Last week, The Layover premiered to audible groans of pain...by me. Anthony Bourdain's new travel show had an interesting premise -- what would Tony do if stuck in a city for 24 hours? Unfortunately, the show had a frenetic overly produced feel about it. I disliked the clock counting down the hours until the cab ride back to the airport and the vignettes of locals giving tips to tourists. Tony seemed a little bored.
What did I want to see from this episode of The Layover, set in New York? I wanted to be wowed! I'm a native New Yorker. Tony is too. I wanted to see a mix of places I've never been to, along with classic New York spots that only insiders know about. I got what I wanted...maybe a little too much.
Tattoo artist: "You can always spot a tourist because they're
looking up." This is the first in a series of shots of native New Yorkers saying horrible things about tourists and just making themselves look like snotty dickweeds.
Anthony Bourdain: "This ain't no layover for me, but
considering how much I travel maybe it kind of is. I tend to eat my way
through a city and New York is no exception."
Bourdain tells us about the three major airports and their high suckage factors. That there's no good way to get into the city from any airport, so take a cab for fifty bucks because New York's mass transit system is completely f**ked. Apparently, this show is not endorsed by the New York City Tourist Board.
Girl in a flowered dress: "Ditch the fanny pack."
Anthony Bourdain: "Drop your bags at the hotel. Wandering around with a bag, even an overnighter, isn't done here."
Tony's stuck on the Upper East Side, which "has a lot of lousy restaurants". He does recommend Bemelmans Bar in
the Carlyle hotel. "If you were having an affair or a
clandestine meeting or engaged in insider trading this is the perfect
place to meet. I don't know who goes there. I don't care. Its just one
of the great NY institutions", he tells us. And it is. The bar is classic Manhattan, filled with murals drawn by the author of the Madeline books, Ludwig Bemelmans.
Tony sucks down a gin Martini, "is there any other kind?", and notes this is not the place to go if you want to get laid.
Anthony Bourdain: "Never look anyone in the eye in the New York subway
system. It's not a safety matter anymore, it's just polite. Look down."
Tony takes us on an eating montage. Granted, there are a lot of places to pack in to a 24 hour layover in New York, but the pace is insane and doesn't allow us to really enjoy any of them: The Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridian Hotel (cheeseburger and a beer $13.50 -- cash only), Shake Shack (double burger and a shake), Minetta Tavern ($26 black label burger), Eataly (beers on the rooftop).
In the New York shopping segment, Bourdain peruses rare books at Kitchen Arts and Letters, a store devoted to collectibles, then heads to Strand Bookstore, St. Mark's Books, and the Restaurant Supply stores on the Bowery.
Two guys in suits: "The subway is the only way to get around New York because you can get killed by a cab.
Anthony Bourdain: "The best you can say about the NY subway system is that it works and it's cheap. It's safe but don't be an idiot."
In the dive bar/hipster segment, Tony meets Momofuku's chef/owner David Chang for a drink at Subway Inn across from Bloomingdale's. Tony notes that it's one of the few dive bars that's not being ironic. (In fact, there's an un-ironic dive bar on almost every block in Manhattan. Usually next to the Off Track Betting parlors). They head to the East Village. Tony notes the neighborhood was, "Like Mad Max. Now its hipster. But what are you going to do? Reminisce about junkies?"
They go to Crif Dogs, where Tony eats tots with cheese whiz and says "it's only out of deference to you that I'm not thrusting my penis" into the molten cheese.
David and Tony go to PDT, a speakeasy (secret word? swordfish). There's a "no standing" policy so if there's no seat there's no way of getting a drink. Tony gets a classic Manhattan. There's also a specialty dog selection, like the Momofuku dog and the Wiley dog, named after WD50's Wylie Dufrense.
The clock ticks 12 hours to go. I hate that f**king clock.
Blonde with a Village People Leather-Guy puppet: "New York is a great place to be a ventriloquist."
Clearly, we're into the ethnic foods segment. Tony savors beef nuts escargot style at Takashi on Hudson Street. He talks about Chinatown and Koreatown and gets a bagel but shows no love for Little Italy, Little Odessa, Washington Heights, or any of the other ethnic neighborhoods in New York.
Eccentric New York woman of a certain age: "Tourists are very badly dressed. Bring some nice clothes. You may not care what you look like but we have to look at you."
Anthony Bourdain: "I have to check Twatter."
In the street food segment, Tony devours a salty pimp at Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. Eddie Wong, a wanna-be hip hop dude, says that "cupcakes and trendy Asian sandwiches are the nails in the coffin of the Lower East Side" as he presents Bourdain with two trendy Asian sandwiches from his restaurant Baohaus. And no, he doesn't see the irony...at all.
Big slacker dude: "I drive around. I smoke weed, I look for cheese shops and artisan breads."
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The clock runs out as we leave Tony on his way home on the Upper East Side. I realize the problem. Anthony Bourdain has moved to the most white bread part of New York City. He's become civilized. Good for his family but not so good for television, I think.
Some notes for the show producers: Slow down the pace. Visit less than 50 places in the imaginary 24 hour span of time that's ticking down. And please get rid of the f**king clock!
Anthony Bourdain: "Don't play three card Monty. Sixth Avenue is not Avenue of the Americas. Don't put ketchup on your hot dog because god doesn't want you to do that."
Next week: Tony goes to Rome, where we'll get friendly tips from native Romans like "Your wife's ass looks hot", "that's not Chianti..that's donkey piss", and "A bowl of pasta is four bucks for locals, twenty-five for Americans."