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Restaurant review: Bodega offers laid-back atmosphere, generous portions, conversational staff

Rose Davidson / Lantern photographer

With so many options for great lunch spots in the Short North, it was difficult for me to pick one. But I’d been meaning to try Bodega for quite some time, so I stopped in one day during a break from classes.
When I walked through the door, I saw a sign that instructed me to seat myself, so I chose a booth by a window looking out onto High Street. I was quickly greeted by a waiter with a glass of water and a menu. He told me about the specials and the soup of the day (creamy spinach with feta), which I ordered right away.
As I was waiting for the soup, I had a chance to glance around the restaurant. The overall d̩cor provided an endearing atmosphere similar to that of a small, independently owned coffee shop, with a chalkboard menu display, vibrant orange booths and strings of lights wrapped around pipes running across the ceiling. The background music was calm indie rock, but two TVs tuned to sports channels Рthough they were muted Рcreated a break in the relaxing, artsy vibe.
The soup arrived after a couple minutes, and I placed my order for a grilled chicken sandwich. The soup course was much more than I’d expected. For $4, I received a generous serving of soup and two large, lightly toasted slices of buttered bread for dipping. The feta in the soup was very subtle, blending in with the rest of the finely puréed vegetables. The bread was a nice addition to the plate, but it overpowered the flavors of the soup with its buttery taste. This wasn’t too much of a deterrent, however, because I ate the soup until there was nothing left for the bread to absorb at the bottom of the cup.
As the waiter picked up my empty plate, I complimented the soup and he told me the chef makes all of the restaurant’s soups from scratch. The waiter was happy to chat, and I enjoyed his conversational manner. Before heading back to the kitchen, he asked me if I needed anything else. Another waiter approached my table shortly after to ask the same thing. The entire staff appeared to be friendly and attentive.
The sandwich arrived shortly after the waiter walked away, and with both halves stacked together, it was impressively tall. In it was grilled chicken, prosciutto, field greens, mozzarella and pesto mayo, held together by fresh rosemary focaccia. The menu noted that all the breads Bodega uses are made fresh daily by a local baker from down the road, which I thought was a nice way to support local food producers. The sandwich’s ingredients worked well together, but the bread was so buttered that my fingers were covered in grease as soon as I picked it up. The sandwich itself was $9 and came with chips, but I chose to upgrade to garlic fries for an additional $3.
The fries sounded like an interesting idea at first, but once I saw them it was obvious that they were simply average fries with pieces of chopped garlic thrown on top. For many, the fries are probably not worth the extra cost, unless they’re for a die-hard garlic lover or someone wanting an easy way to fend off a bad date. Even then, many of the garlic pieces settled at the bottom of the fry pile, making it difficult for anyone actually wanting to get the full effect of the flavor. The fries did, however, come with a spicy tomato aioli, which was not at all spicy, but was an interesting twist on the typical side of ketchup.
All in all, the meal was a pleasant experience. I enjoyed the friendly waiters, and the fact that Bodega made soups from scratch and used local ingredients. I definitely plan to go back again soon – I just won’t order the garlic fries next time.
Bodega is located at 1044 N. High St., and the kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

Grade: A-

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