Upper West Side Jewish deli icon Barney Greengrass set up an empty table with Anthony Bourdain’s regular order today: Novia Scotia lox, an egg scramble, and some bagels.
NY1 reporter Van Tieu tweeted a photo of the spread on Friday, shortly after the restaurant made Bourdain’s regular meal for a shoot. Owner Gary Greengrass tells Eater that it was a bit of an accident, but they just so happened to set the food on the very table that Bourdain ate at when he highlighted the spot on A Cook’s Tour.
Still, it felt meaningful, Greengrass says. Bourdain frequented the 110-year-old shop over his years living in New York. “It was like the Queen of England putting a seal on a box of crackers,” Greengrass says of Bourdain’s endorsement and promotion of the restaurant. “His approval meant a lot to people in the food world.”
“It’s a sad day. he touched a lot of lives,” Greengrass says. “He was just a decent guy.”
Over the years, Bourdain mentioned the restaurant, located at 541 Amsterdam Ave, between West 86th and West 87 streets, over and over again. In a list of recommendations for reviews site the Infatuation, he said, “The quintessential New York City breakfast is at Barney Greengrass. Period.”:
Grab a copy of the Sunday Times and the New York Post and sit down for some eggs scrambled with browned onions and lox. Be sure to get a basket of toasted bialeys—and maybe a heap of nova and sturgeon. On your way out the door, get some of their chopped liver to go. It’s the best in New York.
Greengrass told CNN that Bourdain “made everyone feel at home” when he came to dine. ”He was true to who he was; he was a regular guy,” Greengrass says. “TV makes you famous, but he never acted that way. Never looked for anything special.”
An empty chair at Barney Greengrass with Anthony Bourdain's regular breakfast order: Nova Scotia Lox and egg scramble. Staff say his humble humor is greatly missed at the deli counter. @NY1 pic.twitter.com/MLvhiOWgRZ— Van Tieu (@Van_Tieu) June 8, 2018
Bourdain was born in New York, grew up in New Jersey, and rose to fame while working in the city. Even after he started doing TV, he returned to Barney Greengrass. In a clip on his first show, A Cook’s Tour, which ran from 2002 to 2003, he visits the legendary diner, calling it “the best breakfast in the universe,” for a complete meal involving a copy of the New York Times.
The celebrity died on Friday at age 61; the cause of death was suicide.
Update: This post has been updated to include more comment from Greengrass.
If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or is anxious, depressed, upset, or needs to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For international resources, here is a good place to begin.