Anthony Bourdain was a legend in the restaurant world. His bestselling book, Kitchen Confidential, pulled back the veil that shrouded the reality of the food business and established him as an engaging, frank, and entertaining writer. His ability to talk about food in a way that was both knowledgeable and accessible led him to television, where he hosted a variety of hit shows about food.
Bourdain struggled with depression and died of suicide in the summer of 2018. One of the places he visited in his travels was Burns BBQ, and the restaurant has honored him with a prominent spot in a new mural that portrays its history.
Bourdain’s Visits to Burns BBQ
Anthony Bourdain’s first televised visit to Burns BBQ happened back in 2004, when he was hosting his very first television show, A Cook’s Tour, on the Food Network. After the show aired, the restaurant experienced a big spike in business – something that artist Alex Roman Jr. says happens every time one of Bourdain’s episodes is replayed.
Roy Burns Sr. founded Burns BBQ back in 1973. The restaurant quickly became a local fixture and was famous for its ribs, brisket, and barbecue sauce. Bourdain’ s visit in 2004 gave the establishment a high profile and reminded Houstonians of what they loved about it.
Bourdain’s second visit to Burns BBQ happened in 2016, after the death of Roy Burns Sr. had shut the restaurant for two years, from 2010 to 2012. It has since been reopened by his grandsons. The 2016 show, which was part of Bourdain’s award-winning Parts Unknown series that aired on CNN. That show brought a new global audience to Burns BBQ.
Roman says that when he was painting the mural, which features Bourdain’s face as part of the B in Burns, he met people who had traveled from around the world just to eat at Burns BBQ. Food lovers from Australia, Japan, Germany, China, and many other countries show up because they trust that if Anthony Bourdain said that a place was worth visiting, they won’t be disappointed by the food. Many don’t speak English but are happy to point at what they want on the menu.
Anthony Bourdain’s Legacy
It’s fitting that Anthony Bourdain should be honored by the restaurants he featured on his television shows. He democratized restaurant dining because he wrote and spoke about it with such gusto. The Parts Unknown episode that featured Burns BBQ also featured other dining experiences in Houston, including a taste of Houston’s unique Vietnamese/Southern Bayou craw-fish and a tandoori cookout.
Bourdain may be gone, but his legacy lives on at Burns BBQ. The establishment has long played footage of Bourdain’s visits for patrons as they line up to wait for their food. While Burns was a well-established local favorite before Bourdain turned up, there’s no question that his visits – and his appreciation for the food – drove a whole new crowd of BBQ lovers to the restaurant.
The new mural at Burns BBQ is a testament to the restaurant, its founders, and the undeniable, universal appeal of the late Anthony Bourdain.