Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain may have been born in New York City, but he called New Jersey, the state where he grew up, home. In season five, episode five of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” he paid tribute to the state he loved. New Jersey returned the favor when Bourdain died in 2018, creating the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail to spotlight 10 restaurants featured in that episode.
Get the book that made Anthony Bourdain famous: Kitchen Confidential.
You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate Bourdain’s New Jersey. Just a sense of adventure, an open mind, and a willingness to take the road less traveled. A hearty appetite doesn’t hurt either. Come along with me as I wandered the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail.
Leonia, New Jersey
Bourdain grew up in Leonia, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from the Bronx. His father, Pierre, was a classic merchandising manager for CBS Records; his mother, Gladys, wrote for the New York Times. On those days when she worked late, the family often went out for dinner.
One of their favorite spots was Hiram’s Roadstand in neighboring Fort Lee. Bourdain included the eatery in the New Jersey episode, chowing down on rippers—deep-fried hot dogs that rupture while sizzling in oil—for the camera.
In one of his last interviews, Bourdain said he took his daughter there “now and again” for hot dogs, burgers, and chili, making this a great stop on the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail. Unfortunately, many of the other restaurants his family frequented in the area are now closed with the exception of Baumgart’s Café in Edgewater.
While in the Newark area, drop by the Newark Museum of Art, the state’s largest museum. It features exhibits of American, African, Mediterranean, Asian, and decorative arts. Or, drop by the American Dream in East Rutherford. Even though the mall opened after his death and probably isn’t something he would have appreciated, it is home to the first real snow indoor ski venue in North America.
Discovering the Anthony Bourdain Legacy on Long Beach Island
The Bourdain family vacationed on Long Beach Island, so it’s no surprise it held a special place in the late chef’s heart. Bourdain experienced his first kiss on LBI, and he spent many hours exploring its beaches. He also indulged in fresh steamer clams and clam chowder on the island, which celebrates Chowderfest every October.
You can replicate his time on the island by renting a beach house, as the Bourdain family did, or staying for several days at Hotel LBI. Between outings to the beach and shopping along the main drag, dine at Kubel’s. The oldest tavern on LBI, it is also a stop on the food trail and known for its fried clam strips, steamed garlic clams, and, of course, clam chowder.
Exploring the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail in Atlantic City
Bourdain often reminisced about buying saltwater taffy on the boardwalk at Atlantic City. (His favorite place to pick some up was James Original Salt Water Taffy.) But, there’s so much more to this strip of the Jersey shore than its boardwalk or the casinos that line it. Atlantic City has an African American Heritage Museum, aquarium, and IMAX Theatre inside the Tropicana. You can go whale watching and, in adjacent Margate, take a guided tour of Lucy the Elephant.
When Bourdain visited Atlantic City for his “Parts Unknown” show, he stopped at three restaurants. At Tony’s Baltimore Grill, he sampled sausage pizza and spaghetti with giant meatballs during the episode. Like Bourdain, you can savor fresh-shucked oysters and pommes soufflés—potato slices fried first until they puff and a second time to make them crisp—at Dock’s Oyster House.
Or, consider making a reservation at Knife & Fork Inn, where political boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson often dined during Prohibition. Bourdain ordered a special the night he ate at Knife & Fork, but I highly recommend the restaurant’s signature dish, lobster thermidor.
Check out Johnson's fictional alter ego, Nucky Thompson, in the television series Boardwalk Empire.
Rock Out in Asbury Park, New Jersey
Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore figured prominently in the 2015 “Parts Unknown” episode. During the episode, Bourdain lamented that the historic beach town had fallen on hard times and ordered a No. 4 sub sandwich—provolone, salami, boiled ham, capicola, and pepperoni—while sitting at the No. 9 booth at Frank’s Deli.
Today, Asbury Park is seeing brighter days. Walk on the boardwalk, marvel at the restored Paramount Theatre and Convention Hall, or spread a blanket on one of the Jersey Shore’s best beaches. You might even try to catch a concert at The Stone Pony, the legendary club that helped launch Bruce Springsteen’s career.
Explore Camden, New Jersey
A once-prosperous industrial city across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Camden struggled economically during the second half of the 20th century. But the city was on the mend when Bourdain visited in 2015. He stopped at Donkey’s Place for a cheesesteak, which he declared worthy of national landmark status.
“I’m not saying they’re better than Philadelphia,” he said of Donkey’s cheesesteak in the episode. Then, he added, “Yeah, I am actually, so there.”
While Philadelphia has Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, Camden holds its own in the attractions department as well. The Adventure Aquarium is one of the nation’s best aquariums thanks in part to the suspension bridge hanging over the 55,000-gallon shark tank that visitors can walk across.
Next door, the Battleship New Jersey is one of the largest battleships ever built and open for self-guided and guided tours.
Walk in Bourdain's Footsteps in Rural New Jersey
New Jersey is the Garden State, and if you head into its interior, you’ll understand why. Agricultural and horse farms dot the state’s rolling landscape. Bourdain said in addition to seafood, he loved New Jersey’s fresh produce. You can visit farm stands, pick your own produce, and even tour some of the farms. (For more information on what’s in season, go to Visit NJ Farms.) You can also sip award-winning wines at one of the state’s celebrated wineries.
Some farms have onsite restaurants, but you can enjoy local produce at many of the restaurants you encounter throughout the state, including Lucille’s Country Cooking. Another restaurant on the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail, it’s known for decadent breakfasts and hearty lunches.
While there, purchase a t-shirt proclaiming you ate with the Jersey Devil. Bourdain likened the legendary creature to “My Little Pony with a forked tail,” but I liked the carved Jersey Devil in front of the restaurant.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), I didn’t see the Jersey Devil on my visit, so I didn’t buy a t-shirt. But it gives me an excuse to come back—as if Lucille’s homemade blueberry pie wasn’t excuse enough.
You might not be able to eat your fill at all 10 stops on the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail, but it is definitely worth a try! You can find out more fun things to do in New Jersey on Wander—and be sure to check for more of our favorite restaurants wherever you may travel.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.