Once again, Anthony Bourdain gets throttled during martial arts training, this time in San Francisco. Rather than karate, Bourdain returns to his jiu-jitsu at Ralph Gracie Academy — "one of the toughest and most notorious and most admired" training centers in the country. In this latest installment of the CNN series Parts Unknown, Bourdain revisits San Francisco, a city built "built on toughness" that's going through a major change due to the dominating influx of money from tech enterprises like Google. "We all know it. You can't stop it," he says.
"San Francisco was built on toughness. It's a boozy town, a saloon town, red meat, sex, and dirt."
The episode delves deep into San Francisco's history drawing on the memories and expertise of James Beard award-winning writer John Birdsall, author Sean Wilsey, Black Panther Party activist Bobby Seale, and chefs Richie Nakano and Daniel Patterson. Bourdain admits that the jiu-jitsu academy is his foremost reason for returning to the Bay area, and the episode takes full advantage of his exercise regime offering plenty of montages of a sweaty Bourdain struggling in chokeholds. Of course, he then gets to turn the tables on his instructor, taking the long-haired, tattooed fighter Kurt Osiander out of his element at Daniel Patterson's fine dining restaurant, Coi.
Here now, the best 16 quips from Bourdain's San Francisco experience:
1) On San Francisco's granola reputation: "San Francisco is an outrageously dirty town. It's grimy. You guys have actual street hookers in this center of town. It's a two fisted, heavy drinking, three martini, big steaks, heavy smoking, old-school 20s mentality town."
2) On why San Francisco is changing: "According to many locals the whole character of this city is being leached out by an invasion of tech people — a flood of tech money. It's the triumph of the nerds."
3) On Sinbad's location: "Sinbad's. Lost in time, yet its time running out. Living out its last stand on San Francisco's Pier 2, just south of the hoards of neck beards and man bun vapers buying artisanal drip coffee a few hundred yards away. "
4) On whether Sinbad's has a future: "A last drink — or two — before the grinding wheels of the apocalypse churn through, leaving what in their wake?"
5) On jiu-jitsu training at Ralph Gracie Academy: "Every morning, 7 a.m., I'm here. And for the next hour or two hours or sometimes more, I'm just getting crushed. Humility. Jiu-jitsu gives you that in spades."
6) On the revisiting the Swan Oyster Depot: "True love cannot be denied."
7) On needing a beer: "I'm like a Real Housewife of New York City. I drink only vodka, you know because it's like low-carb."
8) On his love of Swan Oyster Depot: "A touchstone in my worldwide wanderings. A happy zone. If I read about myself dying at this counter I'd say to myself, ‘That was one lucky guy.'"
9) On eating Swan's oysters: "I should eat these before training. They'd give me superhuman strength. On the other hand coughing up oysters all over the front of my gi probably might not be cool."
10) On Trader Vic's: "I definitely need the drinks menu. I've been beaten like a chicken fried steak."
11) On his history with tiki bars: "I used to drop acid and go to Hawaii Kai so this kind of thing is a taste of my childhood too."
12) On Loco'l's veggie burger: "I'd totally eat that. If you didn't call it a veggie burger, I'd be all over this."
13) On Juhu Beach Club's place in the Oakland community: "I believe that any place that serves delicious food is on the side of the angels."
14) On jiu-jitsu: "Despite the fact that people are trying to basically choke you unconscious on the mats that you're scrambling for your life in a sea of sweat, it's a remarkably and refreshingly testosterone-free zone... It's a douche-free environment."
15) On how martial arts has changed him: "See, I was always the guy who if you were the old lady who hired me to shovel your walk, I would do half of it and then I'd realize ‘Oh this is too hard.' And I'd say ‘Fuck this!' and I'd just disappear."
16) On San Francisco's uncertain future: "I like to think there's hope. At least hope that once in a while the old guys will have a good day."