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Anthony Bourdain, Dead at 61, Loved San Francisco

And it loved him back

Anthony Bourdain at Swan Oyster Depot
Anthony Bourdain at Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco.

Anthony Bourdain, the chef, author, and TV host, has died at age 61. Bourdain was found Friday morning in his hotel room in France, where he was filming his CNN show Parts Unknown. CNN has confirmed the cause of death.

He was known for his way with words, using his quick wit and personal experiences to bring what he called the “dark underbelly” of cooking to the light. As he rose through the ranks, Bourdain leveraged his considerable influence to shine light on a variety of cuisines, people, and places. His impact on cooks, writers, and diners cannot be understated. (Read more about his life here.)

He also loved San Francisco and its special brand of grit. And San Francisco loved him back.

We tracked his every move, as Eater SF readers gleefully awaited news of his dining adventures throughout the Bay Area, from San Jose to Oakland to North Beach. He saw and respected the “hippie cheeses” and “crunchy food,” but he also tapped into the “strong, powerful, deep undercurrent of liquor and meat and dirty nasty behavior.”

“San Francisco is an outrageously dirty town,” he said on the SF episode of No Reservations (Season 5, episode 15). “It’s grimy. You guys have actual street hookers in this center of town. It’s a two-fisted, heavy-drinking, three-martini, big-steaks, heavy-smoking, old-school 20s mentality town.”

He always made his first stop Swan Oyster Depot, which he called “both a local landmark and a personal one,” for crab fat and uni. “True love cannot be denied,” he said.

He dined at House of Prime Rib, drank martinis at Aub Zam Zam, Tiki-ed at the Tonga Room, and scarfed the hangtown fry at Tadich Grill. He paid his respects at Sinbad’s, the now-closed divey landmark that clung to its position by the Ferry Building long past its prime. ”Sinbad’s. Lost in time, yet its time running out,” he said. “Living out its last stand on San Francisco’s Pier 2, just south of the hoards of neck beards and man-bun vapers buying artisanal drip coffee a few hundred yards away. A last drink — or two — before the grinding wheels of the apocalypse churn through, leaving what in their wake?”

He rightfully loved Oakland, too, dining through the taco trucks of International Boulevard, eating fried chicken at Miss Ollie’s and lamb kofta at Juhu Beach Club.

When Mr. Bing’s, one of the city’s dirtiest and most-beloved dive bars, changed hands, Eater SF reached out to Bourdain for comment: “Just another day in the death spiral ... Another good and noble thing, in this case, a fine drinking establishment, ground under the slow, inevitable, pitiless forward motion of the Terrible Wheel.

“It will consume us all in the end,” he said.

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or is anxious, depressed, upset, or needs to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For international resources, here is a good place to begin.