Bourdain Calls NYC Street Food “Shameful, Terrible, and Indefensible”

I love it when Anthony Bourdain gets all vitriolic on the things that bother him (I find myself agreeing with him pretty much every single time) but I can’t stand by his (totally surprising) opinion about New York City street food.  A few weeks ago, after heaping praise on a hot dog cart in Denver for an upcoming episode of No Reservations, Bourdain was quoted saying some not so nice things about his hometown street meat options:

["Really awesome"] is not how he’d describe the frankfurters in New York, which are “standard dirty water dogs” and “completely forgettable,” Bourdain said, a snub that he extended to New York street food in general. “The street food in New York is shameful, terrible and indefensible,” he complained. “It’s absolutely appalling.”

He does clarify the statement a bit to exclude the street food of the outer boroughs.

In fact, he added, if you want something decent, you gotta go to Queens, maybe Brooklyn. “I recently found a taco truck that did tongue tacos — I love tongue tacos — and I nearly sobbed with gratitude,” he admitted.

I’m hoping (as is often the case with stuff like this) his comments were taken out of context- after all, if you’re just talking about the city’s hot dog and kebab situation, then the statement might be 100% true.  But if he really does feel that way about *all* Midtown street food, it must be based on some bad experiences from lord knows how long ago.  Of course that could easily be remedied with a Midtown Lunch Street Food Walking Tour! Could it be time for a No Reservations: Midtown Street Food edition? Somebody who reads this site must have a connection at the Travel Channel who could make this happen, right?

We could start off with some stew peas with pig tails at the Jamaican Dutchy (on 51st and 7th), follow that up with kati rolls from the Biriyani Cart (on 46th and 6th), chicken and lamb over rice from Kwik Meal (on 45th and 6th), and goat biriyani from the Trini Paki Boys cart (on 43rd and 6th).  Oh, and if you want some tongue tacos we can finish things up at the El Rey del Sabor cart (also on 43rd and 6th).  And that doesn’t even include any of the new school carts…

What do you say Tony? Unlike your feelings on expensive organic food, or vegetarianism, or well known Food Network personalities, I think it would be pretty easy to get you to reconsider your stance.  (I’d put the over under at 2 bites of stew peas.)


  • I really really really hope Bourdain takes you up on your offer, Zach. That’s just ridiculous…espcially coming from AB!!


  • I’ve seen him wandering around central park on the cell phone a few times on my busride in. If I ever see him again, I’ll hop off the bus and yell at him.

  • Why would ANY educated person on the planet pay attention to this narcissistic, uneducated, loudmouth, jerk?

    People who help enrich this a$$hole by tuning into him, need to get a life.

    But, that’s just my opinion.

  • An interesting turn of events, Docchuck not taking the side of someone bashing NY street food!

  • What?! What is he talking about? Super Tacos up in W.96th St has tongue taco.

  • I’m not surprised, it’s not like there’s much good street food in NY, and the hot dogs are terrible, I’ve been working in NYC for ten years and it wasn’t until recently thanks to this site that I bothered eating from them, before then street meat was that guy with piles of steaming chicken on a griddle, disgusting.

  • Keep in mind this guy has eaten all over the world in the nicest places and the crummiest towns…NYC streat meat cant be that high on his list…theres way to much out there

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    im not really all that crazy about eating something that was already in someone else’s mouth…
    but eating something that WAS something else’s mouth i really cannot get behind… creeps me out… tongue taco just scares me

    but this guy seems to be making a note of the majority of street vendors… most of the carts and trucks around the city are basically selling pretzels, hotdogs, or gyros… there is some variety but no where near enough for the number of carts out there… i know people need to work and whatever company is shooting out these carts is helping with that but this is the most diverse city in the country, you would think that every food option out there has huge variety, and yet carts are the same cookie cutter menu one after the other, like the one behind him in the picture

  • I’m willing to give lengua taco’s a try (maybe if I call it by a different name, it wont gross me out?)

    That said, the last time my wife ordered tongue from a deli, I thought it smelled like cat food (which makes sense), so I’m not sure if I can handle trying it.

  • Kati rolls are awesome. Bring on the tongue tacoS!

    BoOoOo to bourdain for hatin’ on NYC street fare. You can’t put ALL halal/ street meats in the same category as dirty water dogs. WTH!

  • Tongue is not as bad as cilantro or curry…!

  • I can’t imagine life without cilantro. Vindaloo, Kati Rolls, Salsa, none of it would be the same without Cilantro.

  • well he is semi-elitist and so has that sort of holier-than-thou attitude. but, is he actually that narrow minded or did he just hyperbolize for the camera? and then try to redeem himself with the Technicality Card by implying that he was only referring to Manhattan?

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    I kind of get Bourdain’s comments in as much as they were in the context of your average NYC hot dog stand. Personally, as much as I cherish certain street meat carts, I absolutely detest and despise those nasty charcoal smoke-belching hotdog/pretzel/kabob carts that blight our city. If Bourdain tried any of the street meat vendors we know and love, he would be an instant convert. But there’s one frankfurter cart that I would put up against any in the country: Hallo Berlin. There’s no better option for a frank or sausage than the Hallo Berlin cart.

  • Maybe AB made that comment full knowing that any real New Yorker would not stand for that bash and challenge him. Besides, maybe that is his way of saying he would like to do more close to home episodes instead of having to travel. Perhaps with this, he will get that.

  • I had some tongue tacos on 6th around the W4 stop a few weeks ago at about 3am. I’ll admit to being in an – er- slightly altered state, but I have to tell you, they were effing fantastic.

    My first tongue! My grandmother would be really proud!

  • He’s relatively right on actually. Remember he has spent innumerable hours with the street vendors in Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, etc., & our vendors don’t come close, maybe the guy formerly from the Russian Tea Room & his shrimp curry, etc…..

    All the rest rest are pretty weak tea compared to that standard. You do have to go to Queens, or the Red Hook ball fields to find worthy competition for the most part.

  • i think zach could school tony on the midtown street food, no doubt about it. but i also agree with tony to a degree. the majority of street food in midtown is not that great. and the ones people enjoy, the ones ML’ers talk about the most are a couple of handfuls of carts at most. and most of the tasty carts are only availble during daylight hours. if you compare street food in other major urban cities in, say asia, your choices are going to be 100x greater than nyc 24 hours a day.

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