With the summer solstice mere hours away, how about a tour through New Jersey to stop and eat at some of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite joints. Inquirer photographer Tom Gralish did just that. His words and photos may inspire you. Also this week, I visit a bruncherie with three locations in the city’s Northwest and a new Chinese noodle house in Chinatown that will fill you up deliciously for less than 10 bucks.

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Eat where Tony ate

Chowing down at Donkey's Place in Camden, where the cheesesteaks come out on poppy-seeded round rolls.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Chowing down at Donkey's Place in Camden, where the cheesesteaks come out on poppy-seeded round rolls.

Anthony Bourdain was a chef, author, TV personality — and a Jersey Boy from Bergen County.

After his June 2018 death, New Jersey introduced an Anthony Bourdain Food Trail, which was approved in the legislature in January and formally unveiled last week.

The trail highlights 10 spots he featured in a 2015 episode of CNN’s Parts Unknown.

Locally, those include Donkey’s Place and Tony & Ruth’s in Camden for cheesesteaks, and James’ Salt Water Taffy, Knife & Fork Inn, Dock’s Oyster House, and Tony’s Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City, where he touted the spaghetti and meatballs. (Personal story: Some of my oldest memories of Tony’s involved my grandfather dousing his plates of spaghetti and meatballs in copious amounts of ketchup, for reasons no one ever knew.)

Follow Inquirer photographer Tom Gralish, who gassed up the car, followed the trail, and brought back lovely words and images.

The trail, by the way:

This Week’s Openings

Bonchon | University City and West Chester

The Korean fried chicken chain, which weeks ago added a location at 3836 Chestnut St., marks the grand opening of a shop at 124 E. Market St. in West Chester with a deal of five wings for $1 on Saturday, June 22 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Clean Juice | Wynnewood

Organic juice bar (including acai bowls and toasts) in Wynnewood Shopping Center at 50 E. Wynnewood Rd.

Kung Fu Tea | King of Prussia

The milk-and-bubble tea specialist is in grand-opening mode at King of Prussia Mall.

The Little Hen | Haddonfield

Planet Smoothie | Horsham

To mark the franchise’s grand opening in Horsham Corner (575 Horsham Rd.), free 16-ounce smoothies between 2 and 7 p.m.

Shaxian Delicacies | Chinatown

See below.

Stella | New Hope

Jose Garces is attached to an American restaurant at the new Ghost Light Inn (50 S. Main St.), next to Bucks County Playhouse.

This Week’s Closings

Empress Garden | Chinatown

Long-running Chinatown eatery has yielded to Shaxian Delicacies; see below.

Kabob & Grill Indian Cuisine | Merion Station

Indian restaurant in the same strip of stores as Hymie’s has ended a four-year-run.

Where we’re enjoying happy hour

Burger at U.S. Hotel Bar & Grill.
Burger at U.S. Hotel Bar & Grill.

U.S. Hotel Bar & Grill, 4439 Main St.; 4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday

This long-running drop-in on the less-traveled upper end of Manayunk’s Main Street changed hands, yielding a dramatic renovation, unveiled three months ago, that showcases the century-old building’s past. The result is a narrow, high-tin-ceilinged barroom with a few TVs and chipper bartenders.

It’s also made for happy hour. The deal is $1 off draft beers and wines by the glass, $5 sangrias, and $2 off specialty cocktails (usually $10-$12).

The HH menu leans toward the fried ($5 cheesesteak egg rolls and beer-battered cheese curds, $6 potato wedges and wings). For $7, you get tasty value in the form of a burger, which usually sells for $13. Into bold seasonings? Win! The kitchen seems obsessed with togarashi, sprinkling the Japanese chili all over the menu — on the wings, on the chilled shrimp, and in the ketchup accompanying the cheesesteak rolls.

Where we’re eating

Boutique skillet with chipotle cinnamon sweet potato hash, beans, and vegetables at Breakfast Boutique.
Boutique skillet with chipotle cinnamon sweet potato hash, beans, and vegetables at Breakfast Boutique.

Breakfast Boutique, 8630 Germantown Ave., 215-621-7796 (other locations at 5917 N. Broad St. in Logan, 267-331-6045, and 6833 Germantown Ave. in Mount Airy, 267-437-2884)

Culinary Institute of America-trained chef Robert Pollard and his wife, Desiree, are behind these cozy, boldly appointed bruncheries, which draw lines for the menu of diner classics and creative extras (shrimp and grits, salmon cakes). There’s also a fairly substantial vegan menu (crispy vegan chicken wrap, avocado toast, Tex-Mex tortilla).

Recommended: jerk chicken and Belgian waffle ($13), which you sweet-and-spicy fans will appreciate after you drizzle on the syrup, and the Boutique skillet ($10), which gets you a belly-filling dish of cubed sweet potatoes dressed in chipotle-cinnamon with black beans, onions, and green pepper, an avocado wedge, and two over-easy eggs.

Hours at all three locations: 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.

Chive dumplings at Shaxian Delicacies, 106 N. 10th St.
Chive dumplings at Shaxian Delicacies, 106 N. 10th St.

Shaxian Delicacies, 106-108 N. 10th St., 215-923-9888

There’s cheap and then there’s the fantastic bargain that is Shaxian Delicacies, a Fujian-rooted chain of noodle shops that recently planted its flag in the double-wide storefront where Empress Garden was, near the arch in Chinatown. (Say it, roughly, “shay-chee-ann.”)

Soups and braised dishes make up the much of the menu, and you can go to town on authentic fj-style street food such as duck feet, pig ears, and pig feet.

More Westernized palates can hit up the dumplings (perhaps the boiled pork dumplings with chive, at six for $5), stir-fried noodles with clams ($9.50), or the signature peanut butter noodles ($3), which are served hot (unlike the more familiar cold sesame noodles you’ll find at most Chinese restaurants).

The set-up is a bit odd. You enter into an anteroom, where in off hours someone may be prepping dumplings. A few steps farther along is the spare dining room decorated with bold wall graphics (the menu, presented entirely in Chinese) and plenty of wall outlets for handy phone-charging.

Lightning-fast service. It’s cash-only.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, but are erratic.

Dining Notes

Hard seltzer might be the drink of the summer. We taste-tested 13 brands so you don’t have to. (You’re welcome.)

A Philly sushi master will be making tacos at someone else’s restaurant next week.

June 21 is National Smoothie Day. As such, the Bryn & Dane’s locations are giving away its smoothie known as The Journey (organic blend of pitaya, strawberries and bananas) all day. Also, the new Planet Smoothie location in Horsham Corner shopping center is giving away 16-ounce smoothies between 2 and 7 p.m.

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