Tables are set with cloth napkins and stainless-steel cutlery; baked goods to go are wrapped in paper or tucked into reuseable cloth bags. This commitment to sustainability is admirable, but in the end, Bodega Prime is all about the food. The shop around
Walk into Bodega Prime at any time of day and you’ll notice the enticing aromas drifting out of the open kitchen. Look around the small, spare dining room and you’ll soon see what’s missing: There’s no plastic on the tables or the service or take-out counters. Tables are set with cloth napkins and stainless-steel cutlery; the water jug is ceramic, the cups enameled; baked goods to go are wrapped in paper or tucked into reusable cloth bags.
The cold case purveying prepared foods continues the theme — everything from pesto to kimchi to salsa, from jams to confits to corned beef, pickled shrimp, and smoked trout is made in-house. With few exceptions, everything is packaged in elegant, returnable glass jars or wrapped in plain brown butcher paper.
This commitment to sustainability is admirable, but in the end, Bodega Prime is all about the food. And the food is really, really good.
Bodega Prime calls itself a deli rather than a café or restaurant, perhaps because the menu is so sandwich-centric. Two breakfast options anchor the standard menu: a Magdalena pork sausage “burger” and a scrambled egg sandwich. Served on a classic brioche bun, the scrambled eggs, riddled with chives, were moist and fluffy. The optional smoky ham added a salty, chewy counterpoint to all that savory softness; the
salsa brought some tang. A small lagniappe: As we ate, we watched Figueroa hand-shaping a new batch of brioche in the open kitchen.
Daily specials expand the breakfast offerings. A gravlax platter one weekday morning featured housecured salmon, thin crunchy rye toast from Wild Leaven bakery in Taos, caper cream cheese, pickled onions, greens, and two perfectly poached eggs that held up even when we let them sit on the table for a while. The salmon was beautifully bronzed, if a little on the salty side, and the serving was large enough for two.
A Saturday brunch special featured moist poached salmon with lentil salad and walnut-marjoram pesto. The black beluga lentils, enhanced by uniformly diced and lightly sautéed mirepoix, held both shape and texture; the pesto complemented both fish and legumes.
That salmon shows up fairly regularly in the cold case and on the specials menu may have something to do with chef Figueroa’s sojourns in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, where the fish has almost iconic status. The chef’s brief bio on Bodega Prime’s website notes that she has cooked professionally in southern California and Colorado as well as in Santa Fe — places not only sympathetic to the local food movement but also home to many farmers and ranchers, the source of community-based produce and meats.
We sampled a number of the other sandwiches on the menu. The drunken chicken with peanut sauce, pickled carrots, and cilantro paid shy homage to a Vietnamese bánh mì. Served on the mandatory baguette, it was large enough to share. The much smaller coffee-rubbed steak sandwich featured tender, flavorful grilled chunks of beef topped with an avocado-jalapeño crema and pickled garlic. The tuna confit, napped with a tarragon-caper mayo, does not come out of a can. The BLT, a generous serving of crisp smoky bacon and ripe heirloom tomatoes, is topped with a very loose and rich blue cheese dressing. It’s drippy and messy and almost more than you want to deal with — but ultimately worth the effort (and the knife and fork).
Two sandwiches — the grilled cheese with kimchi and the ricotta with preserved lemon chermoula — are vegetarian, if not vegan-friendly. All but the cheddar cheese is made in-house. The kitchen is happy to serve sandwich fillings on a fresh green salad if you prefer to forgo the bread.
On different occasions, a fresh and foamy housepressed apple cider and blackberry-sage shrub soda enhanced the drinks side of the specials menu. Sweetened with orange-clove honey and topped with club soda, the cider-vinegar-based shrub — an acidic colonial-era drink recently repopularized by, among others, chef Andy Ricker of Portland’s Pok Pok — was crisp and refreshing.
The house-baked goods are also carefully crafted. The tender scones, crisp cookies, muffins, and phyllo-based “pizzas” are worth your attention. An innocently labeled morning bun, filled with figbourbon jam, had us swooning. The jam is available in the cold case should you want to try recreating the bun at home — or you could just sit in the car and eat it with a spoon.
Bodega Prime has recently expanded from 23 to 35 seats, with two community tables and a bar offering space for larger parties. Figueroa is also experimenting with Sunday brunch. To find out when the next one is scheduled, you’ll need to sign up for the email list in a small book on the counter. Right now, there is no link on the website. “We’re old school,” Figueroa laughs.
Deliciously so, we’re happy to say.