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The Bronx

Aired December 25, 2014 - 22:00   ET


ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST (voice-over): How does the joke begin? Three men in a bar, but it's not a bar. Imagine the Bronx. A corner bodega, or maybe a luncheonette, a diner. Three men, strictly by coincidence, find themselves in the same place at the same time. Sitting at the counter is Afrika Bambaataa. Across the room is Melle Mel. Door opens and who walks in? D.J. Kool Herc. Three men who created the musical style that's become the soundtrack to, well, the whole wide world.

Do they nod at each other, lament how all of them got screwed over, cut out of the big money, or just laugh at the absurdity of it all? Hip hop came from nowhere else. It could have come from nowhere else, but the Bronx.

This is the Bronx. You've probably heard about it. You may even have a pretty solid image in your head of what it looks like. What it is like. Or maybe you can't picture it at all. The South Bronx sounds familiar as a bad thing. And the Bronx at one time was said to be burning, wasn't it? For the most part, the Bronx is overlooked, the never visited borough in New York City, which is a shame, because the Bronx is a magical place with its own energy, its own food, vibe, and rhythm. You've been to Brooklyn. Maybe it's time you took a look at the Bronx.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In August of 1973, the sister of D.J. Kool Herc was holding a birthday party for herself in the basement of 1520 Central Avenue. As Kool Herc was playing the music on his two-disk turntable, he began to slow the music down, slow the record. People stood up and took notice, and they began asking him to do it again. He did it again. They asked him to do it again and again. He did it again, and he attracted more and more people to his performances, and people began to imitate him. And that was the beginning of hip-hop music. It started in the Bronx.

BOURDAIN: Moody's Records, inside rummaging for records just like he used to do is the man, the legend, one of the very select few who started it all. Who created the sound that hundreds of millions of people now claim as their own. Google, "Who created hip hop?" Go ahead. You get, D.J. Kool Herc.

(on camera): It's a national landmark now, is it?

D.J. KOOL HERC, FOUNDER OF HIP-HOP: No, it's not, we're working on it. Working on it.

BOURDAIN: Working on it. HERC: It's still the birthplace of hip-hop, undisputed because I didn't start it with four guys in a club. I was inside a residential building. At the time, it wasn't really received in the building. We had a watchful eye over the recreation room. So she would watch for any disturbance. It never happened. And that's how it survived because good music set itself, good drug set itself, good anything set itself, and this was something good.

BOURDAIN: Was there a moment when you realized, well, this is big, this is going to be -- this is going to spread way beyond my neighborhood?

HERC: Never looked at it as that. I saw it spreading, but it reminded me of Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone. Dressed up like Jam Master Jay, you know? The DMC fellows. But I'd see that to sell commercial, and I know it was going. It was going. It doesn't take a big lift.

So let's say I don't have money and all that. Now, I'm rich in other ways. But "TIME" magazine said when music was created inside the United States. You got Louis Armstrong for jazz. You got Elvis Presley for rock and roll. Of course, that could be between him and Chuck Berry. And you got Kool Herc for hip-hop.

BOURDAIN: Feel good?

HERC: Very good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Historically, from the last third of the 19th Century into about 1920, the second language spoken in the Bronx was German. From about 1930 to about 1960, the second language spoken in the Bronx was Yiddish. From about 1965 onward, the second language spoken in the Bronx is Spanish, and that's the way it is today.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): It's got a reputation as a tough place: crime, street gangs, a lot of which goes back to the way it was and some of which, well, like I said, it's got a reputation as being tough.

The Bronx is, let's face it, a big blank space in a lot of people's minds. Even people like me who live, what, ten minutes away, we don't know anything about that big area between Yankees Stadium and the Bronx Zoo.

What you should know is that the Bronx is big. Really big. And that it's a patchwork of ethnic enclaves, a cross-section of the whole world. Every immigrant group you could think of.

Justin Fornal, a.k.a., Baron Ambrosia, has taken it upon himself to serve as the Bronx's culinary ambassador.

JUSTIN FORNAL, "BARON AMBROSIA": Let the dinner begin. This is the porcupine.

BOURDAIN: An evangelist for the cause of introducing the manifold splendiferous delights of this mighty borough to the ignorant, well, like me. He's got a show on the TV, and he throws parties where he serves creatures that would make Andrew Zimmer turn gray and slump unconscious to the floor. Showman, iconoclast, explorer, and gourmet.

FORNAL: The Bronx, it's so multifaceted, but for some reason this is the first place I always take people. This just oozes and emanates kind of that flavor of the Bronx.

BOURDAIN: And he knows what I like. Places like this, 188 Cuchifritos on 188th Street and the Grand Concourse. Old-school New York Puerto Rican good stuff. Get within 20 feet of this place and prepare to lose your freaking mind.

FORNAL: Cuchifrito itself is basically fried pig. The ears, the tongue, chopped up and deep fried.

BOURDAIN: So off-cut pig parts, deep fried. What's not to like about that? Is that the shank there.

FORNAL: Yes, the shoulder. We're going to get that in there.

BOURDAIN: Oh, yes.

FORNAL: Big piece of the skin, just chopped up.

BOURDAIN: So skin.

FORNAL: Skin, fat.

BOURDAIN: Skin and fat?

FORNAL: Yes. It's almost like a little meat candy bar.

BOURDAIN: That's amazing. Amazing.

FORNAL: Some morcilla.

BOURDAIN: Morcilla, for sure.

FORNAL: Always morcilla.

BOURDAIN: And then what else? We need some placano (ph).


BOURDAIN: Puerto Rico, I missed you.

FORNAL: The Bronx to me became a place where I could really engage my bacchanalian sensibility. You could really just come here, eat, drink, wine, women song, and just indulge.

BOURDAIN: This is pretty much the center of the pork universe as I've ever seen it in New York. I don't any place porkier than what I'm looking at.

(voice-over): This is exactly the kind of thing I thought we'd lost in New York, that one after the other faded away in the neighborhood's I lived in. And all along, all along it was there, right underfoot, a gusher of porky goodness. FORNAL: There's a great line, which is they say, in France, which is

c'est la Bronx. Which is, "What do you think, this is the Bronx?" And you know, this idea of the music's really loud or someone's making a mess. To me I take that as a point of pride. To be the Bronx, is where the music is loud. The Bronx is where the men are tough, the women are sexy, the food is spicy. If those things weren't true, you wouldn't know what the Bronx is.

BOURDAIN: So its bad reputation is what protects it?

FORNAL: I think the perception, the perception of it being a place where the funk is alive.

BOURDAIN: Incredible, incredible spread.

FORNAL: Yes, man, this is great. This is one of the places you'll just kind of dream about: was I really there? I'm going back to see if that place is really there.

BOURDAIN: I can't lay off this pork. It's insane. I'm actually going to get a to-go order.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo, love for my haters, forgiveness for my enemies, move spectators. AS I'm dead if they shot Kennedy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from the Bronx, New York, and I don't beg your pardon, I was 12 or 13 when hip hop was started.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just go and take a minute to listen to what those fools speak, it's clear uncut garbage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just let me bump, fill my energy up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No logic, a bunch of false prophets pushing a poisonous product.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not hard to find. I'm right by the zoo, by the gorilla cage. Holler at me, baby. Ooo, ooo!

Watch it.

BOURDAIN: First to call himself an emcee, another pioneer, Melle Mel. In 1982, and he Grandmaster Flash wrote and recorded "The Message," an album that was a complete and ground-breaking departure from the kind of lyrics and content up to that point.

MELLE MEL, PIONEER IN HIP-HOP: Before we started doing hip-hop music, there was no hip-hop music, so we played everything. We played disco. We played reggae. We played rock. We watched "Hee Haw." That was like the favorite in our house. That was one of our favorite shows, "Hee Haw," you know. And all of those things kind of became the components of what became hip-hop music.

I started out as a break dancer. So I used to break dance. You know, my brother used to, you know, do graffiti, and all of those individual elements wasn't really happening anywhere else. So it was just something that could only have went on right in that area in the Bronx.

BOURDAIN: Yes, OK, you may be thinking, what about the Sugar Hill Gang, what about them? They were an industry band like The Monkees or The Archies, built to cash in quick from what was seen as a fad. And they did cash in.

(on camera): Where were you when you suddenly realized, shit, there's money in this?

MEL: Well, that first record I ever heard was "King Tim III." The second and the most popular record was "Rappers Delight." I used to live on the fifth floor walk-up. I walked out, somebody was playing it next door, was playing it on the fourth floor, was playing it on the third floor, second floor. First floor. Somebody had a boom box outside playing it. The car that drove by had it on.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Right.

MEL: Nothing that was like a plague. It was like -- it was like locusts. And that's when I realized, you know, it was -- it's something that was beyond what we was doing out in the street. Critically, it's not a great record, but if you play it right now, it's still, you know, it's still a good record.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): In this case at least, history has come around. Today, nobody looks back at the Sugar Hill Gang as having been originals or innovators. People know who did what.

MEL: As far as hip hop-now, as far as the music now, these guys are not trying to tell the story of their time at all. OK, yes they popped a lot of bottles. Oh, yes, they had sex with a lot of women and they drove a lot of expensive cars and nothing else happened.

But you would never know that there was a black president, you would never know that there was two wars. You would never know those things, because it's not reflected in the music. And at some point, somebody was supposed to step up and make those songs. Twenty years from now, they'll still be talking about "The Message" and "Planet Rock" and all the classic records. You know what I mean? That's what it is.

BOURDAIN; Robert Moses has been dead over 30 years now. And people in the Bronx, for the most part, still hate him. His role as master builder, he ran the cross-Bronx Expressway and the parkway system straight through dozens of working-class neighborhoods, seemingly uncaring about the destruction of whole communities.

Massive housing projects conceived as utopian solutions to stacking the poor or the centralized vertical ghettoes were also his bright idea.

He did leave some pretty impressive damn works behind, though, like the Tri-borough Bridge, Flushing Meadows Park, the Verrazano Bridge. The Bronx happens to be the home of the two largest parks in New York

City, Pelham Bay and Van Cortlandt, and you see stuff here you probably ain't seen in Central Park.

The Garifuna come from Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize, and they trace they ethnic group back to a single slave ship that crashed off St. Vincent and whose freed Africans then mixed with Carib Indians. Where is home for many of the Garifuna community living in the U.S.? You guessed it, the Bronx.

FORNAL: Living in the Bronx, you're able to kind of travel the world without leaving the borough.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Right.

FORNAL: And, you know, it's like an addiction. When you go to another country and the first day in the market, and all your dreams and you smell the diesel, and you're just looking around, like where's that one thing I'm looking for? To be able to do that, really, in your own backyard, it's...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have mohutu (ph). That's coconut soup with fish.

FORNAL: Uh-huh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over here, we have a tapo (ph).

BOURDAIN: That looks good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... with banana, yucca, yotia (ph), malanga and coconut soup.

BOURDAIN: That sounds good. Yes, there's some neck bones and it. Yes, let's do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So let's put some plantain here.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): In Garifuna cuisine, mashed plantains come with just about every dish.

FORNAL: Plantains are just part of me. That's part of hotutu (ph). You'll never have this without it.

BOURDAIN: Like fofu (ph).

FORNAL: Yes. Same method, same right hand.

BOURDAIN: Same principals.

FORNAL: Same everything.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): There's fish and coconut soup.

(on camera): What kind of fish is this?


BOURDAIN: Blue fish. Awesome, I love blue fish.

(voice-over): And some nice smoked neck bones with bananas and yucca.

(on camera): That's officially awesome already. Oh, that's tasty. It's really good. An underexploited fish, one of my favorites.

So you know what I've noticed already? The Bronx is big. How ludicrous and shameful is it that I can literally see my house from here and I basically have no idea where I am?

FORNAL: No fault on your own, but I think that's kind of what keeps the Bronx so amazing, is that you have all these in-touch ethnic enclaves.

BOURDAIN: I didn't know there were Hondurans here, much less 200,000 Garifuna. No clue.

FORNAL: Right.

BOURDAIN: I've been saying the neck is the next big thing for years now. Still waiting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People from all over the world reside in the Bronx. As a matter of fact, we have residents from every continent on the face of the earth, and if you count the penguins in the Bronx Zoo, that includes Antarctica.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): The wellspring of hip-hop is right around here, a mostly Jamaican community in Bronx River in the South Bronx. Jamaicans began arriving here back in the '50s, and still today, Jamaican food, Jamaican culture, the music, is all over. Sundial International headquarters, makers of traditional tonics and herbal remedies, a Bronx institution since the '70s.

BABA RASHAN ABDUL HAKIM, SUNDIAL INTERNATIONAL: This is enough ingredients. This is the mahogany bark. This one is used for any type of bodily weaknesses.

BOURDAIN: Baba Rashan Abdul Hakim, or Pops Baba (ph) as he's called, a grassroots bush doctor, healer. He uses recipes passed down from mothers and aunties, blends of roots, spices, herbs, barks, and woods.

HAKIM: wood root in the morning and at night, it'll cure what's wrong with you. You're going to have improvement.

BOURDAIN: Whatever ails, he's got a cure. Wood root, cure for the blood, the body, the nerves. Portamanti (ph), an intestinal cleanser, and traditional African manback (ph), helps you get your manhood back, among other things. HAKIM: It was about 1956 that I came to America. So I could make it

in the apartment in the Bronx River. And the whole project smell up this roof, they used to jive then. Hey, what are you doing in there? What kind of hocus pocus in there doing. You know what I mean? And I'd box it and go in the car, and I'd sell it in the Bronx. The Bronx is the best place in America. Nowhere like the Bronx.

BOURDAIN: In the yard out back, some freshly roasted Jamaican coffee, and this man. A Tyrannosaurus Rex of music. A man who changed the world for generations, Afrika Bambaataa. Bambaataa and Pops go back together to the same housing projects.

AFRIKA BAMBAATAA, MUSICIAN: You know James Baba Papa don't play no rest?

BOURDAIN (on camera): Yes.

BAMBAATAA: That's the Baba. Brother Rashad. That's right.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): He and his associates in the Zulu nation were absolutely instrumental in shaping what became hip-hop culture: break dancing, graffiti, DJing and rap.

(on camera): Is this true that you'd soak your records in water, you'd take the label off?

BAMBAATAA; Yes, we'd put tapes on it or we'd soak the label off. You know, you'd have spies in these other camps, trying to find out what was that beat Bambaataa playing? So I used to soak it off. I used to put on tape to cover the records, and we was digging in the crates hard.

BOURDAIN: You were unusually voracious in your musical tastes. Of all the records in the world, how did you come upon Kraftwerk?

BAMBAATAA: I came about it digging in the crate down in the Village. I said this looks type of weird. When I took it home and I heard the sound, I said, "Whoa." I said, "This is some funky, hmm." I said, "Man, this is some futuristic type of funk here," whether they didn't know they were doing some style of funk, and thus came the birth of the electric funk sound, Miami based sound. And since the beginning, we always paid tribute to James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone and George "Parliament Funkadelic" Clinton for bringing the funk from which the hip hop came and the reggae and to, you know, all the pioneers of hip hop.

BOURDAIN: Up north a ways in West Jamaica, another working class community where subway service is pretty limited and yet people to have to get up, go to work, and often make the long hump to another borough.

Afterwards, a person could use a drink. And if you're a Jamaican person, you could use the everyday, go-to drink of back home, any time of day and night, Ray and Nephew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ray and Nephew was a very strong Jamaican white rum that we use for everything from baby fever...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to drinks here in this bar. You get it with cranberry juice, with milk, or water. What water would be in any other borough is what Ray and Nephew is in the Bronx.

BOURDAIN: Jesus is one half of the brilliant podcast team Jesus versus Kid Marrow (ph). It's a very fast, freeform riff diatribe on life in the Bronx and what's happening on the news, in hip-hop, or last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; Growing up in the Bronx you're isolated from the rest of the city. You know what I'm saying? So the other city has like City Bite. The Bronx doesn't get any of that. We're kind of abandoned up here. People get on a boat and go to Staten Island before they ride up to the Bronx.

BOURDAIN: I've got to reluctantly -- have to be in part of the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They always say the Bronx is eventually going to be gentrified. That's not happening any time soon. It's not.

There's the owner right here. This is the man right here who made today possible.

BOURDAIN: Thank you.

(voice-over): I am happy here. And I will drink more of your Ray and Nephew, regardless of what it might be doing to my brain, but then, I will eat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is this? Pork foot.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Pigtail.


BOURDAIN: Awesome.

Oh hell, I love this. Oh. Man, that looks good. People sort of stopped paying attention to the Bronx when it wasn't burning anymore. When Fort Apache was something we didn't have to think about.

BOURDAIN: Right. Do you remember your first time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember my first time.

BOURDAIN: How do you feel, first time, stopped the first time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cried. And that summer, 15 times, stop and frisk, just thrown up against the gate, fingers to our genitals, and cops looking for guns. But you remember that, you remember your first time. When you lose your stop and frisk virginity. You know, you remember it. BOURDAIN: I've never been stopped and frisked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wonder why? What is - Is it because you have a CNN show or is it just because ...

BOURDAIN: I've been arrested.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you hang around here long enough, I can get you stop and frisked.

BOURDAIN (voice over): They talk about DIY culture, about do it yourself. And you better be able to do it your damn self in the Bronx because often, nobody else is going to do it for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you go in the Bronx, you're basically going back in time. There are certain crimes that will happen here that are not going to happen in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

BOURDAIN (on camera): OK, it's an ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Purse snatchers. BOURDAIN: Really?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's still - there is a little bit crackheads in front of that building over there.

And they are getting their cracks, and they not bothering anyone. And you know the thing is, they are respecting parts of this community. You see them every day. There's literally a crackhead that's been here for 25 years.

BOURDAIN: That takes some determination now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen, if I could be a crackhead, I would be the best crackhead possible.

BOURDAIN: I was a crackhead, and oh ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen, people have been there. No judgments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, what's up?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Look, I'm thinking curry goat. BOURDAIN (voice over): Pheses's (ph) Uncle Vernon used to own this place, but that was three owners ago. Now it's Lammy's, and the Lammy took over from some people who put too much cinnamon in their curry goat, which as we all know, is a sin against god. Lammy fixed things. Curry goat and stewed ox tail with rice and peas, collards, and yes, mac and cheese. I can't resist.

BOURDAIN: I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, listen, there's a lot of good food in the Bronx.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is, there is. If people would like you know get over their bias and come above 96th street, they would find out.

BOURDAIN: I mean if the Bronx were a neighborhood in Manhattan, sort of shrunk down, you'd have hipsters crawling all over.


If you live in the Bronx it's not necessarily that you're going to ever leave the Bronx for the Manhattan. Because everything you want, everything you need is in the Bronx, so why would you go past 149th street?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So all that, wrapping my neighborhood, the ethnic pride and all that stuff, people would definitely hold on to that. And that's definitely true of Rylander (ph) Avenue, that avenue to do - that stuff.

Even this neighborhood was all white until the '50s. It's very recent the whole immigrant ...

BOURDAIN: Who lived here in the '50s?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All white people.

BOURDAIN: What kind of white people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White white. Like we enjoy milk white, that kind of, we're kissing dogs on the mouth.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's moved forward, now you have this, and there's definitely this whole, you know, like I'm from 233rd, you're from 225th, every ethnic group, at least in the Bronx has that. I think the next group that's going to take over here is definitely Mexicans, and the thing is, it's an immigrant neighborhood. So, it's not a matter of who owns it, it's who owns it at what particular time and they're next. And I'm looking for it tonight, because I enjoy good quesadillas.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I made the good decision to come to Lammy's today. So ..

BOURDAIN: Yeah. That was good move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lammy's you speak of Lammy's.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here all the time. I'm always here. I live right there. So, I'm always here for the curry goat, mac and cheese, you know.

Lammy's don't play, man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The twos and the fives here are the greatest trains because they go from Bronx through Manhattan all the way through Brooklyn. So, it's the only number of lines that will get three boroughs, you know, visibility.

BOURDAIN: The Bronx still here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, it's still here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you know, like even that, I mean that brings me back, Tony, that sound.

BOURDAIN: Do you remember the first time you put spray paint on a wall?


BOURDAIN: When was that?


BOURDAIN (voice over): Back then, seemingly overnight, they were everywhere, princes of the city, their pieces stretching across city blocks, whole trains, evermore audacious, some, like this man, were artists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the late '70s, to be on of a rooftop like this with a brew or whatever, hanging out, we're waiting for something to come through with a cool letter or like oh my god, look at that T. And so inner kids are screaming, like, oh my god, look, oh my god, you know, here it comes. Here it comes.

BOURDAIN (on camera): There's my mine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's mine, there's mine. But what if you thought the train you painted here was on the left side. Then you kind of messed up. Oh no, it's on the right side. And no, you're not screwed, you just wait until this train goes all the way to Brooklyn and comes all the way back. BOURDAIN: So, this was the audience that you had in mind? Does


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think all of us spoke to each other back then.

BOURDAIN: Other arts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, you know, I mean it was just the rush of the event, and then the accolades you may or may not receive. Certainly not from the public, but from your peers.

BOURDAIN (voice over): Futura 2000, his style and that of a few of his colleagues, spread across the globe. I miss those trains. Others, not so much. I get it, it went on and on until there seemed there wasn't an untagged, unmarked, un-scrawled upon bit of wall or window in New York, but for a while, it was a golden time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well the whole point of being here ...

BOURDAIN (on camera): Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was to me what the Bronx was about, not just the music and the scene and coming up with the parties, with the likes of Bam and Herc (ph) and, you know, everyone of that era, but it's watching trains. It's what we used to call it benching.

BOURDAIN: You were watching each other's work go by?


BOURDAIN: Art lovers.

(voice over): This was his museum. Where he and his fellow artists would meet and exchange ideas and admire each other's work. And it's jarring coming to learn all those years later that it was really all about this, how about a few seconds as their pieces rode by to be evaluated by peers. There for a moment, then gone. Like well all of their work from that time, long since removed or painted over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ultimately, the legacy -- here, here's our legacy. You know, we don't have a movement anymore. The movement has been given to the world. And if you go to trains in Milan and, you know, Paris, or wherever, you know, certainly not the Russian system, but if you go to some of these cities around the world, they're bombed. You know, their rail systems are destroyed.

But I mean, today, if I could have a train running --

BOURDAIN (on camera): That would be nice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be epic. And I think any artist, Picasso, any artist from any generation, if that concept was available, like here is some public art guys, let it run through our countryside.

(CROSSTALK) BOURDAIN (voice over): Take the six trains to the end of the line, then do the same for the number 29 bus. Technically you'll still be in the Bronx, but it kind of won't feel like it. City Island is a fishing village turned what? A parking lot for pleasure boats, and a long established restaurant row for New Yorkers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You picked the perfect day to come out here.

BOURDAIN: Desus (ph) says this place, and Desus is always right.

BOURDAIN (on camera): How far from the neighborhood by car?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By car? Maybe 15, 20 minutes.

BOURDAIN (voice over): 20 minutes.

(voice over): That seems like a world away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, but I want to buy some nautical brick-o- brack while I'm here.

BOURDAIN (on camera): This is New York City?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is - Cape Cod in the Bronx. Many of my childhood memories, getting all this out, to come out and be get there and they're like oh the beach is closed for the medical reason. It's not a day that you go in the water and just come out with like a maxi pad stuck to you.


BOURDAIN: Been there. So you were here like when, yesterday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was literally here yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For my sister's graduation because every time you have an event of note in the Bronx, you have to come celebrate at City Island.

BOURDAIN: I noticed all the big catering halls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, you can get married, you get arraigned, the baby's not yours, come here.

BOURDAIN (voice over): Seashore restaurant, a massive fish factory on the water of a type I'm very familiar with, having started my cooking career in one just like it.

I'm also a sentimental fool, and I love this kind of thing. Steamers, a true taste of childhood. Boiled striper and some snow crab and a nice cold beer, yes, thank you, Desus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a knighting ceremony. Just kind of sit up, and you're just like oh, just take it all in. Enjoy guys. BOURDAIN (on camera): Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could have done that myself, but ...

BOURDAIN: That's part of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's part of the ambience.

This is the perfect place for a date, but it's the worst food for a date. Either a huge turnoff or a huge turn on. Like you might give a lady a preview of what they're about to get into.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the little bib, little sucking action. Just let them know, you know, in an hour, this could be you.


BOURDAIN: Wow. Maybe I missed it all my life. This is pretty awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saturday night, City Island, that's where people are going.


BOURDAIN: The first European settler to come to the Bronx came in 1639. His name was Jonas Bronck. B, R, O, N, C, K. In 1874, all the area west of the Bronx River was annexed to the city and in 1895, all the area east of the Bronx River was annexed to the city, and in 1898, the city then decided that the two areas previously annexed should also become a borough. But what to call it since it never had a name before? They looked at the map and right smack to the middle of the territory ran the Bronx River, so they named it after the river, the borough of the Bronx, and that is why it is called the Bronx and not just plain Bronx.

If you have a question about the Bronx, chances are Lloyd Alton has the answer. Born and raised here, he's never really left for over seven decades. This is a disappearing aspect of New York for sure. The real thing Jewish deli, Liebman's is one of the last. There used to be dozens of places where you can get your brisket, chopped liver, ragu patstramis (ph) or pickles, and the black cherry soda or a souree (ph) of course, to drink.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The World Series is going on, Howard Kosel (ph) is on the air. Suddenly you see a tongue of flame licking up into the sky. And he says, this is the kind of thing that Jimmy taught us all, ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning.

The old image of the Bronx as middle class, mobile, healthy area had survived up until 1977, this shattered it.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Right. (voice over): The Bronx was burning, went the story, and that stuck. Politicians making the south Bronx a poster child for what was hopelessly wrong, would always be wrong, would never, we were told, get any better.

(on camera): So we now have what you call a slum lord essentially. Snapping up large numbers of buildings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, first of all, he takes out a huge fire insurance policy. So as he goes to these junkies and he says listen, you see that empty apartment on the top floor? I'm going to turn my back. You take all of the lead pipes that are in there, but I have one request, please, before you leave, turn on the water, and the water comes down, driving everybody else out. They then hire an arsonist and sets fire to the building, they collect all the money, and they leave.

BOURDAIN: I remember it well. I remember those few years. Things were bad. Are things borough-wide, are things getting better?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the Bronx better? Absolutely. There is more home ownership in the south Bronx than had ever existed in history. That doesn't mean that we've reached utopia. We have not. How long it will take, I'm a historian. I look in the other direction. I would say my crystal ball is cracked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got four cheeseburgers for the front.

BOURDAIN (voice over): Is it the best hamburger in the world? Far from it, my friends. Is it even strictly speaking, a burger? I mean, it's small and square and steamed. It can be, especially when you eat a lot of them, as one tends to, a hate yourself in the morning experience. But if you grew up with White Castle like I did and like handsome Dick Manitoba did, this connects with some deep dinosaur part of the brain, evoking a powerful emotional response.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are a great cultural part of my childhood. We'd come here 24 hours a day. There were guys on their dates. There was a bunch of punk rock kids. So along with that potpourri of humanity I just described you had these guys from the mental institution.


BOURDAIN (on camera): Ah, that's community for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the Bronx. That was the Bronx, man. It was great.

BOURDAIN (voice over): Maybe you know handsome Dick from such pre- punk legendary bands as the dictators. Dick grew up, where else, the Athens, the cultural geyser, the font of art and music that is the Bronx. And back in the day like me, this was his special warm and happy place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can go by and eat a full 2 1/2-hour meal, be stuffed, and see someone eating a white castle, I still want one. You can forget mickey d's. You can forget Burger King. You forget all those places. If you need a White Castle scratch, none of the cheap places will do. I can't stop eating.


BOURDAIN: The Bronx Academy of Letters is something of a cause for me. An institution whose mission I see as absolutely vital. If kids like these kids from a tough neighborhood, often coming from tough family situations, are going to do the things that they're capable of, of having the things they want. I believe that there is no way to realize your dreams if you can't articulate them, if you can't with words convince others to give you the opportunities, the chances you need to grasp.

(on camera): So I wanted to talk today -- really I'm going to tell you in a short period of time everything I know about writing.

(voice over): Today I'm dropping by in my role as substitute teacher.

(on camera): I'm from Manhattan. And I don't know anything about the Bronx really. I'm ridiculously, shamefully ignorant. Do you think people know about the Bronx, what it's like to grow up in the Bronx?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody perceives the Bronx as the emergence of hip-hop and all that, the culture. But apart from that the Bronx is actually lively at all times. At night, and in the morning. You hear people screaming from outside your window.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've grown up - since I was what, I think seven.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. And it's happened that way. So, some community it's likes the biggest thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been teaching here for eight years, and I think that what people forget is a lot of times we talk about this in class, they focus on lots of diseases, health issues, lack of education. But I can be out with them just walking to the train to go to a field trip and they say hi to at least 30 people.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know everyone.

BOURDAIN: What other Bronx specialties should I be paying attention to?



BOURDAIN: That works for you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bacon tastes pretty good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like bacon, egg and cheese sandwich.

BOURDAIN: That's a classic. That's a New York classic. That's sort of a bodega classic.


BOURDAIN: Love that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I walk outside and have the Italian Ice's. Soon when - as soon as like the weather gets nice and you hear Cohito, dames (ph) ...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: they've got the best.

BOURDAIN: So, what is - what is chopped cheese?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chopped cheese.

BOURDAIN: What is chopped cheese? I have to see. Where does this come from? This mutant cheese.


BOURDAIN (voice over): This thing, whatever it is, it'll do just fine. As long as you're reading Orwell's essays while you're eating it, kid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it was somebody who experiments in their home. Because it tastes so different than like a cheeseburger, which is what it kind of is actually.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People uptown or like downtown say chopped cheese and they're like, what? Like - here you're like

BOURDAIN (on camera): So this is a regional indigenous specialty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's newer, too, right?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It hasn't been around that long.

BOURDAIN: I've been everywhere in the world, and I mean just about everywhere in the world that you can think of. As beautiful as many cities around the world are, it's really in your blood, and particularly if you grew up here. You're living in Paris, you don't want a chopped cheese sandwich.

(LAUGHTER) BOURDAIN: Maybe you'll be angry that can't get one.

(on camera): So there it is. A peek, a narrow slice of an old, deep, and noble subject.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Causing the co-existence to morph into a vicious remorse these laws relentless illogical ...

BOURDAIN: Sitting right there, relatively unexplored. A cross- section of the tasty, original good stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So gritty I'm grimy. You got my city behind me

BOURDAIN: A petri dish for talent, for culture. The great unknown. Go look.