Five Years Ago This Week, Inside the Second Act of a Legendary Vancouver Restaurant

For this week’s edition of Throwback Thursday we go back exactly five years to the day I toured the space that would eventually become the fun, Spanish-themed Bodega restaurant at 1014 Main Street.

I was a big fan of the original La Bodega restaurant on Howe Street. It was a no brainer addition to our Restaurant Graveyard mapping project, one of the very first to be added to the grid. I was excited to hear about its second coming so close to my home on the DTES and couldn’t wait to take a look inside the construction site. I wasn’t disappointed, finding all kinds of relics from the original lying about, waiting for the chaos of the build to find them appropriate places. I was also pretty chuffed to explore the voluminous basement of the old building (still lit by the century-old sidewalk prisms that were the subject of this fascinating You Should Know essay). The restaurant quickly become a fixture in the neighbourhood, just like the original, which operated for 43 years from 1971 to 2014. May its successor run for even longer!

Words and photos from August, 2015 — Legendary Spanish Eatery ‘Bodega’ Set For Modern Resurrection On Main Street:

I took my two sons to La Bodega on Howe St. a week before it closed last summer. I showed them the scary looking bull’s head on the wall, the old wood cabinetry, the big wagon wheel, and the myriad other details that delighted me as I kid (my father lived just around the corner for a period in the late 70s).

We feasted on the classic staples (patatas bravas, gazpacho, spicy chorizo, etc.) and bid bittersweet adios to the place, comforted in the foreknowledge that co-owner Francisco Riva’s son, Paul, had secured the space next to Campagnolo at 1041 Main Street with plans to honour the original restaurant with a completely new one.

The 150 seat Bodega Main is set to open for lunch and dinner before the end of August. It’ll be open for seven days a week from 11am until midnight with weekday Happy Hour between 3pm and 6pm.

I took a look inside with Paul and longtime Bodega manager Hector and was surprised to see how much they’d salvaged from the old spot. They’ve brought over tables, chairs, bannisters, light fixtures, dishes, signage, door handles — even complete doors! Not all of it is going to be used, of course, but it’s great that so much was saved. In showing me the basement (which they hope to turn into a wine bar with live music at a later date), Hector revealed even more treasures: cabinetry, racks, even the original wagon wheel itself. Couple all of these elements with the red chequered table cloths of old (being sorted and stitched together as I toured), and you have more than just a fond whisper of what used to be.

Of course, Bodega Main won’t be La Bodega exactly. It’ll be a much brighter, more modern restaurant with soaring white walls and plenty of natural light coming in from the street. The menu is different, too, though a lot of the Spanish classics – such as the ones I last feasted on – are making a comeback.

Diners can expect bar snacks like salted and sweetened Spanish almonds with rosemary and little bowls of mixed olives; sharables like sherry-sauteed prawns, blistered peppers flecked with Maldon, a variety of cheeses and hams (including the best in the world, Jamon Iberico de Bellota); a deep selection of hot and cold tapas dishes (everything from albondigas and deep fried squid to lamb chops and mussels in spicy tomato sauce); and two different types of paella. The menu draft I poured over read long and delicious. I can’t wait to dig in.

Take a look inside…

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