You Should Skip The Mussels At A Restaurant, According To Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain's 1999 New Yorker article aptly titled "Don't Eat Before Reading This" is the ultimate car-crash read — as in, so horrifying that you can't look away. This one article paved the way for his magnum opus, 2000's "Kitchen Confidential," in which he shares the ins and outs of, as he puts it, "the culinary underbelly." It's a world Bourdain painted with pride and unflinching honesty, including when it came to mussels.

"More often than not, mussels are allowed to wallow in their own foul-smelling piss in the bottom of a reach-in," Bourdain wrote in his book, per People. They might look pretty good on your plate, but they probably don't look as good in storage. "I love mussels. But, in my experience, most cooks are less than scrupulous in their handling of them. It takes only a single bad mussel, one treacherous little guy hidden among an otherwise impeccable group," he also shared, via The Guardian

"If I'm hungry for mussels, I'll pick the good-looking ones out of your order," he added.

Lousy storage practices can lay you out

Bourdain's Upton Sinclair-esque exposé gives readers a peel into the inner mechanisms of a professional kitchen and reveals more than a few unsavory trade secrets. Unless he personally knew the chef who would be preparing them, said Bourdain, ordering mussels at a restaurant was an absolute no-go. 

Years after the release of "Kitchen Confidential," in an episode of "Parts Unknown," via YouTube, Bourdain said he needs a "counter with some familiar faces on the other side" as he visited a seafood restaurant. Boston-based chef Mary Dumont agrees, telling Insider, "I never order mussels at restaurants. I know people love them and I'm meticulous about their storage and care if I serve them, but all it takes is one bad mussel and you're down for the count."

Luckily, there's a simple way to gauge whether you're getting your shellfish with a side of detritus: Scope out the bathroom. "If the restaurant can't be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like," wrote Bourdain. Momofuku chef David Chang also swears by this rule, always giving restaurants a preliminary bathroom inspection before grabbing a table.