He’s been all over the world, and now in his new show The Layover, Anthony Bourdain returns to my turf, San Francisco. If you haven’t seen the show, which I highly recommend, Bourdain spends about 30 hours drinking his way through a city. I didn’t particularly like the first few episodes because it felt like a cheap off label version of Bourdain’s original series No Reservations. Yeah, I’ll watch it if nothing else is on, but if I want the good stuff, I’ll save up for it. Well I was low on TV options so I decided to catch up on a couple of The Layover episodes, and I have to say, they’ve gotten better.
Maybe I’m biased because I love San Francisco, or maybe it’s because he was inebriated for 29 out of the 30 hours he spent in SF, but it was funny. Damn funny. Any show that starts off in the Tonga Room at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel is bound to spark a fair amount of hilarity, and this episode of The Layover did not disappoint. It was like watching a progressive pub crawl in fast forward and skipping the right to the slurred words and stumbling in the street scenes. I lost count of the amount of drinks Bourdain consumed. He had at least three potent drinks served with fancy umbrellas in huge lava or skull themed glasses. I’ve been to the Tonga Room a couple of times, even used it as a backdrop for a news special I produced, but never, ever did I try even a fraction of the drinks Bourdain enjoyed.
From Nob Hill, he continued his San Francisco tour through a one of a kind Chinatown bar, and then headed into another bar where the dude behind the counter wore a tie. Bourdain eventually ended up at a pizza and burger joint that’s known for staying open late. The chef and foodie is in one of the top food cities in the world and he’s scarfing down a double cheeseburger. Yep, that pretty much sums up The Layover. The show highlights people, places, and drinking establishments that you’ll never read about in Fodor’s or Rick Steve’s guide books, but still make you want to visit. Hell, I was just happy Bourdain didn’t dog San Francisco again, like he’s been known to do on No Reservations. It’s probably because he was drunk almost throughout the entire episode, but Bourdain was effusive in his love for SF. I think at one point he even said it’s the best drinking city in the world.
After watching probably a half-dozen episodes of The Layover, I’ve noticed something. The drunker Bourdain, the better the episode. In fact, I’m watching the one on Miami as I write this, and Bourdain is way more sober, and it’s nowhere near as good as the San Francisco episode. So if Bourdain were to ever ask my producing advice for his show, I’d tell him to do what he did in San Francisco. Drink early and often. It may not serve him well on the flight home, but it makes for entertaining television.