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.


  1. dineomite
    Posted July 14, 2008 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    If I get service like that and the food is GOOD, I won’t go back. I look at it like this: If the owners truelly have a passion for what they do they’ll make sure that every facet of the experience is enjoyable, (that inludes hiring and training the right people to ensure that happens). I’m not saying that it has to be on par with Michelin star dining, but patrons should not have to tell the servers how to do their job.

  2. Simone
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I agree with dineomite, if the owners are not willing to train staff properly, more than likely there will be other elements that will suffer as well. I have yet to try Bodega, but you are one of many that I have heard that have had negative experiences.

  3. Allison M.
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    And those little cigars sounded so good too. Damn them for poor service.

  4. Hot Coffee Girl
    Posted July 15, 2008 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    I might have to disagree on this one…at least on the service.

    A group of us went there on Friday night and sat in the corner there on the couches behind the curtains. Our server was awesome. She was funny and attentive and our drinks came quickly. The vibe felt cool and relaxed, although they could have turned on the A/C — Oy! It was a tad muggy.

    We were only really eating to soak up the martinis, but Kip ordered the pastilla…and we all liked it.

    Overall, I thought it was a great place…and I am running out of time left here, or I am sure we would go again.

  5. Chris Fehring
    Posted November 29, 2008 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    We’re all guilty of forming opinions far too quickly, both good and bad; one service, unless it was completely awful, can’t possibly provide a full understanding of a restaurant’s abilities and potential. My only experience at Bodega was very good. The server, Katie, was informative, friendly, attentive, and cute to boot; better than expected for the price of the cuisine, my entre’ was $13. The stuffed quail was great, and this is the only place I have found in Cleveland that offers it. Drinks were on par and the drink menu was huge. Katie actually had the kitchen make me a “one-off” hot pepper stuffed olive for my martini when she realized they did not have one to meet my request…I was very pleasantly surprised. (FYI: she recommended the quail as well) Dessert was good and much larger than expected. Bodega makes very good use of the space to make a comfortable environment in such a small area. Hip, swanky, chic, trendy….yes, and needed in Coventy. This is by far an upscale bar first and a restaurant second; the philosophy of tapas is to provide a small bite to eat while drinking. My only complaint was how loud the band played, as it made it very hard to conversate with our friends; but, it was a weekend, and was to be expected. I eagerly anticipate trying Bodega again to continue forming a final opinion, but based on this one experience, I would recommend it.

  6. Jess
    Posted January 18, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    I had the quail there and it was heeeavenly.. maybe give it another try?

  7. saking
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    Bodega is a restaurant and lounge…and that is why I love it so much. IT offers SO much, in the early hours I’ve dined, and I’ve stayed to see the atmosphere change to a lounge/bar as the night goes on till 2 a.m.. The food is incredible- and available very late!!! a plus!!! their menu offers a wide variety and the same for the drinks…don’t feel overwhelmed…the bar staff can and will make anything and are more than happy to do so. while the qauil is great, try the lobster mac n cheese, but then I also have 8 other favorites too!!

    This is a great addition to COventry, Cleveland Heights Locals should be supporting it to keep this gem in their neighborhood!

  8. Karigirl
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    OMG, I had the same experience with the veggies! I told them my peas were frozen and I was confronted rudely by the owner who basically cussed me out while defending the peas!!! Eww, I would never go back!