Go Back in Time at Salt Lake City’s Speakeasy, Bodega

Ever since a trip to New York, my friend got me hooked on speakeasies. When there was news that Salt Lake City, itself, had it’s own speakeasy… well, I had to visit.

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Bodega is an unassuming hipster taco joint, where “The Rest” is a dimly lit restaurant serving higher end cuisine.

It’s always fun when my friends come to visit from out of town. So, no question, when Chi-Chi came back for Turkey Days, we needed a night to catch up and hang out. I would say party, but I feel too old for such shenanigans – a chill night out will do.

We met a few hours earlier than our restaurants at Bodega to do some “tasting” at Epic Brewery. A cheese plate, a meat plate, four new friends, and about 20 different tasters later, we had to rush off for our 7:30pm reservations. Apparently, when you make reservations at Bodega, you end up with a 2-page paper of policies such as: parties of six require a credit card reservation, parties more than 15 minutes late will have their reservations canceled, cell phones are discouraged, no children allowed, etc. Rules, I believe, we can all live by at a nice dining establishment, no?

We checked in at Bodega and waited upstairs for our entire party to show. Playboy magazines cover the cashier’s desktop and Jesus candles decorate the booth walls. A few minutes later, our group of six has gathered and we take the key given to us (by making reservations) to enter “The Rest.

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Sorry, it’s a bit blurry, but as I mentioned before, many, many, many Epic tasters. And, I was trying to keep ahead of the group, of course.

A hostess seats us at a booth in the very dimly lit, western-hipster restaurant downstairs. Animal heads grace the walls up above – the ceilings are incredible high. And a bunch of old, vintage photos don the walls otherwise. The environment made me feel like I had been pulled out of Utah and pushed into a steam punk western.

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Anyway, drinks first! Chi ordered the special… uh, whiskey with rosemary simple syrup and something else (right)? I ordered the “Cloak and Dagger,” which was dark rum, aged rum, lime and sugar. Not bad on both. No match against some of the fancy frou-frou drinks I had in NYC speakeasies though. Oh, we also went ahead and ordered the beer-can chicken since we were warned in advance of it’s 45 minute turnaround.

Ten minutes after receiving our drinks, we finalized our food order.

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Crab cakes, $15: awesome lump crab cakes! I would’ve appreciated a better texture to it, but it was great, nevertheless. Just a tad mushy….

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Bacon Caramel Popcorn, $4: cute, little packaging, eh? Well, the popcorn was good, with a hint of bacon, well coated kernels, but c’mon! There were many 20-30 kernels in there… And I don’t think there was even any bacon in there! Just the essence of bacon…

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Pork Belly and Eggs, $12: so much fat and gooeyness – delicious. That pork belly was 95% fat and only a tiny picking of lean meat, but it was glazed to perfection. The potatoes complimented the poached eggs and the pork belly tasted great with a spoonful of all that mash.

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Confit Chicken Wings, $10: that frenched bone looks perfect, but coming in at over $3 per drumstick? They were okay… I prefer Wingers.

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Out came our beer can chicken…. brought out of the server for presentation before taken into the back for a cutting…

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Honey Glazed Beer Can Chicken, $35: this chicken was amazingly moist. Juicy, juicy meat with fat-flavorful skin, a “potato salad” of fingerling potatoes, asparagus and wild mushrooms (I think they were oyster mushrooms). Yum.

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Ramen Crusted Pork, $34: a mediocre tonkatsu with butternut squash mash and greens. I couldn’t really taste the ramen crust as it seemed more like plain ol’ breaded pork. It was ok…

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Porterhouse, $45: cooked medium rare and all beef. The leek bread pudding that accompanies this dish was almost better than the steak itself, I think. If you know how to make a good steak, I think it’s hard to screw it up. They did a fine job.

A couple hours or so later, we finally finished our food. All of us were stuffed to the gills… a mingling of new friends and old friends. As we thought the night was over, Chi-chi bought us another round of drinks. We still needed time to reminisce a bit longer!

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We had our drinks over in the lounge area, at the far back of the restaurant. A cozy, vintage, western vibe meets cabin in the woods horror flick – that’s how I’d describe it. Before you knew it, it was almost midnight when we headed home. Good times.

Oh, and Bodega? It’s a great place to hang out, the environment is conducive to great conversations especially with even greater friends. The service was good, but I can’t say that the food was to die for… it was decent. The prices aren’t exactly justified, but what you are paying for also includes the atmosphere, right?

Make reservations! Go for a special night out or bring out of town friends… at my salary, I can’t say that I’m going to be a regular though.

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