There’s never been a better time to love TV shows and movies about food and restaurants. Right now, the major streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are offering tons of documentaries and series about chefs, plus movies and programs that are set in restaurants and bars. Here are a few recommendations from Eater editors on what to stream this weekend:
To stream: Japanese Style Originator
Available on: Netflix
The gist: You’ve poured through Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. You’ve whizzed through a season of Samurai Gourmet. You’ve even flirted with Atelier, which goes behind the scenes of the glamorous world of Japanese... lingerie making. What’s the next streaming option for Japanophiles, particularly those interested in the country’s cuisine?
There's always Japanese Style Originator, a quirky panel show that delves into various aspects of Japanese culture. The episodes available on Netflix appear to be a sporadic selection from the series (and vary dramatically in length), but each provides a quick window into such topics as tempura-cooking, yukata-wearing, or tofu-making. Some episodes have clear themes, like ways to cool down in the summer, or foods best served over rice (yes, there are 50 examples). It’s all quite educational, but the real fun comes from the zaniness of the panel show (one enjoyable recurring segment has contestants trying to guess what product an artisan is making by revealing four of the tools he’s using — it’s surprisingly challenging).
Unless you're fluent in Japanese, don’t expect to escape an episode without feeling a little confused. Why doesn’t anyone know basic names for household items? Why is there a recurring segment where a white, kimono-wearing young boy mansplains matters of etiquette to another little girl? Don’t expect any clear answers — with Japanese Style Originator, it’s best just to go along for the ride. — Missy Frederick
To stream: Wasted! The Story of Food Waste
Available on: Amazon, iTunes
The gist: The latest production from Zero Point Zero, the company behind Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and The Mind of a Chef, tackles, as the title suggests, the massive, worldwide problem of food waste. Restaurant industry luminaries including Dan Barber, Danny Bowien, and Mario Batali discuss the problem and ways to address it, from simple solutions like serving cauliflower greens at restaurants, to more complex ideas such as using yogurt byproduct to provide electricity to a Dannon factory. In the end, the documentary’s stars suggest easy ways regular individuals can reduce food waste and, in turn, help the environment and ease global hunger. Bourdain narrates, and the cinematography is easy on the eyes. — Chris Fuhrmeister
To stream: Uchouten Kazoku (The Eccentric Family)
Available on: Crunchyroll
The gist: Let’s get the synopsis out of the way first: This anime is about a family of magical tanuki — the raccoon dogs that appear frequently in Japanese folklore — and how each of its members, who can transform into other forms, navigate a society where mythological creatures live alongside humans. But stick with me here. While the premise firmly plants itself in the realm of fantasy (creatures fly and turn into inanimate objects!), the show roots itself in reality in two ways. First, as in many other animes, beautifully rendered bowls of ramen and bento frequently appear. Second, and here's the bummer alert, The Eccentric Family forces the viewer to confront the ethics of being atop the food chain. The result is even more effecting than Okja.
It’s not really a spoiler to say much of the plot involves watching these adorable, fully realized tanuki try to outrun a fate that involves being cooked in a hot pot. Hilariously, the show’s villains are members of a gastronomic society that eats these intelligent, sentient tanuki simply because they can — an inadvertently pointed critique of foodie culture that hit a bit close to home. But that's all maybe doing the show a disservice. That seriousness is there, but ultimately, The Eccentric Family is a charming story about relationships, family, and the desire to change one's lot in life — one that might make you rethink that pork stew simmering on the stove, even if only for a moment. — Erin DeJesus
To stream: Friends From College, “Party Bus“
Available on: Netflix
The gist: Most of the action on the fifth episode of this criminally underrated Netflix series takes place on a party bus rolling through Long Island wine country. The day starts off pleasantly enough among the titular friends from college, but things start to unravel as soon as they hit the wineries. Four out of the seven of them are entangled in extramarital affairs with other members of the group, you see, and there’s a new significant other in the mix, so things are bound to get dicy. The bus gets clobbered by a bridge, the friends make a pit stop at McDonald’s, one member of the pack gets lost in the winery shuffle, and the driver gets too drunk to steer the bus back to Manhattan — and yet, somehow, they soldier on and find their way back home. “Party Bus” is a good example of how this show seamlessly mixes crunchy relationship drama with farcical send-ups of yuppie culture. — Greg Morabito
To stream: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season 3
Available on: HBO Now
The gist: A key selling point for anyone who may be casually interested in Curb is that it’s a show without significant, long-developing plot lines. Individual seasons have their own story arcs, but the series is mostly Larry David going through life as an extremely wealthy person, experiencing minor annoyances, and wildly overreacting to them.
So, even someone who has never seen an episode can pick up at the start of Season 3, which follows the escapades of L.D., Ted Danson, Michael York, and a few more celebrity investors as they attempt to open a restaurant in Los Angeles. The shenanigans include Larry hiring a chef because he is bald and then firing said chef because he wears a toupee; LAPD digging up the kitchen floor to look for a possible dead body (turns out, it was only a bra); and a dining room full of patrons shouting obscenities on opening night, to make an executive chef with Tourette Syndrome feel more comfortable.
In the golden age of Big Important Television, it’s nice to watch something that’s kind of stupid. — C.F.
To stream: Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent
Available on: Amazon Video and iTunes
The gist: At legendary Bay Area restaurants Chez Panisse and Stars, Jeremiah Tower laid the groundwork for California cuisine. But two decades after he became a bona fide star, the chef turned his back on the restaurant business and moved to Mexico. Then, just a few years ago, he resurfaced as the pinch-hitting chef at shaky New York landmark Tavern on the Green. And now, the Jeremiah Tower story gets the feature-length documentary treatment courtesy of director Lydia Tenaglia and producer Anthony Bourdain. This acclaimed doc features appearance by a number of famous faces, including Wolfgang Puck, Martha Stewart, Mario Batali, and Tower himself. Check out Eater’s 5/5 star review here. — G.M.
To stream: Barbecue
Available on: Netflix, iTunes, and Google Play
The gist: Filmmaker Matthew Salleh traveled to 12 countries to shoot this documentary that examines how, in his words, “something as basic as cooking over fire unites us across race, class, and culture in increasingly uncertain times.” Barbecue was an official Spotlight selection at SXSW 2017. A word to the wise: Don’t watch this recent Netflix arrival on an empty stomach. — G.M.
To stream: Sideways
Available on: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Cinemax
The gist: A weekend in wine country turns into a hilarious (and occasionally heartbreaking) voyage of self-discovery for two middle-aged oenophiles. Sideways is arguably Alexander Payne’s best movie, and it features career-defining performances by Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, and Virginia Madsen. — G.M.
To stream: Broad City ,”The Last Supper”
Available on: Hulu
The gist: Over the course of dinner at a fictional Manhattan restaurant called Octavian, one of the Broad City protagonists has an extreme reaction to shellfish while the other copes with a nightmarish bathroom situation, and both of them end up smoking a blunt with a busboy and knocking over a bunch of wine glasses. This particularly gonzo episode of Broad City also has a cameo by producer Amy Poehler, who plays a disgruntled chef. Watch this as a primer for Season 4 of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s hit comedy, which premieres next month. — G.M.
To stream: The Search for General Tso
Available on: Netflix
The gist: Ian Cheney’s 2015 documentary tells the fascinating story of how General Tso’s chicken became a staple of Chinese-American restaurants all across the USA. Several authors and chefs have explored the origins of this dish before this film was made. But as Josh Stein noted in his 5/5 star review for Eater: “What Cheney does differently is niftily trace the immigration, exclusion, diaspora and evolution of the Chinese experience in America told almost entirely through white cardboard take out boxes and the gnomic neon signs for China Palaces and Inns and Dynasties.” Check out Stein’s full review here. — G.M.
To stream: Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City
Available on: Netflix
The gist: In Tokyo, six twenty-somethings — three men, three women — live together and attempt to date each other as a panel of Japanese celebrities analyzes their interactions and Twitter reacts in real time. It’s like The Real World, but these housemates rarely stop getting polite. Instead, they go on chaste dates.
Food plays a central role here, during outings to Tokyo restaurants, but at Terrace House, food is also a conduit for feelings — and there are so many feelings. An elaborate bento box prepared before an afternoon hike represents romantic intent; poke, made by Hawaiian roommate and resident hottie Arman, inspires a charged (by Terrace House standards) house meeting; and when Minori can’t tell her maybe-boyfriend Uchi how she really feels, omurice becomes the perfect canvas for her passive aggression. And this list doesn’t even include what may be the series’ most dramatic turn of events: The Meat Incident. — Monica Burton
To stream: Riverdale
Available on: Netflix
The gist: Embarrassing confession time: I absolutely love teen dramas. I will drop whatever I’m doing to watch She’s All That when it comes on cable, and I’ve seen every episode of Dawson’s Creek at least three times. I was also a voracious comic book reader as a kid, meaning that Riverdale— the CW’s newish hour-long drama loosely based on Archie — is basically a perfect storm that’s swept in to sate my binge-watching needs.
Riverdale attempts to play up the nostalgia factor by keeping the teens’ retro diner hangout, Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe, as a primary location — but in this very 2017 dramatization of Archie, Betty, and Veronica’s trials and tribulations, it’s more Twin Peaks than Happy Days, something that only feels appropriate for a show in which the central plot lines involve murder and a tryst between a high school student and his music teacher. The teens are still cozied up in the restaurant’s vinyl booths gossiping over burgers and onion rings, sure — but instead of comparing pop quiz grades, they’re discussing which football player is secretly gay and the fact that Jughead’s dad is a member of a drug-dealing biker gang. And if, like me, you take guilty pleasure in this kind of salaciously over-the-top drama, Riverdale is basically as delicious as one of Pop’s chocolate milkshakes. — Whitney Filloon
To stream: Portlandia, Season 3 Episode 3: ‘Nina’s Birthday’
Available on: Netflix
The gist: Across it seven seasons, Portlandia has lampooned brunch, barbecues, raw milk drinkers, and alt-weekly “best of lists.” But some of the show’s funniest, and most truthful food-related moments revolve around dinner at a tapas restaurant in the episode “Nina’s Birthday.” One couple has to take out a “birthday loan” from the bank to afford the meal, nobody gets enough to eat, and two of the attendees keep telling everyone how inauthentic the meal is compared to the ones they had on vacation. When the bill comes, the crew decides to call in a Winston Wolf-style fixer to help sort things out. If you’re new to Portlandia, this is a great place to start. — G.M.
To stream: Okja
Available on: Netflix
The gist: Will watching this turn you into a vegan? This is the hot question in the wake of Okja’s well-received premiere at Cannes Film Festival. The answer, probably, is no, but it’s worth a watch anyway. The movie tells the the story of a new breed of “super pig” and a young woman named Mija’s attempt to save it from becoming part of the commercial food chain. There’s lots of action and a few tender moments as Mija fights her way from the mountains of South Korea to New York in an attempt to rescue Okja, the titular super pig, from a trip to the slaughterhouse. Okja, by the way, is super cute. He’s the size of a hippo with a face resembling Falkor and the behavior of a puppy. It’s easy to root for Mija and her super pig.
Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal offer enthusiastic performances, but 13-year-old Ahn Seo-hyun is the breakout star. Barely a teenager, she can already hold her own with a couple of Hollywood’s biggest stars. — C.F.
To stream: City of Gold
Available on: Hulu
The gist: Take a culinary journey through Los Angeles with one of the city’s modern day folk heroes, LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold. Throughout this 90-minute documentary, you see the lifelong Angelino cruise around the city in his pick-up truck in search of delicious things to eat, and you learn the stories of the people behind some of J. Gold’s favorite restaurants. It’s both a profile of a highly influential journalist and a crash-course on the contemporary LA food scene. Bonus Tip: Keep an eye out for Eater’s own critic Robert Sietsema, who makes a masked cameo near the middle of the film. — G.M.
To stream: Boardwalk Empire
Available on: HBO Go
The gist: Screenwriter Terence Winter followed up his HBO mega-hit The Sopranos with this historical-fiction series about the heyday of the illegal-booze trade during prohibition. Over five seasons, Boardwalk Empire chronicles the illegitimate career of corrupt Atlantic City politician Nucky Thompson, who is based on the real-life Enoch Johnson and played by Steve Buscemi. Thompson is seemingly trying to answer two questions throughout each episode: How can I make as much money as possible in this booming, but incredibly dangerous, industry? And: How can I avoid an untimely demise at the hands of a rival? The costumes, set designs, and music should please enthusiasts of the era, who will also enjoy seeing Arnold Rothstein, Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Johnny Torio, and Meyer Lansky among the regular characters. — C.F.
To stream: Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories
Available on: Netflix
The gist: As a narrative construct, few tropes emerge more often than that of the night owl, the solitary existence of functioning primarily after dark. Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories — Netflix’s 10-episode version of the Japanese television show, itself based on a popular manga — gives those lonely figures a safe space in the form of the titular diner, run by an owner (Kaoru Kobayashi) referred to only as “Master.” And in a rare case for a scripted series, the show takes those night-owl stories and immediately makes them feel real.
Each episode, named for a different dish cooked up by Master, functions as vignette, zooming in on the life of one particular client: In “Corn Dog,” an aging comedian and his assistant come to terms with their professional rivalry, in “Tonteki,” a woman shows her affection for unavailable men by knitting elaborate sweaters. It sounds unbearably serious — and the stories are perhaps uncomfortably honest sometimes — but they’re also consistently funny, heartwarming, and hopeful. The food isn’t the primary reason why Midnight Diner’s customers patronize Master’s establishment (that would be for the community and the A+ advice he doles out, of course), but for us viewers, those shots of omelette rice and hot pot are just as lovingly rendered: They will make you hungry, then angry that you don’t have a spot in your neighborhood just like this.
Midnight Diner’s compelling episodes function as a great reminder of the simplicity and complexity that come with being human. It’s an odd feeling, the idea that a deep dive into a (fictional) stranger’s life can provide as much comfort as, say, nursing a bowl of ramen IRL. But these are weird times, and Midnight Diner is the catharsis we all need. — E.D.
To stream: The Restaurateur
Available on: Amazon Prime
The gist: Years before he launched Shake Shack and a slew of other popular restaurants, NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer opened two very different projects inside one iconic Manhattan building: Tabla and Eleven Madison Park. The former was an immediate hit, while the latter got off to a shaky start and took years to find its footing. The Restaurateur fixes its lens on Meyer and his partners during the openings of these two high-stakes projects. The vintage footage of these establishments in their earliest days is a treat for NYC restaurant buffs. But the real reason to watch this doc is to see one of America’s greatest restaurateurs working through the most challenging period of his career with grace, if not ease. The film starts with Meyer in 2009 telling the camera: “After opening Tabla and Eleven Madison Park, I was pretty convinced I had made the absolute worst mistake of my entire professional life.” — G.M.
To stream: Prohibition
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime
The gist: Ken Burns documentaries aren’t for everyone. But, the filmmaker’s 2011 effort is worth a watch for viewers who enjoy acutely detailed historical accounts, Sam Waterston voice acting, and slow zooms on black-and-white photographs. The three-part, five-hour series explains America’s booze ban that was in effect from 1920 to 1933, obviously. Burns covers the origins of the prohibition movement in the mid-1800s, how the execution of the Volstead Act only led to more drinking and the rise of organized crime, and lessons learned from the so-called noble experiment. The biggest highlight comes in episode three, which excerpts old New Yorker stories from nightlife columnist Lois Long. Images of Long, who was the perfect example of a flapper, and her words bring to life scenes from New York City’s Jazz Age in a way that is unmatched by fictional movies. — C.F.
To stream: Drinking Buddies
Available on: Netflix
The gist: The characters in Joe Swanberg’s comedies slide in and out of uncomfortable situations in ways that might make you squirm a bit, if only because they are so true to real life. Drinking Buddies, a not-quite-romantic comedy set in the world of craft brewing, is a good introduction to this guy’s work, and it features terrific performances from Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, and Anna Kendrick. Almost every scene of this movie has people drinking (or making) craft beer. — G.M.
To stream: Mind of A Chef Potluck Music Special
Available on: YouTube, the Mind of a Chef homepage
The gist: Mind of a Chef’s quasi-holiday special — which just got nominated for a Daytime Emmy — is an epic hangout session between Danny Bowien, April Bloomfield, Sean Brock, Iñaki Aizpitarte, and Anthony Bourdain. The special has some amazing looking food — including Brock’s crab rice and Bowien’s “beggars duck” — but the best part of this hour-long program is April Bloomfield’s trip home to the English countryside, where she remembers her nan’s Sunday roast. Check out the special in its entirety above. — G.M.
To stream: A Cook’s Tour
Available on: Netflix, Hulu
The gist: This Food Network show captures Anthony Bourdain traveling the world a few years after the publication of his hugely influential book, Kitchen Confidential. A Cook’s Tour definitely lays the groundwork for future Bourdain endeavors like No Reservations and Parts Unknown, but the energy is a bit different here — Bourdain seems giddy and genuinely grateful for the opportunity to learn about food communities around the world for the first time. It definitely looks and feels like a program that was produced for very little money 15 years ago, and Bourdain hasn’t fully developed his TV persona yet here, but the lo-fi production value is also part of its charm. Episode 1 features a tour of the legendary Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, and a visit to a sumo den. — G.M.
To stream: Diner
Available on: Amazon Prime, iTunes
The gist: Before all of the dialogue-forward, somewhat plotless series and films of the 1990s and 2000s, there was Diner. Released in 1982 and set in mid-‘50s Baltimore, it follows a group of scattered high school buddies who reconnect in their hometown for a wedding. Much of the action takes place at the local 24/7 diner, where Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Daniel Stern, and Paul Reiser, all so young and adorable, shoot the shit about growing up and the banalities of adult life. — C.F.
To stream: Twin Peaks
Available on: Netflix
The gist: This strange ‘90s detective drama from director David Lynch is getting a revival in 2017 but you can watch the whole series (two very brief seasons) on Netflix now. While the show isn't so much about food, some of its best-loved catch phrases revolved around dining. Watch as Kyle MacLachlan's Agent Cooper relishes in the quaint logging town's fare, from the Double R Diner's damn fine coffee to the cherry pie and of course the mandatory police station doughnuts. Meanwhile, the Bang Bang Bar, better known as the Roadhouse, hosts ethereal singers crooning into microphones. By the end, you'll be talking backwards and wearing plaid. — Brenna Houck
To stream: Seinfeld, Season 7
Available on: Hulu Plus
The gist: So much of Seinfeld revolves around dining even though the show isn’t technically about food. Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer spend the vast majority of their time at Monk’s coffee shop and various fictional restaurants around New York City. But, a number of episodes are food-centric, and Season 7 features some of the best. There’s “The Soup Nazi,” which introduced one of the show’s many iconic one-liners. “The Calzone” has Larry David at his best as a faceless George Steinbrenner. And “The Rye” closes with one of Seinfeld’s most memorable images: George Costanza fishing for a loaf of bread out of a second-story window. — C.F.
To stream: Jim Gaffigan: Cinco
Available on: Netflix
The gist: Noted food nerd Jim Gaffigan spends a lot of his new Netflix special talking about full-contact eating. A sample joke: “I don’t want to brag, but I’ve done it — I’ve kept my New Year’s resolution. I’ve had pasta every day this year.” He also has bits about eating cheese in Wisconsin, getting stopped by the TSA with a sleeve of Krispy Kreme doughnuts in his bag, and Jesus’s ability to stay in “amazing shape” while “multiplying bread whenever he wanted.” — G.M.
To stream: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
Available on: Crackle
The gist: Jerry Seinfeld’s latest project continues his legacy of making shows about nothing. In this case, the web series’s title explains it all: Seinfeld recruits fellow comedians to chat about their lives over coffee and during rides in classic automobiles. Anyone who is troubled with the current executive branch of the United States would be wise to queue up the episode in which Seinfeld interviews President Barack Obama from the White House mess. — C.F.
To stream: Treme
Available on: HBO GO
The gist: Writer and director David Simon is best known for creating The Wire, but in Treme, he captures the struggles and culture of life in post-Katrina New Orleans over the course of five seasons. The series addresses music, politics, crime, and commercialization, but the Big Easy’s restaurant scene, which was decimated after the 2005 hurricane, provides innumerable storylines. One of Treme’s main characters, chef Janette Desautel, faces the hard truths of running her own kitchen and latching onto funding from big investors who want input on the menu. Another frontwoman, LaDonna Batiste-Williams, operates a New Orleans dive bar of so many hard drinkers’ dreams. — C.F.
• All Coverage of Food TV [E]