Bourdain’s New Jersey – The Restaurants
“To know Jersey is to love her.” In last Sunday’s Parts Unknown episode on CNN, Anthony Bourdain delivers an ode to New Jersey that will make many Jerseyans weep with pride. If you want to retrace Bourdain’s steps and meals, here are the spots he visited across the Garden State.
I’ve been a Bourdain fan since Kitchen Confidential, as much for his incisive storytelling as his irreverent attitudes on food, life and chefdom. I admit I’ve been known to go out of my way to track down places Bourdain has praised, like an obscure cebichería in Peru and a rustic lechonera in the mountains of Puerto Rico.
Bourdain’s Jersey roots, growing up in Leonia, might explain the outsider perspective that marks his work. Bourdain accurately describes the common Jersey trait of envy for everything happening across the river, while valuing everything uniquely Jersey and all that NJ has to offer.
Bourdain has featured New Jersey before. During the first season of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations in 2005, Bourdain ate “rippers” at Hiram’s in Fort Lee, fried clams at Klein’s Fish Market in Belmar, homemade cheese and pizza at the Bobolink Dairy in Milford, a chocolate egg cream and sushi at Baumgart’s Cafe in Engelwood, a taro bubble tea at Mitsuwa Market in Edgewater, Korean soondubu jjigae at Soft Tofu Restaurant in Fort Lee, and canollis from Gencarelli’s Bakery in Bloomfield – a coda to the Sopranos-themed episode.
His “New Jersey” episode a decade ago was a coming out of sorts for Bourdain. Yes, he admits, I’m from Jersey. Bourdain’s most recent profile of his home state, now for CNN, is an unvarnished, yet sympathetic, portrait of struggling locales (Atlantic City, Camden), iconic favorites (Asbury Park), Bourdain family nostalgia (Fort Lee, Long Beach Island with his younger brother), and Jersey folk ruralia (Pine Barrens). He clearly has favorites. Bourdain once again opens the episode at Hiram’s, the Fort Lee hot dog shack of his youth, and returns to Asbury Park at the end for a meal with rocker Southside Johnny. Ten years ago he visited the Asbury Park boardwalk booth of Springsteen’s Madame Marie. Turning his attention to Atlantic City and Camden in the heart of the piece, however, Bourdain is really owning Jersey this time, warts and all. He weaves in some sharp political/cultural criticism, and delivers plenty of quotable one-liners along the way. Throughout, he highlights places and people committed to seeing Jersey through any tough times.
Bourdain uses distinct Jersey voices to structure his story. William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Springsteen, even Jon Bon Jovi, have all contributed to the poetry of Jersey. So does Bourdain in my book.
# # #
Here are the places Anthony Bourdain visited (and what he is seen eating) in the episode:
Fort Lee, NJ
Hiram’s – The iconic Bergen County hot dog stand at 1345 Palisade Avenue, serving deep-fried hot dogs since 1932.
- Cheeseburger slider with “red relish”
- Hot dog with mustard
- Fries on a paper plate with ketchup
Barnegat Light, NJ
Kubel’s Bar – Jersey Shore seafood at the northern tip of Long Beach Island.
- Cup of New England clam chowder
- Steamed clams in drawn butter
- Fried clam strips and fried fish (cod?) with tartar sauce
Atlantic City, NJ
The Knife & Fork Inn – The former drinking and dining club established in 1912, witness to many Boardwalk Empire story lines.
- Wedge salad
- Pretzel-crusted swordfish over lump crab meat
Dock’s Oyster House – The seafood and steakhouse opened in 1897.
- Crab cakes
- Whole lobster stuffed with “crab imperial”
Baltimore Grill – Old-school red sauce Italian-American joint serving pizza until 3am. 2800 Atlantic Avenue.
- Spaghetti and meatballs
James’ Salt Water Taffy – On the Boardwalk at New York Avenue.
Tony & Ruth’s Steaks – Popular local grill at 837 North 8th Street.
- Fried eggs, rice and beans
- Steak and onions
Donkey’s Place – NJ’s answer to the Philly cheesesteak, at a bar opened by the Olympic (1928) boxer Leon Lucas.
- “Jersey” cheesesteak with onions and hot peppers on a round, poppy seed, kaiser roll
Warren Grove, NJ
Lucille’s – Country kitchen in the Pine Barrens.
- Chile in a cup with oyster crackers
- Steak (or is it scrapple?), eggs and hash browns
Asbury Park, NJ
Frank’s Deli & Restaurant – Classic Jersey deli.
- An Italian hoagie with ham, pepperoni, provolone, onion, tomato, roasted peppers, shredded lettuce, oil and vinegar