US Food Cities Anthony Bourdain Thought Flew Under The Radar

Anthony Bourdain was more than just a chef; he was a storyteller and adventurer with a knack for finding cool food scenes wherever his travels took him, from Le Dôme Café in Paris to street food in Vietnam. From his TV shows like "A Cook's Tour," "No Reservations," "The Layover," and "Parts Unknown," to books like "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures of the Culinary Underbelly," he introduced the world to new kitchens, cultures, and food experiences. 

He was also known to share his culinary wisdom via occasional interviews, battle-tested cooking tips, and even a Reddit Ask Me Anything. The latter is where he revealed the U.S. food cities he considered to be hidden gems, including Nashville, Tennessee, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Asheville, North Carolina. According to an interview with Delish, Bourdain revealed that many great food cities come from, "an influx of people from someplace else." In other words, diverse populations foster diverse food environments because new cultures bring unique ingredients and traditions along with them.

Nashville, TN

Of the cities mentioned in his AMA, Bourdain likely spent the most TV time in Nashville. He filmed an episode of "Parts Unknown" there, where he explored all that the music city had to offer, including a hearty "meat and three" (one meat and three sides) at Dandgure's Classic Southern Cooking, craft cocktails at Patterson House, and an upscale dining experience at Catbird Seat.

Of course, no visit to Nashville would be complete without sampling the city's iconic hot chicken. During his experience with it at Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish, Bourdain said, "Oh, oh that hurts. I think I'm hallucinating." And followed up by warning his viewers, "If you're considering going to Nashville, by the way, please notice that Nashvillians themselves don't eat the extra-hot fried chicken. They know better. Unless you've got three or four days to spend in a bathroom, I really advise against that."

Minneapolis, MN

While the city is known for its picturesque lakes, serving as twin city to St. Paul, and being the hometown of Prince, it also has a thriving food scene. Minneapolis' wide array of food offerings is owed to the diversity of its inhabitants, as the city boasts the largest Somali population in the U.S., as well as large numbers of people of Hmong, Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian, Nordic, German, Latinx, and Eastern European descent. This diversity is highlighted in places like the Midtown Global Market, which is full of international eats, as well as a vibrant food truck scene (at least during the warmer months).

Bourdain visited the city during the second season of "A Cook's Tour," highlighting independent restaurants' role in pushing the Minneapolis food scene forward. Although many of the restaurants Bourdain visited there have since closed, The Sample Room has stood the test of time; this homey, neighborhood restaurant continues to serve inventive twists on classic Minneapolis cuisine.

Although Bourdain didn't get a chance to visit it, the restaurant Young Joni was highlighted on Netflix's "Chef's Table." This is another shining example of the city's global influences, featuring pizzas inspired by international cuisines. Kramarczuk's Ukrainian fare further demonstrates the city's range, offering comforting Eastern European classics perfect for the cold winter months. Last but not least, the Jucy Lucy burger from Matt's Bar, with its molten cheese core, is a local treasure that was (at least once) enjoyed by President Obama.

Asheville, NC

Situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains is Asheville, a haven for farm-to-table dining and creative local fare. The region's farming, fishing, and foraging traditions make for a food culture with strong roots and seasonality. Although rooted in Appalachian and Southern traditions, the city offers an eclectic mix of local cuisines and global flavors too.

According to Charleston Magazine, Bourdain dined at Cúrate, an acclaimed tapas bar that later won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality. Another notable spot is Chai Pani, which is celebrated for its Indian street food and also took home a James Beard Award, but for Outstanding Restaurant. While these restaurants demonstrate Asheville's culinary diversity, Cucina 24 and Cultura showcase Asheville's flair for integrating local ingredients, with Cucina 24 integrating local ingredients into Italian dishes and Cultura bringing fermented foods into the mix. Although he may not have visited every eatery we mentioned in his lifetime, Bourdain would be happy to see them getting the recognition they deserve.