I love Cleveland Heights. The neighborhoods, people, beautiful homes/architecture, shops, restaurants, and overall atmosphere. I lived there for about four years and enjoyed every minute of it. Unfortunately, we don’t go to Cleveland Heights as much as I’d like to anymore, so when we found ourselves at the Grog Shop on Saturday to see our friend’s son’s band, Our Cat Phillip, I was quick to suggest dinner at Bodega knowing it could be sometime before we’d be back in the old neighborhood.
Bodega is the new tapas restaurant on Coventry that’s housed in the former Utrecht space. Still not sure where that is? Well, the restaurant is actually easy to spot. It’s almost like that childhood game where you try to figure out which one of these things is not like the other. After you visit Bodega, you’ll see it’s quite a different offering than anything you’d expect to find on Coventry, or in Cleveland Heights, for that matter. The décor, not the menu, is something you’d expect to see on W 6th.
At first glance, the space is quite stunning. However, once you settle in and really take all the details in, it’s almost over-the-top cool. There are several individual elements that are quite beautiful, like the backsplash in the bathroom, wine wall that’s positioned underneath the passersby, and the overall color palette. Nevertheless, it’s almost as if the owners wanted to see how many cool elements they could squeeze in the space and it comes across as if they are trying too hard to be the cool guy in town. There is no authenticity anywhere to be found.
For as much time as they clearly spent on the design, it’s too bad that same effort wasn’t put towards the food and overall service.
From the second we walked in, service was so so and at times, rude. We didn’t have a reservation and this clearly put off the host, despite several empty tables (that remained empty until we left). Then it took about 10 minutes for a server to acknowledge us, another 5 for a menu, then finally voila – she took our drink order. Meanwhile, we watched other people receive prompt service – and bread. Noticing we weren’t going to receive any bread anytime soon, I flagged down our server and asked for some with a look that basically said, “Hello – I’m pregnant and need bread NOW.” The bread came out after our meal.
For our meal, we ordered the caprese salad, French cigars (phyllo wrapper brie and honey), pastilla (chicken, onion, eggs, almonds and orange blossom water wrapped in phyllo topped with sugar and cinnamon) and the paella with saffron rice. For tapas, the sizes were what you would expect (rather reasonable) and the prices weren’t bad, either.
Aside from the French cigars, which we thoroughly enjoyed every last gooey bite, everything else was rather bland and uneventful. The shrimp in the paella was so unbelievably salty we couldn’t even eat it, and Jamie is convinced the peas and carrots in that dish were frozen veggies. The pastilla, which our server sold on us when she described it as extremely flavorful and something quite unique to the restaurant, was disappointing. It really didn’t taste like anything except dry, sweet chicken.
I’m not an expert, but based on our experience, we won’t be going back for seconds anytime soon and I really can’t see this place thriving in its current location – unless some changes are made and the overall “ego” of the place is toned down.