Chicago is the land of corner stores, but the outside world seems intent on forcing its own lexicon on this Midwestern Metropolis. A Miami chain, Bodega Taqueria y Tequila has plans for a pair of Chicago locations. Bodega is a fast-casual taco bar and these are the chain’s first two locations outside of Florida.
A West Loop location should open this spring on 912 W. Randolph Street. A River North spot, 407 N. Clark Street, is scheduled to follow in the summer.
According to a news release, the West Loop space will feature an Airstream trailer that masquerades as a taco truck. Brick walls will be decorated with metal finishes that pander to Chicagoans by homages to the city’s neighborhoods and architecture.
Randolph Street features taco chains like Velvet Taco and Taco Bell. Bodega will attempt to grab those wayward souls with a menu including a jalapeño brisket quesadilla; a late-night burrito with short rib, pork, chicken, and potato sticks; plus customizable bowls. Vegan Impossible brands chorizo is a protein option. Other items include an appetizer tower with sweet chili jalapeño wings, yuca frita, and quesadillas.
The bar will attempt to evoke a speakeasy with tequila, frozen margaritas, and happy hour specials, including large-format drinks in dispensers. Seasonal margaritas will fill those vessels, of course.
Founded in 2015 by Jared Galbut and Keith Menin, the duo sought to scale the success they had with a South Beach, Florida bar called Radio. It’s since closed. The chain has five locations. Nashville and Washington, D.C. are planned for next year. The West Loop location is Bodega’s largest yet.
The Spanish word for “store,” “bodega” is what New Yorkers call corner stores (there’s often a deli or other prepared food component), the preferred Chicago term. In 2017, DineAmic Restaurant Group opened Bodega, a small store attached to his Barrio bar in River North. The term has slowly infiltrated Chicago. Bodega Bay opened in February in Wicker Park and signage is up along Milwaukee Avenue down the street for a business called George’s Bodega. It’s even gone multicultural as Vietnamese restaurant Phodega has locations in Wicker Park and Pilsen. Beyond the soup, banh mi/French dip sandwich, and shrimp rolls, it’s great for Asian pantry items like Korean honey-butter potato chips. There doesn’t seem to be a pantry component for Bodega Taqueria.
Bodega Taqueria y Tequila, 912 E. Randolph Street, planned for a spring opening; 407 N. Clark Street, planned for a summer opening.