Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side: 13 Spots Where Tony Ate

To travel to the Lower East Side is to take a trip back in time, as Anthony Bourdain explores an area with links to the Prohibition Era firmly underpinning a sense of community that is reflected in some of the oldest eateries still found in New York City. It’s also part of the place where his own story really began, adding an extra dimension to his exploration of the area.

Anthony Bourdain filmed what became two episodes in the Lower East Side: his first visit was part of the “Disappearing Manhattan” episode of No Reservations (season 5, episode 8), and the second was an episode dedicated to the area for Parts Unknown (season 12, episode 7). The latter was also the final episode of Tony’s career, which was released after his death.

Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side Hero

If you’re planning a trip to New York City, you’ll probably spend most of your time in Manhattan – and at least part of that time in the Lower East Side. You might therefore be curious about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in the Lower East Side, which you’ll find detailed in full below. It’s not a big area, but there’s a lot to enjoy here, so let’s dive in.

Want to watch the episode where Bourdain visits the Lower East Side?
The “Disappearing Manhattan” episode of No Reservations is available on Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV; and 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 Canarsie, Mohican, 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.

No Reservations (2008)

Focusing specifically on the Lower East Side, Bourdain spends part of his time filming his “Disappearing Manhattan” episode in this part of Manhattan (as well as elsewhere in the borough). Here are the spots that made Tony’s list during this episode.

Joining Bourdain on his foray into this part of the city is author Joel Rose, co-writer of the Get Jiro!, Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi, and Hungry Ghosts graphic novels along with Anthony himself.

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.

The Layover (2011)

Returning for one of his jam-packed episodes of The Layover, Tony spent quite a bit of time in that episode quickly exploring the Lower East Side.

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.

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.

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 the Lower East Side? 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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