What to Never Order at a Restaurant, According to Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain by James Cann (CC BY)

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Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain by James Cann (CC BY)

Some Reservations

When you’ve got a mind like the late Anthony Bourdain had, spinning at all times full of complicated, sardonic, loving, angry, and brilliant thoughts, it's bound to be loaded with opinions. His book “Kitchen Confidential” is now 24 years old, but still widely considered one of the most poignant memoirs ever written, especially for anybody who’s ever worked in a kitchen. It’s also full of more strongly opinionated Bourdainisms than you can count.

Like most angsty, food-loving white boys of my generation, I pray to the temple of Bourdain. I definitely drank up a lot of his cacio e pepe-flavored Kool-Aid, but I never agreed with him on everything (What’s so bad about the Grateful Dead, Tony??).

What follows are some of Bourdain's ultimate restaurant no-nos. But remember that the food and beverage world has changed significantly over the last two decades. Like his book, these opinions are 24 years old; so take this advice with a pinch, nay, a few tablespoons of salt.

Deep Fried Fish

1. Fish on a Monday

Unless he was eating at a four-star restaurant, Bourdain said he wouldn’t eat fish on a Monday. “I know how old most seafood is on Monday — about four to five days old!” These days, many restaurants boast that they receive fresh seafood daily, but it’s still important to make sure that’s the case.

Fish on a Monday is a great band name, by the way. Any budding musician can have that one free of charge.

Related: 13 Foods You Should Never Risk Eating After Their Expiration Dates

Traditional steak and mashed potatoes

2. Well-Done Steak

“Saving for well-done,” Bourdain explains, is what happens to the bad or old cuts of meat. And because this is Tony Bourdain we’re talking about, you know he’s got a strong opinion on that kind of temperature: “Serve it to some rube who prefers his meat or fish incinerated into a flavourless, leathery hunk of carbon.”

Related: 25 Grade-A Steakhouses That Are Worth the Splurge

Chicken Kiev

3. Chicken

This may be one of the most out-of-date pieces of advice, feeling very specific to early 2000s New York City, but Anthony Bourdain states that chicken is inherently boring. “Chefs see it as a menu item for people who don’t know what they want to eat,” he says, and even though this isn’t true across the board, I can see why. 

Instead, he says to go for the pork which is less likely to make you sick if undercooked, and can lend itself to more exciting dishes.

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Egg Benedict - Poached egg with smoked salmon on toasted with fresh hollandaise sauce, Delicious homemade breakfast.
Food Photographer/istockphoto

4. Hollandaise

Ready to have eggs Benedict ruined for you forever? “Bacteria love Hollandaise,” Bourdain says, “Nobody I know has ever made Hollandaise to order.” Chances are you’re gonna get some sauce that’s been sitting there for quite some time.

Related: 10 Things Servers Would Never Order at a Restaurant

Sushi fuyu

5. Discount Sushi

There’s a reason sushi is expensive, and that’s because the good stuff costs a lot to get into your restaurant. Discount sushi is kind of like the Spirit Airlines of seafood; you shouldn’t do this unless you’re in a pinch. 

“I can’t imagine a better example of Things To Be Wary Of in the food department than bargain sushi,” he writes.

Related: 11 Foods You Should Never Order At A Diner

Homemade Moules Frites Mussels and Fries

6. Mussels

Unless he was friends with the chef, or he saw with his own eyes how they were stored, you wouldn’t catch Bourdain ordering mussels. “In my experience,” he says in his book, “Most cooks are less than scrupulous in their handling of them.” Having personally spent time in the kitchens of a few seafood restaurants, I have a lot more faith than that. 

Then again, the idea that I might know more about anything than Anthony Bourdain is quite silly. You should probably listen to him.

Shepherd's Pie

7. Dishes with Ground Beef

“Beef Parmentier? Shepherd's pie? Chili special? Sounds like leftovers to me,” Bourdain writes. He’s right about this one, but I can’t say I mind too much. Never met a hepherd’s pie I didn’t enjoy.