Explore the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail, New Jersey
Anthony Bourdain, the highly celebrated celebrity chef, author, and travel documentarian, has been described by many as “the original rock star” of the culinary world.
Never one to shy away from voicing his opinion, Bourdain regularly hit out at mainstream celebrity chefs for their lack of authenticity and the overwhelming desire to commercialise the celebrity cooking industry. Desperate to retain a high level of unique creativity to his work, Bourdain often included and referenced early punk bands such as Dead Boys and attempted to add a new, completely original, take on the somewhat stale and tired formula of televised cooking shows.
Once described as the “heir in spirit” to pioneering Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson by Drew Magary, Bourdain dedicated his book The Nasty Bits to The Ramones members Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee for their inspiration and often invited the likes of Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper and Queens of the Stone Age members to partake in his brilliantly fascinating alternative cooking shows. Make no mistake about it, Bourdain did things differently.
Born in New York City but raised in New Jersey, Bourdain battled and overcame drug issues to become one of the most important and pioneering figures to influence the role of celebrity chefs in popular culture. Arguably the most apt of tributes, coming from none other than former U.S. President Barack Obama himself, who said of Bourdain: “He taught us about food—but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown,” following the news of Bourdain’s untimely death back in 2018.
In an early interview with Bourdain, the chef often reminisced about times of his childhood growing up in Leonia, New Jersey. In 2014, Bourdain explained that some of the happiest moment of his youth came in the 1960s when he and friends would head to a local restaurant after visiting the movies to discuss the film they’d just witnessed. For Bourdain, culture and food went hand in hand.
As part of a drive by local travel authorities in New Jersey to establish the chef’s legacy, the ‘Anthony Bourdain Food Trail’ was launched to offer a journey from north to south and detail some of his favourite hangouts. Typically, the locations of offer are as unique as you’d expect from a chef who once said that playing of music by Billy Joel or Elton John in his kitchen was grounds for firing.
1- Hiram’s Roadstand, Fort Lee
This counter-serve fast food joint has been serving deep-fried hot dogs since 1932 and are proud of it. Situated on roadside setting with outdoor tables, Bourdain once said: “This is my happy place,” when talking about this Fort Lee institution.
2 – Frank’s Deli & Restaurant, Asbury Park
Located close to the beach, Frank’s Deli has been described as “a go-to for a hearty breakfast or pick up a packed lunch” before carrying on the food trail down by the shore. Cash only, family run business, Franks is a home-style deli and its about as authentic as you could home for.
“As I always like to say, good is good forever,” said Bourdain about Frank’s.
Staying by the shore, Kubel’s is the next stop on the Bourdain food trail and it offers a glimpse into his love for Seaford and, more specifically, clams.
Kubel’s has been a part of of Barnegat Light for over 90 years, opening in 1927 when Paul Kaetzel launched the place in order to offer a warm meal and cold beer to local fisherman. Trading hands a couple of times since then, this location has stayed true to its roots and is a real local hangout.
4 – Dock’s Oyster House, Atlantic City
According to the restaurant, in 1897 Harry “call me Dock” Dougherty, believed there was a great opportunity in Atlantic City to open a restaurant that would serve the finest seafood available—and it turns out he was right.
“Dock’s Oyster House, an establishment that survived Prohibition, the Great Depression, two world wars, numerous declines and rebirths—still here, still great,” Bourdain once said.
The Knife & Fork, originally established in 1912 by then Atlantic City Mayor William Riddle, was actually designed to be an exclusive men’s drinking and dining club.
Private rooms on the third and fourth floors were used for gambling and during the prohibition, “rebellious club members defied the laws of an alcohol-free society and continued to openly serve liquor at the bar.”
Now though, after being renovated in 2005, The Knife & Fork is all about fine dining.
6 – Tony’s Baltimore Grill, Atlantic City
Tony’s trendy late-night pizzeria dishes up classic pies and Italian comfort eats in an old-school interior.
According to Visit New Jersey, Bourdain was known for “being very sentimental about Jersey Italian.”
7 – James Original Salt Water Taffy, Atlantic City
“The James Candy Company, led by President Frank J. Glaser, is positioned as an originator and leader in the manufacturing of salt water taffy, chocolate and other nostalgic confections,” this historic boardwalk institution explains.
Even Bourdain, who didn’t particularly have a sweet tooth, couldn’t stay away: “I hate sweets, but I’m a sucker for nostalgia,” he once said about James’ place.
8 – Lucille’s Country Cooking, Barnegat
Heading South and the first stop needs to be Lucille’s quaint luncheon spot. Open everyday between 7am and 3pm, the American diner epitomises everything about small town US; great service, a friendly face, large portions and delicious food.
9 – Donkey’s Place, Camden
If you need to know anything about Donkey’s Place, the New York Times can sum it up better than anyone else: “Hang your head in shame, Philadelphia, the best cheesesteak in the country is whipped up across the Delaware in Camden, New Jersey,” the wrote in a review.
Still not sold? Well Bourdain himself said that Donkey’s cheesesteak “should be a national landmark.” Check out the video below for more information.
10 – Tony & Ruth’s Steaks, Camden
To round off the journey, Tony and Ruth’s does exactly as it says on the tin.
A genuinely authentic local spot, this eatery serves up yet more cheesesteaks and has built up a reputation for their uncompromising breakfast sandwiches in