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Bourdain - Boston show -- discuss

well --- what did everyone think ... ??

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  1. my bad ... i see a link is already in progess ... disregard

    1. Just one man's view. This show is not really about food. This episode reminds me of his rust Belt episode. Self loathing American. Transplanted New Yorker. Poseur? Perhaps. Actualized sell out. My hero.

      1. I thought it was hysterical. Love Bordain. He has guts to get drunk on camera. It didn't make Boston look like a place I"d ever want to go, that's for sure, but I loved the gritty, way he showed us around. And, who was the dark haired guy with him? He was from a local band? Loved the boxing segment with those of crusty tough guys.

        1. His partner in crime there was a member of The Unband, a bygone Boston hard-rock band that Bourdain likes from its mid-90s heyday. That kid came across as the poseur, the lace-curtain-Irish boy from Hingham pretending to be all street, and not at all fooling the real Southie natives.

          I would love to claim that Bourdain must have read my Phoenix review of O Senhor Ramos, since he samples all the Azorean dishes I recommend in it, but I think the owners were choosing for him.

          On reflection, the show is a bit of a shambles, about what you would expect from what was effectively a week-long bender, and the time spent with Howie Carr was utterly wasted, but otherwise it was pretty entertaining and original as travelogues go.


          1 Reply
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            I'm not sure how Bourdain found The Unband. They were big in Western Mass, but that's about it. I was sad to see Mike all cleaned up and polished as he was far from that in Northampton in the 90's.

          2. I don't think it was even close to his best episode, and thought that the last half was a bit of a mess (didn't really need to see him getting tanked at those three bars at the end), and I was bummed that they didn't show him at Greenhills in Dorchester. Still, it was pretty entertaining stuff, and I'm glad he got to show a couple of the hidden gems in the area (Snack Bar, Galley Diner).

            1. The worst Bourdain show yet. Not one restaurant or bar owner knew who the guy from Hingham was (no one really knows who the Unband is either).

              I well realize it's not necessarily a food show, but there wasn't one place I'd eat or drink at. You'll never have to worry about standing in line at any of these places.

              Howie Carr wouldn't know a good deli sandwich if someone stuffed it in his mouth and told him it was good. Why keep making a hero out of Whitey?

              Sorry I wasted an hour of my life on that drek!!!
              Not Enjoying,

              6 Replies
              1. re: CocoDan

                >Why keep making a hero out of Whitey?

                Huh? A hero usually isn't called a rat or a hypocrit on national tv.

                1. re: CocoDan


                  Ill take you to Rondos and The Eire.

                  Otherwise I agree completely.

                  1. re: CocoDan

                    CocoDan, You took the words out of my mouth. My GF and I are both Boston restaurant-industry veterans and fans of Mr. Bourdain's work. During and post-show, we both shook our heads in dismay. Oh well, you win some and lose some.

                    1. re: Reuniteonice

                      Yes, shaking your head is good, as there isn't much to discuss.
                      Maybe next time,

                    2. re: CocoDan

                      Well Bourdain did warn you at the very beginning of the show... He said something like
                      'This is not going to be a typical Tony visits the best of Boston's Restaurants so you might as well turn to Sandra Lee now" Fair warning.

                    3. I think they must have spent a lot of their time trying to recreate those small linking scenes that mimic the movie version of "The Friends of Eddie Coyle", which I thought were pretty clever.

                      Bourdain predicted on the Carr show that local Chowhounds would be disappointed in his food choices, and it's hard to argue that he didn't make some underwhelming picks. Murphy's Law and L Street are pretty unimaginative, too, having been covered in Hollywood Southie movies already. (Plus, Murphy's Law always smells like urine.) But, hey: O Senhor Ramos and Belle Isle? You could do much worse here, and most food-TV shows do.

                      It's of a piece with what Bourdain generally likes to do and not do. It seems unlikely, at least, that it will result in any Rino's-style ruination.


                      Murphy's Law
                      837 Summer St, Boston, MA 02127

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        It certainly beat watching Rachel Ray stuff her piehole full of cannolis froms Mike's............good to see the stereotype of Irish-Americans as drunken thugs wasn't tarnished.............overall, it was entertaining but isn't going to win him a key to the city (and I agree that his sidekick added zero to the episode, after a night of drinking I would beat guys like that up on the way to a fight......)

                      2. I liked it. He set the tone at the beginning. He said it wasn't going to be a "Best of Boston" show. I think he really captured the atmosphere of the places he visited and all of the characters were right out of central casting. The deli scene in Brookline really didn't belong, though. His shows are never 100% about food. It is a travel show, too, and he tries to present the "culture" surrounding the food and the place. I think he did this pretty well for South Boston, although mainly the old South Boston. Except in passing he did not mention or show gentrification, but that was not what the show was about.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: pemma

                          Notice Tony never made a remark about the food at the deli after he ate it. At the very least there is usually some obligatory shaking of the head and a "hmmmm, good" thrown in at most places.

                        2. As an occasional watcher of the show, I thought this episode was almost as sex-segregated as the episodes in countries where women aren't permitted to eat with men. Tony eats with the boys, Tony gets drunk and passes out with the boys. Yawn.

                          1. Is just me, or is his shtick getting tired? I mean how many times do we have to see him get drunk, make lewd jokes, comments on bodily functions, the constant profanity, etc.? I'm no prude but it gets old after a while. Did we really need the visualization of the colon doctor or Mike's description of the mini mart bathroom stop (with Bourdain's added commentary)?

                            IMO, this episode was typical of this season. With few exceptions, I have been disappointed with his shows lately. I won't hijack the tread with a rant, but suffice to say I'm quickly losing interest.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: al b. darned

                              I agree with your post al b. darned. Bourdain has become a caricature of himself; a SNL skit if you will. Unfortunately, this seems to happen with so many shows. The audience focuses in on certain aspects and the hosts/producers exploit those aspects and the show becomes repetitive and a big bore.

                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                Really too bad but that's what happens when you go from cool to hot. CHs become too inside baseball. I predict more tailgating and processed food in the No Res future. Word is that he is spinning off a show like top chef where he is the judge and jury. Where will the next fresh air that stirs the appetite come from?

                              2. re: al b. darned

                                I agree, the show jumped the shark a couple years back. I still watch him waiting and wishing for him to walk the talk like he did in the old days. If it’s true that he’s crossing over to a reality American Idol style cooking show, I’m out.

                                1. re: al b. darned

                                  I disagree. Not because I'm some sort of fawning fan and love everything this guy does, but because I think of him in the same way I always did, and think that he still delivers along those lines. Tony is not so much a chef or a foodie as he is a writer. Many years ago, Kitchen Confidential immersed me in his world. Since then, he has taken part in many worlds, most of them alien to me, and tried (admittedly not always successfully) to immerse me in them.

                                  When I run into what I think of as a bad show, I always have to ask myself - do I have problems with the world that he's showing me, or do I not like the way he is showing it to me? It's usually the former. I'm from the Boston Burbs, and haven't spent a lot of time in Southie - but I've known kids from there and know of the reputation and culture. From my perspective, he presented it well - as it really is, complete with shots and lots of beer. I don't think I want to visit or move there, any more than I did before the show. I don't necessarily have any greater insight to the culture than I did before. But neither do I think that he was any more obtuse or inaccurate than his normal self. Above all, he continues to entertain - foul language, disgusting stories, and all - just like his first book.

                                  1. re: al b. darned

                                    I think it is just because he has visited all of the places he is passionate about already, so the past few seasons have been second and third choice places. Honestly how exciting can you make eating a squirrel pie in missouri look?

                                    1. re: j8715

                                      Burnt out, whined out, passed out. It's only TV (or content). Wish he'd been in a more appetizing mood. For me this was a Yankee fan having his way with The Hub and reaffirming stereotypes. Looking forward to next week's show in Japan where no doubt he will find propriety, respect and something worth eating.

                                    2. re: al b. darned

                                      Tony's shtick was awesome...back when Lou Reed was doing it in 1967. Now it's just kind of pathetic.

                                    3. I live in Boston for 25 years now, and have never eaten at any of the restaurants featured in the show except Michael's (pubs are another story). But I loved the show. I suppose it could've been all about Menton, Craigie, Neptune, L'Espalier, O Ya, Babara-Lynch-Ken-Oringer-Todd-English-Ming Tsai and the like - and perhaps one day we'll see that show (and critique it mercilessly in tiny paragraphs!) - but that's not the Boston featured in this episode.

                                      Though these days I tend to find myself more often in that other Boston that wasn't here shown, am I to reject the clam and scallop fry-jobs, the Portuguese stews, the eggs and hash, the steak bombs ... as somehow not representative of this city? Or, for that matter, candlepins and boxing? Or, god help me, Howie Carr? Or, c'mon, staggering out of a pub into the cold Southie night?

                                      These. Are things. That happen here.

                                      Like fried mullet and cole slaw, big wet macaroni salads, coca-cola cakes, huge-ass oysters drenched in cocktail sauce on saltines - and other less fashionable foods from my birthplace near the Gulf - I'm glad these things are still around, still celebrated.

                                      And Boston remains, if only in part, a city of terroir. Some of which is a bit gritty or greasy or maybe even just plain gross. But it is what it is. In it's own small way, it helps keep us from becoming total hipster douchebags or status-seeking tools, or from descending into the homogenized blandness of the typical American metroplex. I'm not the least unhappy that Bourdain celebrates it.

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                        I really enjoyed the episode, and I agree with your comments. Anyone could have hit the best of the best fine dining restaurants or showcased the same places that show up on every CH thread, Lonely Planet guide, or typical travel show, but what's the point?

                                        AB's take had a lot of style to it, and he highlighted an area of Boston where most tourists probably don't go, and places in that area where the locals actually eat, play, and hang out. I've been to Boston before, walked the freedom trail, done all of the big touristy stuff, but if I were to go back, I'd have a lot of fun going to some of those authentic Irish-American bars, trying out candlepin bowling, and chowing down at pretty much any of the places he visited.

                                        In an America that is becoming increasingly overrun with chains and previously gritty city centers that have been Disney-fied and sanitized for our protection, seeing that there are still gritty blue collar areas with family owned greasey spoons that have been around forever and neighborhood corner bars, well, it makes me feel good. Bourdain showed a part of Boston charm that is often overlooked, it was a great show.

                                        1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                          Charm? Lucky there is no smello-vision. As a Bostonian I'm sure I'm way too close to this but Bourdain and Zero Point Zero make both good episodes and some...not so much. just doesn't seem "hungry for more"...anymore. Not everything even a real good Chef makes always turns out. Next week in Japan they will get it right I'm sure.

                                          1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                            See, the hilarious thing for those of us who actually DO live in Boston is that what he showed was every local cliche there is, but all of them ever so slightly wrong.

                                            There wasn't anything "authentic" about any of it. Just a different kind of touristy.

                                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                              see, the hilarious thing for those of us who read these blogs and watch 'no reservations' is just about every single episode seems to spark this tired refrain of "bourdain shoulda done this, bourdain shouldn't done that," etc., etc. etc.

                                              it's kind of amazing how long it's taking those damn authenticity police to throw tony in authenticity jail.

                                              1. re: linus

                                                I couldn't give less of a crap what he does or doesn't do, as I've thought he's a hack for years. I just thought it was funny that he went for the Disneyland version when his whole schtick is "I'm Mr. Badass Authenticity Dude."

                                                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                  sorry for the confusion. i obviously incorrectly figured someone who couldn't give a crap wouldn't bother posting. i also apologize for missing the part where bourdain called himself "mr. badass authenticity dude."

                                                  1. re: linus

                                                    Yeah.... I was thinking the same thing, for someone who "couldn't give less of a crap", he seem awfully worked up.
                                                    Look, Bourdain is not for everyone,sometimes even for Bourdain judging from some of his most recent comments about his sthick and selling out.I take his shows in the vein it was given....sometimes funny,sometimes informative,sometimes serious,sometimes irreverent, sometimes hokey but if you remember you're not tuned into Master piece theater....always fun.

                                                    1. re: Duppie

                                                      One more time: I was simply amused by the fact that someone watched this show and thought that it portrayed "an area of Boston where most tourists probably don't go, and places in that area where the locals actually eat, play, and hang out," as well as "authentic Irish-American bars" and "gritty blue collar areas with family owned greasey spoons that have been around forever and neighborhood corner bars."

                                                      To anyone who lives here, the idea that a place like Michael's Deli (located in a touristy section of a well-heeled neighborhood) is all gritty and blue-collar, or that prep-school-educated suburbanite Howie Carr is somehow the voice of the streets, is worth a chuckle.

                                                      1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                        But that was one place.

                                                        Other than that, he pretty much did portray "an area of Boston where most tourists probably don't go, and places in that area where the locals actually eat, play, and hang out," as well as "authentic Irish-American bars" and "gritty blue collar areas with family owned greasey spoons that have been around forever and neighborhood corner bars."

                                                        Maybe not all that "griity."

                                                        Still, it was a snoozer.

                                                        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                          Yawn. Haven't we all already singled Michael's out, just as did Bourdain with a voice-over observation mildly dissing on Howie's rec? Um, yes, we have.

                                                          BTW, I've seen a preview feed of tonight's episode on Hokkaido. Totally sucks. No true Hokkaidon would blah-blah. Strictly for tourists. All disneyfied and so forth. There was schtick involved. And cliches. Not that I care. See how little I care? I really couldn't care less.

                                              2. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                                I haven't seen the show so don't have an opinion on its value as a travel program. However, the areas where Bourdain visited are the fastest growing residential areas for professionals -- South Boston, Dorchester, Cambridge Street in Cambridge, he is only missing the Fenway. East Boston two is growing for that demographic and where he went is closer to Winthrop (a bedroom community) than the gritty areas of East Boston. All of these have seen more growth in mid-range dining than other parts of the city, outside of downtown/newbury/convention center (the south end a traditional hotspot is contracting rather than growing). Instead of the Freedom Trail he followed the Clydesdale trail in neighborhoods which are being yuppified. There are other towns (yeah, Bridge and Tunnel) outside the city limits which are more blue collar today and haven't been in a Ben Affleck movie. Its not hard to encounter the 'Boston charm' you mention, but you can get more inventive ideas for how to do it, encounter locals, and try interesting food on the Boston board. (And hiddenboston.com run by a regular poster, has a fairly strong influence on blue collar food establishments and would be a better reference than Bourdain's show.) Foodwise, I do think he could have done a lot better and when I visit I do not eat particularly upscale, but eat a lot better than I think he did (the Snack Bar is one of my stops and something I have posted about a bit here, but even there he just scratched the surface of the neighborhood).

                                            2. Things Bourdain Didn't Tell You About Boston

                                              There are two State Houses, two City Halls, two courthouses and two Hancock buildings (one old, one new).

                                              Route 128 is also I-95. It is also I-93.

                                              It's the Sox, The Pats (or Patsies if they're losing), the Seltz, the Broons.

                                              The underground train is not the subway. It's the T and it doesn't run all night (fah chrysakes, this ain't Noo Yawk).


                                              Southie is South Boston. The South End is the South End. Eastie is East Boston. The North End is east of the West End.

                                              The West End and Scollay Square are no more—a guy named Rappaport got rid of them one night.

                                              The geographical center of Boston is in Roxbury. Due north of the center we find the South End. This is not to be confused with South Boston, which lies directly east from the South End.

                                              North of the South End is East Boston and southwest of East Boston is the North End. Back Bay was filled in years ago.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: al b. darned

                                                Things Bourdain didn't tell you about Paris, Vienna, Egypt, Buffalo, Ozarks, Namibia... You think the list is any shorter for anywhere else? What are you expecting, some sort of history/geography/restaurant guide/sports team/language 1-hour guide to everything you should know about some place? For a guy you expect very little from, you sure expect a lot.

                                                So whadya think, the Sox gonna win 100 games this year? The way they're going, they're lucky to break 500. Neither the Celtics nor the Bruins will make it to the finals. Boston sucks - it ain't our year.

                                                The guy's a Yankee fan. You didn't really think he was gonna give us a fair shake.

                                                1. re: al b. darned

                                                  Not sure what a discussion of Boston sports teams is doing on Chowhound, but the bigger point is that Bourdain has never done a conventional travel show, and Boston Chowhounds should perhaps be grateful that our favorites aren't going to be overrun with Travel Channel watching gastro-tourists.


                                                    1. re: TonyO

                                                      You don't think Murphy's Law is gonna get "Rinos'd"?

                                                      1. re: Beachowolfe

                                                        I think that ship, were it to sail, would have departed with "Gone Baby Gone". I was in there a few weeks ago, and it's the same slightly grim shithole it always was. For better or worse, its charms are still intact.


                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                          The bar in the book was in Fields Corner and sounded a bit like the Emerald Isle. Which would have been a far better destination for him, had it not sadly closed it's doors.

                                                          That or Ups N Downs.

                                                  1. Not very interesting. Fell asleep half way through. I am a Tony fan. I have several of his books. Medium Raw is on my kitchen table. It also is putting me to sleep half way through. I prefer when Tony shows odd and unknown places, especially when they resonate with him. His comments are deeper and more personal and more interesting to me. I like it when where he has gone and what he has seen makes him step put of the jaded dude schtick. My favorite episode is Sardegna.


                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                      <prefer when Tony shows odd and unknown places, especially when they resonate with him. >

                                                      Yeah, me too. I also prefer it when he looks like he is enjoying where he is and what he is doing. And when his "local guide" is a little more knowledgeable and in touch with the community. To me the only shining part of the episode was his visit to the Snack bar.

                                                    2. Self indulgent - definitely on the bottom three for me - especailly the ending. I am surprised that between the food they were eating and the drinking they even survived...

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Sharon S.

                                                        Sharon S. you have hit it right on its pointy head which is laughing all the way to the bank.