Anthony Bourdain's Favorite Paris Restaurant Is An Absolute Classic

Anthony Bourdain is no less than a culinary legend. His work, including his many television series and gritty memoirs, offered a unique look at the previously polished world of food writing. His often unique insights into travel have helped many to look beyond the typical tourist traps or navigate a new street food scene in their travels. Bourdain often shunted cheap sentimentality and pompous, travel-guide destinations that built their reputation on novelty. 

However, there was perhaps one place in which Bourdain allowed himself to indulge his own personal attachments, and that was Paris. In a city filled to the brim with Michelin-starred dining experiences, one restaurant in particular was marked by Bourdain as a must-see, and that was Le Dôme Café. Indeed, in his inaugural episode of "No Reservations," cheekily titled, "Why The French Don't Suck," Bourdain said of the restaurant, "If there's two things you do in Paris, this would be one." 

Certainly, history would bear out this assessment, as Le Dôme Café has played host to many of Paris' most famous and influential figures throughout its over century-long residence in Montparnasse. Playing host to such figures as Hemingway and Picasso, Le Dôme Café is certainly the place to go if you want to indulge your inner bohemian.

A restaurant at the heart of French history

Le Dôme Café sits at the border between the 6th and 14th arrondissements of the city, the restaurant is at the crux of one of Paris' most culturally rich neighborhoods, Montparnasse. Nestled on the left bank of the Seine, the neighborhood rose to prominence in the late 19th century and early 20th century. During the stretch of time between World War I and World War II, Montparnasse became a beacon for creative activity. Artists, writers, and bohemians of all types flocked to Montparnasse due to its inexpensive cost of living and the welcoming attitudes of such institutions as Le Dôme. During the first half of the 20th century, Montparnasse was home to iconic literary and artistic figures such as Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, and even Pablo Picasso.

One of the central gathering spots for this eclectic group of bohemian artists and writers was Le Dôme Café. Established in 1898, the restaurant features a classic Parisian set-up, including sprawling sidewalk seating, and sumptuous wood-paneled walls with wall-hung lamps, making it the perfect gathering place for some of the 20th century's most influential creative figures. Given the influence of this period on Bourdain's own work, Bourdain was often called the Hemingway of our generation for his tendency towards travel and direct, honest documentation, it is no wonder why this restaurant was regarded as one of Bourdain's essential destinations in Paris.

A deeper cut into Paris

Le Dôme Café is primarily a seafood restaurant but features an eclectic menu of many dishes. But perhaps the most iconic section of the menu is the restaurant's seafood towers and platters, which offer a decadent taste of some of the best seafood in the city. Bourdain himself highlighted the particularly carnal aspect of these feasts, noting, "You're going to get your hands dirty doing this, by the way, okay? There is no way around it. They give you all the tools, but ultimately, you have to dig in, crack, skewer, and suck your way through this thing." It seems like Le Dôme Café offers the perfect balance between history and experience that Bourdain so keenly enjoyed. For all of its prestige, it seems that Le Dôme Café does not sacrifice experience for sentimentality.

Le Dôme is one stop that any fan of Bourdain won't want to miss. But if Le Dôme's messy seafood feast isn't exactly up your alley, you can always check out the French brasseries that changed Bourdain's life. Additionally, you can check out the equally historic Café de Flore, which is one of the ever-couth Ina Garten's favorite spots in Paris. Regardless of where your visit to Paris might take you, Bourdain's spirit of culinary curiosity is essential to fully experiencing the city.