Anthony Bourdain in Queens: 12 Spots Where Tony Ate

“One minute you’re in some stereotypical idea as to why you don’t live in Queens, the next you’re not even in America… You’ve disappeared down a delicious rabbit hole to Beijing or Hong Kong.”

As a long-time Manhattan resident – and in fact, someone who was born in that borough –, Anthony Bourdain is somewhat of a stranger to Queens, in the same way that many New Yorkers are loyal to their home borough and less familiar (and even a bit uncertain) about all the others. With the right guidance though, he quickly becomes familiar with some of the extraordinary food options available across the East River.

During his television career, Anthony Bourdain filmed what would become three separate episodes highlighting Queens – in part or in full. He first spent some time in the “Outer Boroughs” during episode 19 of season 5 of No Reservations (the episode bears that name); he later made one stop there during episode 2 of season 1 of The Layover. Finally, Tony returned to dedicate an entire episode to Queens in episode 5 of season 9 of Parts Unknown.

Anthony Bourdain in Queens Hero

While local residents probably know all the great spots in the borough, you might still be curious about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Queens for another reason – you’re looking for somewhere new or you’re about to travel there, somewhere new to you! Ready to discover Queens for yourself with Uncle Tony as your guide?

Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Queens?
The “Outer Boroughs” episode of No Reservations is available on Amazon and Apple TV; The Layover episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV; and the Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Lekawe (Rockaway), Munsee Lenape, and Canarsie 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 Anthony Bourdain Ate in Queens

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 Queens. 

Anthony Bourdain in Queens Map
Click to interact with the map

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

No Reservations (2009)

As mentioned, Bourdain’s first visit to Queens is rolled up in an episode of No Reservations titled “Outer Boroughs” which also features Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island. During his time in Queens, he only visits the Flushing area, but it’s enough to give him a taste for what makes this borough special – both literally and figuratively.

Golden Shopping Mall

Anthony Bourdain in Queens - Schweinshaxe

Multicultural Flushing is home to the city’s largest Chinatown, and, accompanied by chef Chris Cheung, Bourdain finds that the Golden Shopping Mall is selling tasty specialties from all across China.

Stopping first at a vendor in the labyrinth-like corridors inside the Mall, Bourdain orders a French-German style braised pigs feet dish (possibly Schweinshaxe?), and head cheese (pork meat in jelly) Chinese style, eaten with chopsticks. There is also a lamb burger, made of crisp chunks of meat seasoned with cumin, dressed with hot peppers and pickled jalapenos, served in a toasted pita-like bun.

Upstairs, they visit a noodle bar specializing in lamb, where the noodles are all hand-pulled right in front of you, the working of the dough creating a delicate and light texture that compliments the fatty richness of the lamb.

Lamb noodle is one of the most famous dishes from Tianjin city, and the weather is similar to New York, so the dish is only slightly changed to reflect the climate. This is all served in a milky broth complemented by fragrant vegetables and herbs such as cilantro, lily buds, Chinese wolfberries, and black tree fungus, with a little spice to bring all the flavors together.

Note: It appears that Golden Shopping Mall closed for a time, but is now re-opened. If you know otherwise, please let me know in the comments.

Temple Canteen at the Hindu Temple Society of North America

Anthony Bourdain in Queens - Idiyappam

Ordinarily, the combination of religion and vegetarian food would be enough to send Bourdain running, but with Floyd Cardoz, chef of Tabla, by his side, he discovers beneath this temple a place that is not just a canteen, but a restaurant serving incredible and authentic Indian food.

With the sound and smell of the kitchen providing an incredible ambiance, Bourdain and Cardoz order a selection of Indian staples. There are rice noodles called idiyappam, a spiced lentil baht dish similar to more traditional spiced rice, together with fried dumplings with a similar shape to donuts, and served with a creamy raita dip made with fresh mint leaves, yogurt, herbs, and spices. The multiple textures and flavors make you (and Tony) almost forget that this is a vegetarian meal.

There is also a main course of dosa, a thin savory pancake in South Indian cuisine made from a fermented batter of ground rice, eaten plain, or with any number of spicy masala fillings.

Sik Gaek Restaurant

Anthony Bourdain in Queens - Seafood Pajeon

Venturing next into Korea Town alongside fellow celebrity chef David Chang, Tony finds an authentic hipster-free slice of Korean food mania; “the best kind of slice,” as he puts it.

Sik Gaek has a simple approach, with a table, a burner, a bucket, and lots and lots of seafood being all that one needs. Following the Korean tradition of never pouring your own drink, instead, you pour for your companion and vice versa, Bourdain and Chang begin an epic meal that truly spans the oceans.

First up is seafood pajeon, a type of pancake made with scallions, and very fresh octopus (still moving on the plate), before a main course of a veritable bucket of shellfish, including sea snails, mussels, crab legs, clams, lobster, the roe and the backfat of the crab being a particular highlight. Shells are cracked open with the hands and the soft fish meat is eaten directly from the shell, with more ‘fresh’ octopus being applied to the top of the dish for a Danse Macabre of deliciousness.

The Layover (2011)

Per usual for whirlwind episodes of The Layover, Tony only breezes through Queens during his NYC episode and makes just one stop.

M. Wells

Anthony Bourdain in Queens - Bacon corn chowder

Bourdain’s visit to Queens in this episode finds him in a classic diner space with a truly unique menu. M. Wells is the sort of place that couldn’t exist in Manhattan because of the rent prices, but in Queens, space and creativity are given the opportunity to shine.

No ordinary diner food, Bourdain tries some mouthwatering dishes from their eclectic and unique menu. Bacon corn chowder with foie gras, escargot, bone marrow, and a tortilla Espanola. Tortillas are cooked Spanish-style and are made with boiled and mashed potatoes mixed with egg. The final preparation is to sear some homemade blood sausage, cover it with the egg mixture, and then serve topped with smoked paprika and olive oil.

Parts Unknown (2017)

Returning to Queens again in 2017 for an episode Parts Unknown dedicated to the borough, Bourdain again notes his unfamiliarity with the area, and how just across the East River from Manhattan is an enchanted wonderland, where every stop on the #7 train can seem like another country, another region.

Ecuadorian Food Cart (Warren Street and Roosevelt Avenue)

Anthony Bourdain in Queens - Hornado

Beginning at a humble Ecuadorian food cart near a #7 train stop in Corona, Bourdain meets with Sean Basinski, director of the Urban Justice Center community advocacy group’s Street Vendor Project, and Matt Shapiro, a Street Vendor Project senior attorney.

As the train rumbles overhead, Bourdain delights in eating morcilla (blood sausage) with potato cakes. Morcilla is sausages filled with blood that are cooked or dried and mixed with a filler, usually rice, until they are thick enough to congeal when cooled. The blood type used varies depending on the country making it. There is also some freshly made hornado, roast pork with sublime crispy skin.

While I’m not sure exactly which food cart this was, here’s a handy resource for your options; if you know exactly the name of the one Tony visited, please let me know in the comments.

Yu Garden Dumpling House (CLOSED?)

Anthony Bourdain in Queens - Xiao Long Bao

Alongside Heems, aka Himanshu Suri, rapper and member of the Swet Shop Boys hip-hop group, Tony next visits the Yu Garden Dumpling House, for a little bit of everything you need in life.

Alongside cold Tsingtao beer, there is spicy beef and tripe, boiled pig tongue and tripe marinated in sugar and soy — served cold with chili oil, Lion’s Head (pork, ginger, soy) meatballs, soup dumplings (filled with pork and broth).

The Lion’s Head Meatballs are large pork meatballs that are steamed/braised and served with vegetables. Their name derives from their shape, which resembles the head of a Chinese guardian lion, or foo dog.

Chinese Soup Dumplings on the other hand, or xiao long bao, are perhaps the most perfect single bite of food ever conceived by man: piping hot, filled with pork and near boiling point broth. They are truly incredible, and while you may not be able to get them at this spot anymore, you still seek them out in the area.

Note: I’m unable to confirm whether Yu Garden Dumpling House is still open or if it has moved. If you’re able to clarify, please let me know in the comments.

Geo Si Gi Gamjatang

Anthony Bourdain in Queens - Galbi

Venturing deeper into Queens, Bourdain once again finds himself in Flushing, where one can get lost for a while, and behold the awesomeness, as well as finding amazing Chinese or Korean food, just like home.

His next dinner guests are Joshua Smookler, chef, and restaurateur behind Mu Ramen, and Cosme Aguilar, chef and restaurateur behind Casa Enrique, and together the three visit Geo Si Gi, a restaurant serving some of the finest and most authentic Korean food in the city.

On today’s menu is soju (Korean liquor), gamja-tang (pork neck bone soup, with rice cakes, pork belly, kimchi, and spicy radish), and kimchi and oysters, together with galbi (short ribs marinated in soy, garlic and sesame oil, then grilled).

Neir’s Tavern

A quick pitstop next as Bourdain visits the “most famous bar you’ve never heard of,” Neir’s Tavern, for a couple of cold beers with Loycent “Loy” Gordon: New York City Fire Department lieutenant and Neir’s Tavern owner.

Neir’s is famous not just for its atmosphere and charm, but also as being a primary filming location for the 1990 classic Goodfellas.

Lhasa Fast Food

Anthony Bourdain in Queens - Sha momo

With Heems and his friend Ali Najmi, an attorney and community organizer, Bourdain ventures down a passageway in a shopping center, where sandwiched between two cell phones stores and a couple of jewelry shops is a compact dining room decorated with Himalayan items & serving a range of typical Tibetan cuisine.

Lhasa Fast Food is tucked away, but the food on offer is something that deserves to be out in the world. There is thentuk (hand-torn noodle soup with chilies and ginger), shapta (chili-fried beef, thin panes of beef with chile oil, soy, and sechuan peppercorns), and the legendary sha momo (steamed dumplings, stuffed with beef).

Brisas Del Mar Spanish Restaurant

Meeting with Josmar Trujillo, writer and local activist, Tony visits an area some way further out in Queens, the forlorn looking but still beautiful Rockaways. Here, at the intimate corner establishment of Brisas Del Mar, the pair discuss politics and community issues over a simple meal of chicken, fried plantains, avocado, beans, and rice.

Aqueduct Racetrack

Anthony Bourdain in Queens - Jamaican patties

Longtime Bourdain collaborator and friend Laurie Woolever joins next for a sojourn to the horses at Aqueduct Racetrack, as Tony proceeds to lose some money, but consoles himself with Jamaican beef patties, beer, to overcome the looming sense of despair and melancholy.

Jamaican patties are traditionally filled with seasoned ground beef, but fillings can include chicken, pork, lamb, vegetables, shrimp, lobster, fish, soy, ackee (a type of saltfish), mixed vegetables or cheese.

Africana Restaurant

Anthony Bourdain in Queens - Ogbono soup

The final stop in Queens on this trip is at Africana. In the area of Jamaica Center, with a growing number of immigrants from Africa putting down roots, there are naturally restaurants catering to their tastes. Here, Bourdain meets with Blessing Osagiede, chef, and owner of Africana, to try some Nigerian cuisine that is “not too spicy.”

Together with Sarah K. Khana, a writer, photographer, and filmmaker, they try ogbono soup, thick and hearty stew made with ogbono seeds (a type of wild mango) loaded with meats and fish simmered in a light delicious broth, and egusi, soup typically features meat (such as beef, smoked poultry, goat, cow skin, and offal) and seafood (smoked dried fish or stockfish).

Over the meal, Bourdain asks Sarah how she lives the life she does. Her answer? “Cobble together a way to travel, learn languages, and eat.” Sounds a lot like a philosophy Tony endorsed through his life too.

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

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

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