Bodega Taco Bar Opens in Fairfield

Multiple Eaters

BODEGA: hispanic/spanish/:Latin mini-mart, kind of like a 7-11, but usually smaller and more like a liquor store atmosphere. The word came from the actual Spanish word for "grocery store"- le bodega.  

The following are two takes on opening night @ Bodega Taco Bar in Fairfield, the 1st by Stephanie Webster, the 2nd by a new CTbites contributor, Emily Sackett. 

Chef Michael Young, owner of the popular Valencia Luncheria, is expanding his cult following and heading to Fairfield. His highly anticipated new venture, Bodega Taco Bar, opened this week at 1700 Post Road representing a culinary journey from Venezuela to Mexico. The concept? "Tacos and tequila with a slice of Brooklyn" says Young. The new menu features Mexican beach food… tacos, tortas, and well priced platos. Loyal Valencia diners will find that the menu retains the casually vibrant Latin American flavors they have come to crave, but at Bodega Taco Bar, breezy cabana meets bar scene chic resulting in tacos with a playfully upscale twist.  

From the old typewriter font on the menu to the chiclets handed out with the check, Bodega screams hip, a welcome vibe in the Fairfield County dining scene. Reclaimed wood bleachers from a Yale stadium line the walls, while exposed bulbs illuminate the brushed metal and wood detailing around the eye-catching 12 seat bar. Key to the brand, Chef Young has created a masterful drinks menu with over 50 tequilas, and a wide array of inventive cocktails. The "papaya king" (tito's vodka, papaya, jarritos grapefruit soda) and the "natalie portman" (centenario "roseangel" tequila, lemon juice, agave, and cava are just a few of the clever selections.  

And the food…for Antojitos, or "little cravings," the Arepa with hoisin glazed pork belly and green onion was an ingenious play on a classic Asian bun with rich pork enveloped in a fresh corn cake. Chef Young's signature Ceviche de Mariscos is always worth an order, featuring succulent seafood in a tangy citrus marinade. And for my money, you really can't leave without eating the Bodega Grilled Corn with cotija cheese, lime, and ancho chili dust.  

Under the tacos section, you'll find some of the usual suspects but almost every taco reveals ingredients that surprise or surpass the standard fillers. The Baja was a standout with perfectly fried panko crusted mahi mahi and pico de gallo, elevated with a touch of lemon aioli, while the Gambas taco with seared ancho chili shrimp is animated with a flavorful cucumber-mango salsa. 

Platos ("principal plates") are served a la carte with intriguing sides like smashed roasted beets, grilled avocado, and pork and beans. Although Bodega bills itself as a taco joint, it was the Platos that delivered audible sounds of delight. The Camarones "Enchilados" was the ultimate comfort food with a kick. This dish featured spicy shrimp nestled in creamy arroz con creme mexicana and crisp mango-jicama salad, a textural tour de force. The Short Ribs with chocolatey pasilla chili braise and sweet buttery pozole mash were also decadently satisfying.

I had declared this last dish dessert until I got wind of Bodega's actual "dessert," and there's only one…Pastel Impossible (impossible cake). Flan on top, caramel infused chocolate cake on the bottom…enough said. Go try it for yourself.

Tacos and Tequila Steal a Fairfield Corner @ Bodega

by Emily Sackett

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen a steady flow of urban-style eateries shack up in lower Fairfield Country. Yet another city-slicker opens its doors tonight, filling a void for the much-needed combo of taco and tequila in the area. Bodega Taco Bar is a modern and unexpected Taquería open now in the former What’s Cooking space in Fairfield.

A first in Fairfield for authentic Mexican, Bodega is a great spot if you’re looking to switch it up from the more standard cuisine in the neighborhood. Slightly less sexy than its peers to the south (Red Lulu in SoNo and Lolita Cocina in Greenwich), but surprisingly bright and airy for a long-time deli-zoned storefront, Bodega is sure to spice up the already taste-tested Post Road. 

The focus of Young's new venue is simple - tacos and tequila - but he delivers much more than that. A sizeable tequila list dominates the cocktail menu alongside several sweeter options such as the Rosita - a plum flavored margarita seasoned with a hibiscus blossom, otherwise known as the flirt flower. You also have the option of sticking to beer while dining at the low-key but hip hideout. A selection of Mexican and American craft bottles can be served michelda style. The ethnic influence doesn't stop there. If you're not in the mood to imbibe, we encourage you to pick from the selection of Mexican sodas or Cuban milkshakes available. And if you're dining with a group, no fear! It wouldn't be a Mexican joint without a bucket of Coronitas or pitchers of Sangria, right?

The ambiance is exactly what you would hope for when looking to duck in for a quick swig of Milagro or a quick fix of fried plantains. Six wooden table tops dot the entry and bar height two-tops keep patrons hovering over their Patrón while facing the main attraction, a fully stocked (with tequila of course) bar illuminated by old fashioned exposed bulbs overhead. The whole scene makes for an overall rustic and authentic look–one you’d never expect visiting the neighbor of long-time Fairfield staple Hands on Pottery.

We swung by for a first bite (and sip) of Fairfield's addition to a small but steadily growing footprint of fiesta-ready foodie havens. Bodega's two-sided menu devotes equal space to the liquid and solid creations of Chef Young. For a first taste, we stayed true to the promise of Bodega's namesake and set out on a traditional journey through what proved to be a very delicious meal. First up, "Tres Salsas" with home baked tortilla chips–three options of fresh, savory and sweet served side by side in the form of a traditional pico de gallo, black bean puree and mango-cucumber salsa.

Next up, a surprisingly unique take on an Empanada appetizer–Portabella mushroom and truffle cheese melted inside a large flour-based empanada tortilla made for a creamy meets earthy starter and a diversion from a much less mild main dish. We went with a selection of tacos (namely, all of them) for our main dish. Side by side, Young served up the Baja (mahi-mahi), the Cochinta Piibil (slow-roasted pork), the Pepito (a poblano/veggie option),el Pastor (chicken with grilled pineapple salsa), Gambal (seared ancho chili shrimp), Argentino (steak, what else!) and Americano (traditional ground beef). Our favorite was the panko-crusted mahi mahi, nestled in a soft shell alongside pico de gallo and a delicious lemon aioli finish. 

Bodega has a healthy offering of sides, including their take on street corn and the staple yucca fries. There's only one way to finish at Bodega, and that's with Chef Young's sole dessert option, a chocolate flan, or as he likes to call it, Pastel Imposible!

As for the other dishes on the menu (Young goes way beyond "Tacos and Tequila"), well, we'll let you decide!

Bodega is located at 1700 Post Road in Fairfield.  203 929 9590. www.bodegatacobar.com



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