Many folks — including travelers, those in the culinary world, and everyone here at The Manual — were shocked and heartbroken by the unexpected suicide of Anthony Bourdain this month. In the weeks since his passing, legions of fans have scrambled to honor him as best they can. So, it seems only fitting that New Jersey — a place he likened to his spiritual home — doing the same by creating an official food trail in his name.
Assemblyman Paul Moriarty presented a resolution to the state’s Division of Travel and Tourism to establish the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail. The official route includes 10 restaurants the chef visited during a 2015 episode of CNN’s Parts Unknown the explored New Jersey:
- Fork (Atlantic City)
- Dock’s Oyster House (Atlantic City)
- Tony’s Baltimore Grill (Atlantic City)
- James’ Salt Water Taffy (Atlantic City)
- Hiram’s Roadstand (Fort Lee)
- Frank’s Deli (Asbury Park)
- Kubel’s (Barnegat Light)
- Lucille’s Country Cooking (Barnegat)
- Tony and Ruth Steaks (Camden)
- Donkey’s Place (Camden)
Most of these were favorites of Bourdain’s, and all are local institutions. During the episode, Bourdain and his brother, Christopher, ate a mound of clams and local beer at Kubel’s seaside diner; downed a ripper hot dog and a cheeseburger at Hiram’s Roadstand; ordered “a classic Jersey sandwich” at Frank’s Deli in Asbury Park; and capped it off in Atlantic City with treats from James’ Salt Water Taffy. To be sure, this is not haute cuisine. These restaurants serve only the finest, least pretentious comfort food New Jersey has to offer.
Bourdain began his restaurant career washing dishes at a Massachusetts clam shack. He ultimately returned to New York to work as the executive chef at the famed Les Halles. However, he never forgot his roots, and his love for New Jersey ran deep. In the Jersey episode of Parts Unknown, he recalled fond childhood memories in Leonia and exploring the restaurants and beaches of the Jersey Shore. In classic Bourdain fashion: “I didn’t smoke dope down here. I was looking for dope, but as a 12-year-old, it’s hard to come by … I was up to every variety of criminal, anti-social behavior down here.”
The chef was, of course, well-known for his caustic, self-effacing sense of humor. He disdained praise and was humble to a fault. So, the irony of the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail is that he probably would’ve hated it. And, for that, Chef, we thank you.