Anthony Bourdain has long been a champion of Manhattan, to the point where early in his television career, he would openly look down his nose at New York City’s remaining four boroughs. That’s not the case anymore, as Bourdain has since dedicated airtime to NYC outside of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. In the latest episode of Parts Unknown, he jumps across the East River to explore Queens, which hosts cultures from all over the world in its 108 square miles.
The episode opens with B-roll footage of Queens residents and flags of the many nationalities represented in the borough. Bourdain hits up neighborhoods including Corona, Flushing, Woodhaven, Jackson Heights, South Ozone Park, and the Rockaways, visiting sites such as the Aqueduct race track and Neirs Tavern, where several scenes of the Martin Scorsese classic Goodfellas were shot.
Bourdain takes an international food tour over the course of the episode. Outside the No. 7 station in Corona, there’s a street cart serving Ecuadorian morcilla (blood sausage). In Flushing, he indulges in Chinese dumplings and Korean gam ja tang (pork neck stew) and kalbi (barbecue short ribs). Bourdain highlights a Mexican tamale cart on Junction Boulevard. He digs into Tibetan thenthuk (hand-pulled noodle soup) in Jackson Heights. It’s a whirlwind.
Among the guests who make an appearance to tout the virtues of Queens are Himanshu Suri, who makes up half of the Swet Shop Boys hip-hop group, Mu Ramen chef-owner Joshua Smookler, Casa Enrique chef-owner Cosme Aguilar, Africana chef-owner Blessing Osagiede, and Laurie Woolever, who co-authored Bourdain’s cookbook Appetites. Here, now, are the most memorable lines from Parts Unknown’s deep dive into the diverse culinary wonderland that is Queens.
The Quotable Bourdain: Queens
1. Bourdain on how gentrification might affect Queens’ street-cart businesses: “If you get higher rents, nicer buildings, they’re not going to want a street cart out front.”
2. Bourdain on his judgment of white chefs cooking cuisines that aren’t their own: “I’m racist like that, too. Yeah, I’m totally like that. If I walk into a sushi restaurant, I make racist assumptions about the place if they’re not Japanese.”
3. Bourdain on the history behind Neirs Tavern, the site of several scenes in the movie Goodfellas: “Now, it’s historic for a lot of reasons, not least, in my mind, because the greatest American film ever made was shot here.”
4. Bourdain on the ever-changing landscape in Queens: “When you think, it’s only a matter of time until you’re replaced by yet another incoming [immigrant] group or, you know, a hipster apocalypse.”
5. Bourdain, putting $100 on No. 2 to win at the Aqueduct race track: “I feel dead inside! This is going to bring me around.”
6. Bourdain, reacting to being recognized as someone who looks like Anthony Bourdain: “A guy came up to me, he says, ‘Hey, you look like Anthony Bourdain.’ I said, ‘I wish I had his money.’ He said, ‘Yeah, right, that asshole.’ It was great. It was like the perfect encounter.”
7. Bourdain on Queens embodying civilization outside its borders: “The whole world is in Queens, and like the world as a whole, it is constantly changing.”
8. Bourdain on why Queens is such a global community: “A whole hell of a lot of people in Queens, the people who make the borough what it is, who make it such a great place to eat and explore, are very far from the places they once called home. But, Queens is home now.”