Fun travel mantra: What would Anthony Bourdain eat?

One of the most amazing parts of traveling is exploring new foods or trying different variations of previously known meals (Italian food in Italy is certainly very different from Olive Garden). I try to be adventurous, but I’m no Adam Zimmern, who is famous for eating bizarre foods. So I probably still couldn’t eat bugs or larvae of any kind, unless I was under serious psychedelic influence.

Alex with a wall of dry legs that will become parma

But my mentality and travel mantra when I sit down in a foreign restaurant is, would one of my idols, the rambunctious chef, writer and former host of the Travel Channel’s ‘No Reservations’, Anthony Bourdain, eat this? If I think the answer is yes, I will try it, I don’t care what the food item is.

My first experience with this mantra in mind was our first night in Lisbon, Portugal last year. We were staying in a neighborhood apartment and found a very small restaurant solely occupied by locals, other than us. The waitress didn’t speak English but the cook did and he was happy to come to our table and have a brief chat with us. He highly recommended the pigs feet cooked in a sauce that consisted of olive oil, fresh thyme, garlic and lemon. I’d never previously felt the urge to eat pig trotters, certainly not in a South Carolina gas station, pickled in a large jar. But Bourdain is pretty adventurous with food when an item is prepared in a nice sauce with fresh ingredients, so I was sure he would give this a go, especially if a cook personally recommended it to him. “Sounds good, bring it on” I told the chef.

Now I have to give Bell and my mother-in-law credit as they each tried the dish as well. The pigs feet themselves weren’t great because they were fatty and lacking in meat. The sauce made the dish though and we were able to completely polish off the large tapa. “Not bad” is probably how Bourdain would have described it.

Pigs feet, Lisbon, Portugal
Mum digs in for the pig trotters…

I have also managed to wash down cow tongue grilled and thinly sliced at a traditional Bavarian restaurant in Nuremberg, Germany. It was over lunch with Bell and 2 other friends, and this time nobody else wished to try my tongue. But this locally popular restaurant basically only served 3 mains- sausage, pork knuckle and cow tongue. So I figured they must do it well. And by that logic, Bourdain would have probably given it a go too. The texture was grainy and lean, difficult on the palate to start, but I got used to it and polished it off solo. It was honestly pretty good, it’s just that when you didn’t grow up eating certain foods, there is a hurdle to jump first.

While Anthony Bourdain is also a famous chef, it isn’t necessarily “world class” food he seeks. Bourdain generally visits cheap to modestly priced establishments that do local, interesting and sometimes simple food really well. So this is a great mantra to have when traveling on a budget and also wishing to try out food you wouldn’t otherwise eat. He does also occasionally eat some suspect things offered by say, a local African chieftain, out of politeness. I’ll get back to you when I find myself in that situation.

Greek sausages in marinara sauce- restaurant food that tasted deliciously homemade.

Apparently Bourdain is moving to CNN now to host a new show entitled ‘Parts Unknown’. Hopefully he doesn’t stop swearing, though that’s hard to imagine. Here’s one of my favorite episodes of ‘No Reservations’where Bourdain visits Nicaragua and delves into tough political questions and rough neighborhoods, while still diving into great local food.


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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2 thoughts on “Fun travel mantra: What would Anthony Bourdain eat?

  1. I loved the apartment and the local restaurant in Portugal. It was an interesting experience and I found the locals so passionate about Lisbon and very happy to share their life. A wonderful trip.

    1. Indeed it was a lovely time! The people in Portugal were great. Loved the hospitality as it’s nice to be treated as more than just a dollar sign!

      I do think it’s funny in Portuguese restaurants how bread, crackers, cheeses, pates and occasionally even hot hors d’oeuvres often just get placed on the table as starters and you just pay for what you eat by item. It’s not a tourist trap thing, just part of the culture. I came to like the concept after I fully understood it 🙂

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