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"Like Someone Got Drunk at Denny's": Anthony Bourdain Eats His Way Through Los Angeles

Last night brought us the conclusion of the first half of Season Three of Travel Channel's series Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations as Tony, the enfant terrible and poison pen of the chef set, took a look into the underbelly of Los Angeles.

Is it just me or did this season just fly by? I'm not sure if it was the scarcity of the episode count (reduced to one less this season after the events in Beirut) or the fact that some installments (i.e., last week's Russia episode) seemed to have nothing to do with food whatsoever and couldn't hold my interest.

But let's put that issue firmly in the past and look at last night's episode of No Reservations, which showed me a whole side of Los Angeles that, while I knew existed, I had never actually seen close up. Tony's mission was to investigate a side of Los Angeles that had nothing to do with Hollywood glamour or the film/TV industry, but to showcase a Los Angeles that had been carved out by people who do the real work that keeps the city humming, the immigrants who brought their music and food to this city, the residents whose views of LA aren't stunning panoramic views, but rather that of the ubiquitous freeways that hedge in this city by the sea.

It's always shocking to see an outsider paint a picture of your own city, especially when it jars so severely with your own experiences. Tony's LA was a colorful ride through the immigrant communities, taking a mariachi band for some succulent goat stew at Birrieria Chalio or stopping in Thai Town for some Thai boat noodles at the C-graded Sapp Coffee House (Tony's braver than I am; I get worried about eating at anyplace with a B) or some delicious pastries at Bhan Kanom Thai. (I am running out to find the latter, whose pastries looked divine.) Or stopping by Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles with down-and-out-and-back-again author and screenwriter Jerry Stahl for some, well, chicken and waffles, even if Tony didn't quite understand the attraction of fusing fried chicken and maple syrup-topped waffled into a single dish.

It's series like No Reservations that open your eyes: I've lived in LA for nearly six years now and never even knew Thai Town existed. Sometimes it does take someone from the outside, even someone as amusingly prickly as Tony Bourdain, to illuminate your own city, your hometown, in a new and beautiful way.

But before you get down in the dumps about the series coming to a close, fret not. Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations will return to the Travel Channel with a brand new batch of episodes in August 2007 and some new locations, including New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong, French Polynesia, Brazil, Argentina, Bavaria, Tuscany, and Papua, New Guinea. Bring it on!


I wasn't crazy about this season. I loved Tony's stint in the Pacific Northwest but, overall, felt that the episodes were lackluster...particualarly the one in Russia which focused more on Tony's revenge scheme than on food. Some of the locations for the next set of episodes look good so, hopefully, those will be more interesting.

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