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‘Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown’ in Chicago: Just the One-Liners

The globe-trotting chef tackles meat loaf and mapo tofu in episode two of season seven

Anthony Bourdain at the home of Lupe Fiasco's mother in Chicago
Anthony Bourdain at the home of Lupe Fiasco's mother in Chicago
Courtesy of CNN
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Huddled up against Lake Michigan, the Midwest metropolis of Chicago receives a theatrical treatment in the latest installment of CNN's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. "Chicago is a town, a city that doesn't ever have to measure itself against any other city," Bourdain says. "Other places have to measure themselves against it. It's big, it's outgoing, it's tough, it's opinionated, and everybody's got a story."

"It’s big, it’s outgoing, it’s tough, it’s opinionated, and everybody’s got a story."

Divided into six acts, Bourdain explores the culture and politics of Chicago through its characters — many of whom belly up at the city's iconic dive bar Old Town Ale House. Leading the pack is Ale House owner, blogger, and artist Bruce Cameron Elliott who shows off his collection of oddball celebrity portraits and takes the host to populist hangout Valois Restaurant for cafeteria-style comfort food. "The one thing about Chicago is you cannot get away with being a fake or a phony," he tells Bourdain.

Divided with slice-of-life stories related by Ale House barflies, the second episode hits a variety of Chicago neighborhoods. Bourdain shares a meal with a Second City improv comedian Paul Jurewicz among "flannels and neckbeards" at Longman & Eagle, and visits Chinatown for some "ass-burning Szechuan food" with Stephanie Izard and Peter Wong of the Girl & the Goat. Music plays a role as well, with rapper Lupe Fiasco and Big Black's Steve Albini making appearances. There's even a little time left over for jabs at local baseball teams. Here now are the 10 best quotes from Sunday's Chicago excursion:

1. On the 40-plus-year-old clientele at Chicago's iconic Old Town Ale House: "It's really what's missing in my life. I need an old man bar."

2. As Ale House owner Bruce Cameron Elliott describes his latest painting of Vladimir Putin, Bourdain says: "There's ponies involved? I love ponies."

3. Elliott discussing his plans for the Putin painting: "When I put him in a tutu, I thought, 'I think that I've really uncovered the true Putin.' Ballet is very important in Russia and if I painted him naked, that would almost be macho." Bourdain responds: "Yeah. I mean you don't need the, you know, presumably tiny genitals." Elliott says: "Well, I don't think there's any doubt about that."

4. Bourdain's final word on the satirical portrait: "I think this is an iconic image as is. I think it says it all."

5. Elliott on the clientele at the Ale House: "Bar people do not live as long as vegan joggers. However, they have more fun."

6. Bourdain, before digging into his macaroni and cheese with meat loaf at Chicago's Valois Restaurant in Hyde Park: "Two of my guilty pleasures on one plastic tray."

7. Bourdain on the mapo tofu at Sze Chuan Cuisine: "A tofu dish stippled heavily with pork and a burny, numbing, 9½ Weeks-style exercise in sadomasochism that will start you thinking some deeply disturbing thoughts."

8. On the breaded, fried steak sandwiches at Ricobene's: "There's no delicate way to eat this. You just hoist and go."

9. On musician/producer Steve Albini's lifestyle: "You are not living in LA or New York or living on a mountain top peeing downwards from a great height. What are you, some kind of a communist?"

10. Questioning Albini: "Is there less douchery in Chicago?"

Video: Want more Chicago food? Check out Lucas Peterson's Dining on a Dime