On Shake Shack: Back before Danny Meyer’s burger restaurant became a global chain, Bourdain frequently picked it up when he returned from trips. In 2011, he said that when one opened near him on the Upper East Side, “I dropped to my knees and wept with gratitude.” His order: “I’m having a double cheeseburger naked, please. No lettuce. No tomato. No nothing. Just cheese and two burgers on a potato bun. I’ll have two of those and I’m happy. I’m singing America, fuck yeah!”
Cronuts: At the peak of the craze over Dominique Ansel’s croissant-doughnut hybrid, Bourdain gave his seal of approval: “Oh God, it’s good. Oh God, it’s really good.”
One night at work at Les Halles: In 2000, after Kitchen Confidential published, the Times followed the then-executive chef one evening at French brasserie Les Halles. After his shift, he went to Chicama, a now-closed Peruvian restaurant.
On Queens as a place to eat: In Season 9 of Parts Unknown, Bourdain highlighted food in various parts of Queens. The proliferation of street carts, he says, is what makes it so great: “Manhattan is very much the, you know, ‘not in my backyard neighborhood’ in a lot of ways. I mean, for this reason, Manhattan in my view is a lot less interesting than Queens. This is a wonderland.”
On dining on the Upper East Side, where he used to live: “For an area as affluent as mine, and presumably as sophisticated, it’s a wasteland for food.”
On changes in East Village: “I don’t even want to talk about what the East Village used to be like compared to today. It was like Mad Max, post-apocalyptic. Now, it looks like a fucking Dave Matthews concert.”
On Mission Chinese, one of his favorite NYC restaurants: “Or you’re just gifted and you’re expressing what you want to do. I think Mission Chinese is probably the purest example of that. Danny [Bowein] is Korean by birth but in no other way Korean. Cooking kind of Chinese food with a Filipina chef, with pizza and roast beef on the menu, and all of it is awesome and fun and actually a perfect expression — if there’s any restaurant that’s a perfect expression — of New York, and the New York experience,” he said in 2016.
On the cherished institution that is Keens steakhouse: “You can’t really do any better or more authentic than Keens, a place that goes right back to the old school all-male world of beefsteak parties, the political power built around beef, bloody aprons, and smoke-filled rooms.” The comments were part of his No Reservations visit to the Midtown staple, where he dined with Josh Ozersky. “I like to think if you came here in another 50 years it would be exactly the same,” Bourdain said.
On food in the Bronx: As Bourdain continued to champion the lesser-known foods of the world, the traveler would return to NYC for shows likeParts Unknown. Hecalled the Bronx the”overlooked, never-visited borough” of New York City, adding that it’s “a magical place.”
On Brooklyn: “Brooklyn is the nexus where everything is going on right now... Brooklyn is a melting pot. There are traditional Jewish delis. Caribbeans are a huge part of the culture,” he said in 2012, shortly before the final episode of No Reservations.
On what his life was like when he returned to New York lately: “When I’m home, I’m not going out to dinner. I’m not going to a club or hanging out of bars or seeing live music. I don’t know what people might think or expect me to be doing back in New York, but probably that’s not what I’m doing. I’m going to bed at 9, 9:30, when my 9-year-old is tired enough to sleep. I wake up super early in the morning and I make her breakfast. I pack a little lunch for her. I pick her up at school, if my schedule permits. And I cook dinner for her. And most of the major food choice decisions are made by my 9-year-old daughter,” he said in 2016.
On New Yorkers’ heart: “My hometown New York also has a big heart. It doesn’t like to see itself in that way, but we do come together when need be, often in moments of crisis.”