that has been brined, smoked, and then slow-roasted for hours topped with chickpeas in pomegranate juice, and served with a side of Persian-style spiced rice. 

Pen & Pencil Club

To finish off his layover in Philadelphia, Bourdain stops for a drink at the Pen & Pencil Club, otherwise known as the P&P.

This bar is a slightly more exclusive bar with a focus on tending to journalists and service industry workers. Tony keeps it local here and orders a bottle of Yuengling Lager, a beer that used to only be available in the state of Pennsylvania.

If you really want to follow Bourdain’s footsteps here, he did lose a bet and have to drink a shot of Hot Dog Water straight out of the boiler, but we’ll leave that up to you.

Philly Food Tours to Try

While most of the places Bourdain visited are still open today, you might want to sample a bit more – or have a more formal experience with a guide that will show you the best spots (like Tony’s fixers used to do for him). Food tours are a good option in this case, and here are a few Philly food tours that look good:

Have any other questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Philadelphia? Let me know in the comments below!

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Ricky has worked off and on in the restaurant industry since high school, filling positions from host to line cook to sous chef all in California and Kentucky. He has always had a desire for food and travel, so discovering Anthony’s writings and shows years back was like meeting a great new friend.

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