Anthony Bourdain’s Secrets to Finding the Best Restaurants

As an accomplished celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain loved everyday foods that taste amazing. And he believed you can find unforgettably delicious food in every corner of the world. Read on for the secrets you need to know to find the best restaurants in the world, according to Anthony Bourdain. And keep an eye out for two things that will absolutely shock most Americans (pages 7 and 8) — plus some of Bourdain’s priceless advice on page 9.

First things first

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain | Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for Turner

Bourdain was all about finding the best food that is accessible and affordable for everyone. So here are the tips you won’t see:

  • Advice on how to go to the world’s most expensive restaurants
  • Why you should dine at places with dozens of Michelin stars
  • The virtues of establishments where you have to make reservations months ahead of time or wait hours for a table
  • Why dining at a restaurant that has pumpkin spice or Kobe sliders on the menu is a good idea

Next: This is no-no No. 1.

Pictures of food on the walls or the menu are a bad sign

Jack in the box

Pictures of food cater to tourists. | David McNew/Getty Images

  • This indicates a place caters to the locals instead of tourists.

The first of Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant secrets is finding a place that doesn’t have photos of its food on the walls or menu. If you find yourself at a restaurant with photos, it just signals that the place caters to tourists who need pictures to know what they’re ordering.

Next: When size is not a problem

The smaller the menu, the better

Cheerful couple

A small menu means the restaurant is good at those dishes. | Minerva Studio/iStock/Getty Images

  • The opposite of Cheesecake Factory is the way to go.

You’re hungry, but you don’t know exactly what you want to eat. So you need to find a restaurant with a huge menu, right? Wrong. That’s the Cheesecake Factory model, and it’s definitely not working for that struggling restaurant.

One of Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant secrets is finding a restaurant with a small menu. It’s a sign the place knows its best dishes and doesn’t need to do anything different.

Next: A crowd isn’t necessarily a good sign.

Don’t go where the tour groups eat

Tourists on bikes in Amsterdam for guided tour

If it caters to large groups, the food probably isn’t that special. | thehague/iStock/Getty Images

  • Restaurants right next to tourist sites probably aren’t the best, either.

If you see a tour group at a restaurant — no matter what country it’s from — that’s not a good sign. It means the place specializes in serving foreigners rather than picky and knowledgeable natives. And if it’s cooking for 50-plus people in a tour group all at once, then the establishment isn’t really taking care to produce special meals.

The same holds true for restaurants right next to tourists sites. They definitely cater to tourists,  don’t necessarily make the best local cuisine, and might not make the food to order.

Next: Go into P.I. mode.

Follow the locals to the best spots

Cafe tables and chairs outside in old cozy street in the Positano town, Italy

The locals know the hard-to-find places. | samael334/iStock/Getty Images

  • The people who live there know best.

Eating where the tourists eat probably won’t lead to an unforgettable dining experience. So one of Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant secrets is eating where the locals eat. If the place is loaded with locals, you know you’re on the right track to finding a good, authentic meal.

Next: Don’t do the same thing you’d do at home.

Don’t dine with Americans

Smiling people waving American flags and looking up in crowd

You need to branch out. | Martin Barraud/Getty Images

  • It’s why you went on vacation in the first place.

Chances are you went on vacation to relax and get away from life back home. Do you really want to sit next to Janet and Tim from Atlanta at a restaurant in Paris? Probably not. Anthony Bourdain believed any amount of Americans in a restaurant (aside from you and your companions) is too many.

Think about it in opposite terms. Would you really want to eat at a barbecue restaurant in Memphis stuffed with European tourists who don’t know what good barbecue is? Probably not.

Next: This will have Americans second-guessing.

Pets in the restaurant are OK

Dog in sunglasses drink cocktail in bar

Anthony Bourdain said if you see pets it means the restaurant is confident in its food. |

  • Cats or dogs in a restaurant just means it is very confident about the food.

If you see a dog in a restaurant in New York, you are probably second-guessing just how clean the kitchen is. But Anthony Bourdain said you shouldn’t worry if you see the same overseas. He told Money that seeing pets in a restaurant just means the place is so confident about how good the food tastes that it doesn’t need to worry about anything else.

Next: A big 180 for Bourdain

Dirty bathrooms aren’t a problem

Empty Public Bathroom Stalls

It might just mean the restaurant is too focused on the food. | Joe_Potato/iStock/Getty Images

  • It’s a sign the restaurant is so focused on the food that the bathrooms are an afterthought.

This line of thinking is a newcomer among Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant secrets. He once believed a dirty bathroom indicated a poorly run and dirty establishment. But he changed his tune, telling Money, “Some of the best food experiences I’ve ever had are places they really don’t give a s**t about that. They know their food is good and that’s enough.”

Next: Know how to search for the best restaurants before you get there.

Become an internet troll

woman at cafe using laptop

Do your research. |

  • Enrage the foodies, and listen to what they say.

This is one of Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant secrets that takes a bit of planning. Here’s what it boils down to, according to Kitchn:

  • Find a website, comments sections, or forum loaded with hardcore foodies — but not Yelp or TripAdvisor.
  • Tell the foodies you just got back from the city or country you plan to visit and that you had the best meal ever at such-and-such restaurant.
  • Sit back and wait for the hardcore foodies to tell you how much of an idiot you are.
  • See which restaurants the foodies recommend most, and eat there on your upcoming vacation.

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