Alex Vasiliadis says he’s going for a romantic vibe at Bodega Bar and Kitchen, the new Latin-themed bar and restaurant he just debuted with his brother, Stavros, and business partner George Karagiannis. The cozy, dimly lit Bodega, at 1223 Walnut Street in Midtown Village/the Gayborhood, is open daily with tequila-based cocktails and an inventive, hard-to-categorize food menu.
Big windows open Bodega up to Walnut Street (for now; curtains will be added) but stepping inside feels a bit like you’re being transported out of Philly, thanks to the bar’s red lighting, patterned tiles, copper panels, wrought iron light fixtures casting intricate shadows, and DJ playing noticeable but not overly loud music. The decor is meant to evoke Cuba, the owners say, with influence from other Latin American countries. They are not from one of those countries.
In the spring, they plan to transform a spacious hidden backyard into an outdoor venue — Alex Vasiliadis is picturing a Japanese garden meets hacienda look, with an octopus-shaped teak path that leads from a middle section made for hanging out to tables tucked at the end of the “tentacles.”
Bodega’s food menu is from chef Shain Wancio, who jokes that he’s the gateway drug of chefs. “People come into my restaurants and they leave foodies,” he says, referring to unusual dishes like the savory tasso and corn beignets served with a side of spicy espresso ice cream laced with hot sauce. Other options include pretzel-crusted, pastrami-spiced fried chicken with sage-cheddar waffles, a Cuban-style frita burger, and citrus-marinated hanger steak with masa fries. Wancio, a Bucks County native who cooked in a few notable local kitchens, says a recent trip to California inspired him to add more vegetable-focused dishes to the menu at Bodega, like the hearty “ribs” made out of squash, topped with spicy relish on a bed of whipped feta.
The cocktail list is inventive too, with drinks like the Cuban Cappucino with Bebo coffee liqueur, Galliano, and cream of coconut and the Pinalita with roasted pineapple blanco tequila, agave syrup, Mandarine liqueur, lime, and bitters. The house margarita is a mix of Campo Azul Blanco, lime juice, Luxardo triple sec, and lavender-honey syrup.
Big brother Stavros Vasiliadis proudly points out that Alex designed several of the cocktails. The pair previously owned Monkey Bar, Pandora’s Kitchen, and the club Bump — Bodega feels much more like a lounge than a club, though the music will get turned up after 10 p.m., and live music is planned as well.
The bar is getting settled in this week and counting Friday, January 24, as its official opening day. The hours are Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. There are lunch and dinner menus to start; weekend breakfast and brunch will be added soon.
Take a look inside: