When word first broke that Anthony Bourdain was in our midst to shoot an episode of The Layover, all Philly cared about was whether or not the world would get a proper culinary representation of our city in modern times. Surprisingly, that's exactly what happened. Sure, his Twitter account had all the markings of a successful trip, but no one knows how things will look after post-production.
Bourdain spent the first 5 minutes of the show apologizing to Philly for waiting this long to visit, and that the "fuck you" attitude from locals towards his previous indifference was nothing if not charming. But, he quickly made up for that by going on the sort of two-day bender you would plan to show-off our very best to your out-of-town buds.
Bourdain started his jaunt at The Italian Market, where he visited DiBruno Bros. for an education in amazing cheeses, and let the world know that Philly is the only place to find the already-in-short-supply Stichelton, which is the real deal unpasteurized version of Stilton blue cheese. After that, he went down the street to Peter McAndrews' Paesano's, where he ordered the whole menu, and told other customers they needed to get the crispy liver sandwich and sprinkle some Lipitor on their cereal. He then headed to George Sabatino's Stateside, where he put away a few lowballs of Pappy Van Winkle 20, and was educated on the Citywide Special (PBR and Jim Beam, $3).
That night, Bourdain hit Marc Vetri's Amis with Peter McAndrews, eating grilled veal tongue and drinking wine. He then went across the street to Dirty Frank's with McAndrews and met up with Han Chiang, restaurateur (Han Dynasty) and notable curmudgeon. After lots of shots, Han explained that he will never dumb down his authentic Sichuan cuisine for Americans, and that he mixes up the Dan Dan Noodles tableside, because customers "are too stupid to do it on their own."
On Day 2, Bourdain met up with Philly's favorite cheffy superstar Mike Solomonov (Zahav) for breakfast at Pho 75. After giving us props for having serious pho, Bourdain headed for the Mutter Museum in search of medical oddities relating to the large intestine, and hit the jackpot with Megacolon. Following his stroll through the Mutter, Bourdain met up with PPA employee Shawn Moreland, and got some soul food at Chef Ken's Cafe, where he shit-talked the Rocky Statue (we're on board), and suggested that a Joe Frazier statue should be erected in its place (we're on board).
He completed the journey with dinner at Zahav with Solomonov and Vetri, where he was blown away by Solo's cooking talents, and his balls for opening an Israeli restaurant in a down economy. After dinner, the trio went to the P&P, where Bourdain infamously drank a shot of hot dog water after losing a game of Rock/Paper/Scissors. But, he was upstaged when another bar patron drank an Irish Bus Bomb (Pitcher of Guinness with a lowball of Jameson and Bailey's dropped in for good measure), and asked for more.
Bourdain made it a point to not give attention to the cheesesteak (but a mention of Chink's occurred, which is fine), Stephen Starr, or, surprisingly Jose Garces. But, in place of the cheesesteak, Bourdain mentioned the deliciousness of John's Roast Pork, the sardine sandwich at American Sardine Bar, and a necessary trip to Cafe Soho for fried chicken.
All in all, Bourdain did a fantastic job showing off Philly, and has gotten thumbs up from the most jaded Philly experts after the episode aired. It might have taken too many years for Bourdain to visit Philadelphia, but it certainly was worth the wait. Hey Tony, you're welcome back any time.