Revisiting Anthony Bourdain's Haight Street destinations

Revisiting Anthony Bourdain's Haight Street destinations
Anthony Bourdain visited Zam Zam in 2009. | Photos: Jennifer Shields/Hoodline
By Jennifer Shields - Published on July 23, 2018.

Last month, millions mourned the death of celebrity chef, author and documentarian Anthony Bourdain, but for employees at some Haight Street establishments, the news hit particularly hard.

Over the years, Bourdain visited many bars and restaurants around San Francisco, but he included the Upper and Lower Haight in several of his travelogues, popping into Toronado Pub, Zam Zam, and The Alembic.

Inside Toronado Pub.

Toronado Pub was featured on a 2012 San Francisco episode of Bourdain's “Layover” series, where he noted that "daytime drinking is a tradition here, as it is in any great city."

He noted the bar's sweeping collection of beers on tap, along with its "No Grateful Dead policy on the jukebox, which ensures me the peace of mind and spirit I need to get a late morning buzz."

Kundan Baidwan, a bartender at Zam Zam for the last six years, was a patron in 2009 when Bourdain stopped in for martinis while filming an episode of "No Reservations."

Baidwan said she initially worried that the "quaint little bar" would be ruined by the publicity, but looking back, “a lot of the regulars were happy and there was smiling faces," she said. "It was great to be recognized." 

Speciality cocktail at Zam Zam.

“One thing about Anthony Bourdain—he was speaking in a cadence and in a way and in terms that he was using your voice, he could articulate what so many of us couldn’t,” she said.

In 2012, Bourdain described Alembic Bar as a place "where off-duty or pre-shift bartenders head for a high-quality drink.”

Bourdain visited Alembic Bar in 2012.

Dillon Barry, who leads the kitchen at Alembic Bar, said he was a new line cook in 2011 when he met Bourdain in New York. According to Barry, Bourdain took an interest in him and asked what he wanted to do with his career.

“It was so heartening to know that someone with such accolade, was so personable,” he said. “Everyone I talked to said he came across as super personable."