New Caribbean Restaurant and Bar Opens in Sacramento, CA

A funny thing happened on the way to opening Bodega Kitchen & Cocktails.

The restaurant and bar was to be Sacramento’s first Puerto Rican restaurant when it opened at 6401 Riverside Blvd. in Greenhaven. But people with roots in Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados continued to show up at Bodega pop-ups, looking for a rare Caribbean taste in Sacramento.

Co-owners Rafael Jimenez Rivera, Chris Sinclair and Emily Neuhauser have therefore broadened their scope. When Bodega Kitchen & Cocktails opens on Saturday, it will be a “Californian-pan-Caribbean” concept with dishes from across the menu.

“We bring Port-au-Prince into the pocket,” said Jimenez Rivera. “We try to capture the flavors. We’re not trying to be that authentic place. We know the flavors and spices of the Caribbean very well, and we try to capture that more than anything.

Chef/co-owner Matt Brown, formerly of The Golden Bear, will still cook Puerto Rican dishes like tripletas (a sandwich with grilled chicken, bacon, and a slow-roasted pork called pernil) and occasional favorites like arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). But Brown and Sous Chef Sarah Saldana, one of the chefs at last year’s Tower Bridge Dinner, will draw inspiration from all over the Caribbean.

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A tipleta — a sandwich with grilled chicken, bacon, and a slow-roasted pork called pernil — is served at Bodega Kitchen & Cocktails. Xavier Mascarenas [email protected]

They will be serving doubles, a turmeric-infused Trinidadian flatbread filled with curried chickpeas and pickled mangoes. Cuban sandwiches will feature pork mojo, a tangy slow-roasted pork native to the island, but will come on Jamaican coconut bread. Lighter bites include quinoa/tropical fruit salad, fried plantains, and fish tacos with green papaya salsa.

“We want to have, like, the Caribbean vibe, the Pura Vida Caribbean lifestyle where it’s about loving life and enjoying every moment,” Jimenez Rivera said. “It’s going to bring back memories with these spices and these flavors, with the cocktails and the music that we play, the whole scene. We want people to be transported.

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Friends and family of Bodega Kitchen & Cocktails owners and staff enjoy a pre-opening party on Thursday. Rafael Jimenez Rivera, center, manages and owns the restaurant along with chef Matt Brown, Chris Sinclair and Emily Neuhauser. Xavier Mascarenas [email protected]

Jimenez Rivera’s grandfather ran a restaurant in Puerto Rico, while his father owned one in New York. Sinclair and Neuhauser own Good Bottle Shop in downtown Sacramento, which has earned a reputation for its solid beverage selection.

Bodega Kitchen & Cocktails’ drink menu will include riffs on mojitos, Cuba Libre, daquiris and other classics when the restaurant receives its liquor license. Sinclair also brought a fitting cocktail from her time at the Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar: the West Indies Sour, made with brandy, red wine, allspice liqueur and lime.

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Bodega Kitchen & Cocktails bartender Kerri Sneve serves two mojitos for an evening of hospitality with friends and family on Thursday ahead of a grand opening on August 6. Xavier Mascarenas [email protected]

Bodega’s wine will come from all over the world – Portugal, South Africa, Clarksburg – and the beer is a mix of domestic and south of the border specialties. The restaurant will use Camellia Coffee Roasters beans for café con leche, espressos and dulce de leche lattes, possibly incorporating coffee into the cocktail program.

Jimenez Rivera recommended pairing one of these coffee drinks with Bodega’s pan de mallorcas filled with ham and cheese, Puerto Rican breakfast pastries that look a bit like brioche/croissant hybrids sprinkled with sugar. .

“It’s sweet and salty. It’s a great breakfast sandwich,” he said. “That with a little cafe con leche, and your day is set.”

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Chef-owner Matt Brown is working to finish a tripleta — a sandwich with grilled chicken, bacon and a slow-roasted pork called pernil — at Bodega Kitchen & Cocktails on Thursday. Xavier Mascarenas [email protected]

Bodega will operate as a cafe to begin with, open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Upon arrival of the liquor license, serve customers from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

This story was originally published August 6, 2022 5:25 a.m.

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Benjy Egel covers local restaurants and bars for The Sacramento Bee as well as breaking general news and investigative projects. A native of Sacramento, he previously covered affairs for the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.

Michael M. Tomlin