Though Anthony Bourdain was a celebrated chef, author and television host, he never warmly embraced the spotlight. If he had the choice between spending time with a noted celebrity or a regular person, he’d take the Average Joe every time.
Though he was born in New York City, New Jersey was where he grew up and called home for this youth. As a part of his CNN travel and food show “Parts Unknown,” Bourdain took viewers to some of his favorite spots in Jersey during an episode in the fifth season.
As a way to honor the late Leonia hometown star, the state legislature created the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail featuring the restaurants from his show. Guests will find no fancy dining on this list and definitely no chain restaurants. It is mainly family and locally owned spots where homemade dishes and recipes passed down through generations dominate the menu.
1. Hiram’s Roadstand, Fort Lee —
Since 1932, this counter service community staple has been offering up classic deep-fried hot dogs as well as cheeseburgers and cheesy fries. Bourdain grew up minutes from the spot and often came there with his family. “This is my happy place,” he once mused.
2. Frank’s Deli & Restaurant, Asbury Park —
This cash-only luncheonette features overstuffed sandwiches for breakfast and lunch as well as soups, salads and platters. When Bourdain stopped in, he had a traditional Jersey sandwich, with salami, provolone, pepperoni and boiled ham.
3. Kubel’s, Barnegat Light —
A full-service tavern that dates back to the 1920s, Bourdain visited this spot as a youngest filling up on clams. Folks often request to sit at the table he used which now features a photo from his visit. Their dinner menu includes items from the land and sea such as New York strip steak and a seafood pot featuring a smorgasbord of the tastiest ocean dwellers.
4. Dock’s Oyster House, Atlantic City —
This upscale seafood restaurant has been feeding dinner to locals and tourists since 1897. While they do offer steak and lamb, seafood is a majority of the menu, including oysters, lobster, chowders, chilled shellfish and sea scallops.
5. Knife & Fork Inn, Atlantic City —
Founded in 1912 by then-mayor and his “cronies” as an exclusive men’s drinking and dining club, this bar and restaurant continues to hark back to the Prohibition-era after an extensive renovation in the early 2000s. The upscale spot’s menu includes sustainable offers as well as steaks, seafood and chops.
6. Tony’s Baltimore Grill, Atlantic City —
Bourdain happily noted, as he was chowing down on their pasta, “this is the taste of my youth.” Featuring old-school Jersey-Italian dishes, this spot dates back to 1927 and is known for its late-night pizza and comforting pasta offerings.
7. James Original Salt Water Taffy, Atlantic City —
During his return to Jersey, Bourdain admitted that he did not like sweets but was a “sucker for nostalgia.” Since taffy was born in New Jersey, he headed to this boardwalk mainstay, which has been charming sweets lovers since the 1880s.
8. Lucille’s Country Cooking, Barnegat —
Located in the Pine Barrens, this local favorite opened in 1975 after serving as a turkey freezer. (Their neighbor was a now-closed turkey farm.) When Bourdain came, he chowed down on breakfast mainstays such as scrapple, home fries and scrambled eggs. Before leaving, check out the Jersey Devil memorabilia which showcases the legendary local creature described as a flying biped with hooves.
9. Donkey’s Place, Camden —
Philadelphia gets all the good press for cheesesteaks, but Bourdain only had eyes for this restaurant’s sandwich, declaring that the meal “should be a national landmark.” Open for more than 75 years, this spot devotes all its attention to the cheesesteak featuring fried onions, American cheese, optional crushed red cherry peppers on a poppy seed roll.
10. Tony & Ruth’s Steaks, Camden —
Devoted to breakfast and lunch dating back nearly 50 years, Bourdain sat at the counter to chow down on rice, eggs, and beans. Named for the original owners, the spot is a local favorite with many guests visiting for more than 20 years.
By Gina Gallucci-White