When you’re north of 110th Street, or in Queens or Brooklyn, you’ll find yourself in bodega land. Bodegas are small grocery stores, found in every Spanish-speaking neighborhood – Mom and Pop stores – the soulful precursors of the (elsewhere) mysteriously named and ubiquitous 7-11s.
Your first exposure to the word might have come via Paul Simon. In his song Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, he describes a moment between a couple on a date:
“And she said, “Honey take me dancing”
But they ended up by sleeping
In a doorway
By the bodegas and the lights on
And why do you love that song? Perhaps because of bass player Bakithi Kumalo’s unforgettable bass line which you can watch him play here. An article in the NY Times describes rising traveler interest in bodegas attributing it largely to the social media app TikTok. Bodega employees are posting videos of life in their stores.
One is quoted thus: “I have one commenter, I think from London or something, he said he’s coming to New York and that I’ve got to get him a chopped cheese”. Here is a link to some crazy TikTok posts: one on Dominican culture and another on bodega life, specifically the Math Game.
I wrote elsewhere of chopped cheese sandwiches. The bodega is a source. And, while waiting, look for the cat. Every bodega has a cat. Bodegas represent essential urban culture as do the chippies in Whitley Bay, or the curry shops in Manchester, England.