Manu Alfau has created a perfect sliver of a tropical getaway with La Bodega, a mainly daytime and happy-hour eatery that brings the homey flavors and sorbet colors of his native Dominican Republic to Pioneer Square’s gallery district.
Alfau was raised primarily in Austin, Texas, but every summer his parents would send him and his sister back to the Caribbean island his country shares with Haiti to visit family.
The menu: Basics rule here, starting with $3 empanadas, little fried pies made of yucca and stuffed with either roasted sweet potato or seasoned beef. Entrée-size salads feature roasted beets and pear squash ($8), greens and avocado ($7) and potatoes with gandules, also known as pigeon peas, celery and carrot ($5). There’s a selection of dinner platters but sandwiches, including ones with slow-roasted pork and chimichurri sauce ($9) and green tomatoes, avocado, smoked Gouda, slaw and “crack sauce” ($7.50) are the stars of the show here.
The pork was sold out by the time we arrived at the tail end of the 3-7 p.m. daily happy hour, so my guest and I opted for the riki-taki, a Dominican sloppy Joe topped with boiled egg, slaw and house aioli ($9) and a half-size, grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich ($4 for half, $7.50 for whole) plus sweet-potato and beef empanadas as starters.
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What to write home about: The beef empanada, all crunchy crust and savory filling, was addictive; the sweet-potato version was just as crave-worthy. The riki-taki sandwich was as it should’ve been — messy, deeply flavorful and satisfying.
The setting: The pink, yellow and lime-green walls, cramped space, blaring music and huge Dominican flag bring a cheery Caribbean vibe to this corner of the city.
Summing up: Our sweet-potato empanada ($3), beef empanada ($3), whole Dominican sloppy Joe sandwich ($8), half a ham-and-cheese sandwich, which is only available in that size at happy hour ($4), a glass of wine ($5) and a beer ($4) came to $29.57 plus tax at happy-hour prices. At full prices, and with a whole ham-and-cheese sandwich, the total would’ve been about $5 more.
Tyrone Beason: firstname.lastname@example.org