Fans of Anthony Bourdain eagerly wait to learn how some of his favorite New Jersey restaurants will honor the late star.
The New Jersey Assembly approved a resolution in January designating 10 Garden State restaurants to be on the “Anthony Bourdain Food Trail,” so chosen because they were featured in an episode of “Parts Unknown” four years ago, Bourdain's travel show on CNN.
Now the trail is awaiting Senate approval before it’s official.
The trail, sponsored by Assembly members Paul Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester), Carol Murphy (D-Burlington) and Angela McKnight (D-Hudson), is designed to remember the late chef, author and televison star who died in June. Bourdain, who was 61, grew up in Leonia.
“Anthony’s triumphal story impacted so many people, and his love for New Jersey never wavered, so it is appropriate that we celebrate his legacy by creating this trail,” said Murphy in a press release about the Assembly’s approval of the trail.
“The trail will be a good legacy for Anthony Bourdain and the things he did and for people to experience what he did first-hand,” said Karen Bates-Flynn, co-owner of Lucille’s Country Cooking, a family-style restaurant located in Warren Grove on the Barnegat border.
Lucille’s Country Cooking was one of the restaurants featured on “Parts Unknown” that will be on the trail.
For Bourdain, the restaurants featured on “Parts Unknown” in 2015 served some of his favorite foods in New Jersey.
Jamie Clementson, a longtime customer at Lucille’s, remembers seeing the black plastic trash bags that covered the windows at the establishment the day that filming occurred.
“I got nervous, but my daughter Pearl said, ‘We are going in,’” Clementson said.
The two sat at the counter and ate chili and homemade blueberry pie with Bourdain and appeared in some of the video shots.
“He seemed like any other customer when he was there,” Clementson said. “He didn’t just come to eat the food. He wanted get the whole picture and meet the owner.”
Bates-Flynn said Bourdain signed a copy of his book “No Reservations” for her mother and owner of Lucille’s at the time, Lucille Bates. Bates has since died, but according to her daughter, both Bourdain’s and her mother’s legacies will live on.
“Her dream was always to travel, and she got to experience those places through his experiences and without really going there,” Bates-Flynn said, noting that when customers come to Lucille’s they still ask about the food items Bourdain ordered and about his personality.
Bourdain also found the best Philly cheesesteak in New Jersey, which he called the Jersey cheesesteak.
Story contiues after video clip.
“Somehow, we win [contests] for the best cheesesteak in Philly, even though we’re in New Jersey,” said Donkey’s Place owner Rob Lucas, grandson of former professional boxer Leon Lucas.
Lucas said Bourdain ordered two cheesesteaks with fried onions, French fries and a Modello beer when he visited Donkey’s Place in Camden, a restaurant with a nostalgic feel, with its ambiance and bar tops. Donkey’s Place has been family-owned and operated since 1943.
The restaurant is known for its cheesesteak, which is served on a round poppy-seed roll with large pieces of meat, fried onions and a special seasoning that is the Lucas family’s secret recipe.
Frequent customers John Wangler and Drew Siok too say the sandwich is their favorite cheesesteak.
“One cheesesteak is big enough to fill two people,” said Wangler, of Collingswood. “They’re unbelievable.”
Siok, of Haddonfield, said he gets the cheesesteak with onions and a little bit of mayonnaise every time he goes to Donkey’s Place.
“It’s unique to any other cheesesteak in the country,” Siok said, noting that a person can also opt to get a cheesesteak with the hot sauce, which comes in three heat intensity levels.
As Bourdain traveled closer to the shore, he found some of the best pizza in New Jersey. Since Bourdain vacationed in Long Beach Island as a child, he wanted to visit restaurants in the area.
“He came with an entourage and loved the pizza and the meatballs,” said Fred Pugh, co-owner of Tony’s Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City, which has been in business since 1927.
Tony’s Baltimore Grill is known for its pan pie, according to Pugh, which comes in a 12” size and not by the slice. Restaurant-goers can choose from about 40 toppings to put on their pizza, including the restaurant’s homemade sausage.
“The sausage pizza is our most popular,” said Pugh.
Pugh said he hopes Bourdain’s legacy will live on.
All the restaurants on the trail that were featured in the episode include Kubel’s in Barnegat Light, Hiram’s Roadstand in Fort Lee, Knife and Fork in Atlantic City, Dock’s Oyster House in Atlantic City, Tony’s Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City, Tony and Ruth Steaks in Camden, Donkey’s Place in Camden, Lucille’s Country Cooking in Warren Grove, Frank’s Deli in Asbury Park and James’ Salt Water Taffy in Atlantic City.
Watch more from the episode: