Splitting his television career between two popular documentary series—No Reservations on the Travel Channel, and Parts Unknown on CNN—Anthony Bourdain has spent fourteen seasons trotting the globe, devouring every noodle, chile pepper, and porcine morsel in sight.

With countless stamps in his passport, Bourdain has popularized restaurants, food carts, dive bars, and farmers markets all over the world. (Our contributor Justin Charity planned a 2012 vacation to Beirut inspired by Bourdain’s tour of the city in 2010.)

Now that Bourdain is in his fifth season of Parts Unknown, we found ourselves wondering: what are the very best destinations in the history of both shows? Bourdain has visited a few favored cities and countries more than once, which accounts for the heavy representation of Southeast Asia in our countdown of the 10 best Bourdain destinations so far. Let’s dig in.


Anthony Bourdain No Reservations Season 6 Thailand by easytelevision

Show: No Reservations
Season 5, Episode 16

The episode opens with reports of violent clashes in Bangkok, evocative of the tensions that scuttled the No Reservations crew’s first shoot in Beirut. Peace is restored, however, just in time for Thailand’s annual Songkran festival, which the locals celebrate by brandishing high-power water guns at every leg of Bourdain’s journey, from Thailand’s capital to the Gulf of Thailand, via trains and rafts. After a slippery attempt at shucking cockles in the mud, the crew backtracks to Amphawa Floating Market on the Mae Klong river, where they feast on heaps of green papaya salad, barbecued pork, and deep-fried shrimp cakes. N.B., everything tastes better with bloodshot chili paste.—Justin Charity


Anthony Bourdain – No Reservations – S01E04… by james-oliver

Show: No Reservations
Season 1, Episode 4

This was early in the game. Here Tony travels by land and sea with his old friend Dinh Hoang Linh, who acts as his guide. They visit the streets of Hanoi, the farms of Montagnards, and Tuần Châu, aka the Island of Mr. Sang, to enjoy bun cha (porcupine) and lots and lots of rice liquor (of course). The real treat happens towards the end of the episode when Tony finally meets Mr. Sang. The mysterious figure pulls out all the stops for Tony, including a banquet which features a dance routine and food cooked by Sang himself.—Angel Diaz


Anthony Bourdain No Reservations Season 4 Tokyo by easytelevision

Show: No Reservations, Parts Unknown
NR: Season 2, Episode 7; Season 4, Episode 16; Season 8, Episode 5. PU: Season 2, Episode 8

In Bourdain’s fourteen televised seasons of global tour stops, Tokyo is the most popular metropolis by far. “To come here,” Bourdain announces, “any excuse will do.” A city of fresh soba and delicious fish galore, Tokyo is a miracle of culinary patience and precision; soba noodles are precisely 1.6 mm wide, and don’t you forget it. (Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto laments “the younger generation’s hankering for hamburgers instead of rice.) Beyond Tokyo’s kitchens, Bourdain seeks discipline and inner-focus via the study of kendo (in No Reservations) and Kyokushin (in Parts Unknown) martial arts. Bourdain’s latest Parts Unknown episode covering Tokyo focuses less so on cuisine, and more so on the underground abundance of kink and rock—which provoke a broader discussion of the Japanese psyche. “I’ll never really understand the Japanese or their preoccupations,” he concedes from the onset. “But I don’t care.”—Justin Charity


Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations – Back to Beirut by FerminaConnell

Show: No Reservations
Season 2, Episode 24; Season 6, Episode 21

Bourdain’s earliest trip to Beirut is the biggest disaster in the entire nine-season run of No Reservations. Filmed during the outbreak of the 2006 Lebanon War, the crew is stranded in Beirut when Israeli jet fighters bomb the runways of Rafik Hariri International Airport. After much inexplicable diplomatic delay, U.S. marines evacuate stranded American civilians—including the N.R. crew—via the USS Nashville, which was rerouted from Jordan. When Bourdain and co. returned in 2010 four years after their evacuation, they revisited the famous diner Le Chef in Gemmayze; toured Souk al Tayeb and its community-run buffet, Tawlet; and snacked at Falafel Sahyoun, a street-food respite from the chaotic, tank-manned Avenue de l’Independence. Beirut: come for the zaatar, stay because you’re literally trapped in your hostel’s dinky elevator due to a daily, scheduled power outage.—Justin Charity

Watch the full episode here.


Anthony Bourdain No Reservations Season 4 Laos by easytelevision

Show: No Reservations
Season 4, Episode 11

As with his tours of Vietnam, Bourdain’s trip to Laos is a study of 20th century imperialism, with narrative focus on U.S. bombing runs on Laos during the Vietnam War. Bourdain travels alongside UXO LAO, a munitions disposal unit tasked with combing the nation’s farmland for unexploded bombs dropped by American forces half a century ago. The Xiangkhouang locals escorting Bourdain across Laos’ northeast countryside are hospitable but blunt, occaissionally chiding Bourdain for his countrymen’s disinterest in repairing the land and lives they demolished. While there’s only fleeting focus on food, Laos is perhaps the most gorgeously shot episode of either series; there’s abundant footage of the Mekong and Nam Ngum rivers at dawn and dusk, “serpentine rice patties,’ and a careful record of UXO LAO’s bomb detection protocol and cathartic disposal. At dinner in the home of his hosts in Xiangkhouang, Bourdain nearly chokes on a “bitter, brackish” swallow, a sour taste after all those fistfuls of sticky rice and cure-all doses of padaek.—Justin Charity


Show: Parts Unknown
Season 3, Episode 4

With his trusty tour guide Daniel Boulud, Bourdain learns about Lyon’s deep culinary legacy—going all the way back to Eugénie Brazier, who in 1933 became the first woman to earn three Michelin stars. She is the godmother of all Lyon chefs, including Boulud’s own mentor, Paul Bocuse. Before they visit Bocuse’s L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, the duo stops by La Maison Troisgros to eat their most famous dish—salmon and sorrel troisgros. The Troisgros family are legends in the la Nouvelle Cuisine movement of the ’60s. The real treat, of course, is the when Boudain and Boulud finally get to break bread with the 80+ year old Bocuse himself. There Bourdain enjoys what he calls one of the “greatest meals of his life,” featuring Bocuse’s greatest hits like truffle soup Elysee, Lievre a la Royale, and his signature fish in pastry dish. To bestow such high praise on a dinner means a lot coming from a professional eater like Bourdain.—Angel Diaz


Show: No Reservations
Season 7, Espisode 3

Nicaragua is a country that has experienced political turmoil throughout the years, and this episode is just as much about its rich history than it is about its food. He discusses Oliver North, Iran-Contra, and the Sandinistas, and the next minute enjoys some nacatamales from a hole-in-the-wall. This episode takes a sharp after he visits a landfill where families make a living by hand-picking trash to recycle for money. Bourdain has a heavy heart knowing that these people literally starve while he’s there to eat enormous amounts of food. “Obscene,” is how he decribes the predicament.—Angel Diaz


Show: No Reservations
Season 7, Episode 12

How could this not make the list? Here Bourdain visits the legendary restaurant elBulli to eat one last meal before it shutters for good. With fellow chef Jose Andres as his guide, Anthony dines at various local spots, gorging himself on tapas that include a mango gelato with a cone made out of…you guessed it…mango. Unlike the bulk of No Reservations’ episodes, this particular episode focusses solely on the food and digs in to how Ferran Adria rose to become a molecular gastronomy pioneer, running perhaps the most famous restaurant in the world. Bourdain went so far as to put on a chef coat and help out in the kitchen. Talk about earning your meal.—Angel Diaz

Watch the full episode here.

Tangier, Morocco

Show: Parts Unknown
Season 3, Episode 4

Matisse, William Burroughs, The Rolling Stones—these are just a few of the artists that spent time in Tangier’s “Interzone,” a haven for spies, adventurers, and bad boys. “If you were a bad boy of your time, if you liked drugs, the kind of sex that was frowned upon at home, and an affordable lifestyle set against an exotic background, Tangier was for you,” explains Bourdain. But does that “anything goes” attitude still exist in the city? Bourdain heads to the northern tip of Africa to find out. There, he samples bastilla, a golden poultry-and-almond pie, explores the colorful souk (or market), and gets lit off hashish in a cafe with young expats.—Erin Mosbaugh

Watch the full episode here.


Show: No Reservations
Season 8, Episode 1

Here are some things to know about Mozambique. The country is a vertically stretched republic of approximately 23 million that spreads itself along Africa’s southeastern coast. It counts Arabic, Indian, Portugeuse, and Swahili among its many influences, all of which have formed a perfect culinary potpourri where seafood AND curry are extensively used. And, oh yeah, its history is incredibly violent and oppressive, a succession of colonialistic and/or brutal regimes that have governed its African populations for centuries. But you probably wouldn’t know these details had it not been for Bourdain’s insatiable appetite and curiosity. Choosing the country for the eighth season of his ‘No Reservations’ show was awesome, and not just because it highlighted Mozambique’s amazing food (which Bourdain proclaimed the best he’s had in Africa). The episode was a Bourdain G.O.A.T. because it showed how an incredibly f*cked history can birth such amazing cuisine—a juxtaposition that, sadly, only benefits the privleged few (as evidenced by Mozambique’s interior population that subsists off rats and roots). But there’s an optimism the country will succeed, along with cultural insights only a renaissance man of Bourdain’s caliber could provide.—Ryan Joseph