Satisfying Sandwiches and Dominican Food in Pioneer Square
Call it a cult sandwich shop on one of the oddest streets in Seattle. Manu Alfau, formerly a cook at Anchovies & Olives and La Bête, opened his Dominican sandwich shop, La Bodega (100 Prefontaine Place S; 206.682.2175; labodegaseattle.com), on the stunted Prefontaine Place in Pioneer Square in December, across the street from Caffe Vita. Dominican cuisine is much like Cuban food—ample amounts of rice and beans, root vegetables, yucca, plantains, and heavy on the pork and chicken. Everything is super-seasoned, bordering on salty, with lots of sour orange and other citrus. “We’re taking those flavors and we’re putting them in between a couple pieces of bread,” Alfau tells me. La Bodega has a couple of dozen items (including dessert) on its menu to keep the boredom at bay. The empanadas ($3) usually sell out within the first hour, both the traditional beef picadillo and the smoked Gouda and sweet potato. More satisfying are the sandwiches, the signature being the puerco asado ($9)—slow-roasted pork topped with house-made aioli (La Bodega’s version of the Japanese Kewpie mayo), shredded cabbage, pickled red onion and chimichurri. It’s surprisingly easy to eat, although you will want to keep the napkins handy (and the Tabasco). The simplicity of the ham and Swiss with mustard, aioli and ketchup, a typical condiment in most Cuban sandwiches, pressed on a Macrina ciabatta roll ($7.50) is much cleaner eating, with burger-like nostalgia. Once toasted, the roll mimics the crunch of the traditional, slightly flat pan de agua (water bread) and is simply divine. The charm of La Bodega lies in its sheer will to overcome. The teensy, now purple and blue corner space lay vacant for about three years before Alfau took it over, mainly because most suitors were sketched out by the locale. “The second I saw it, I knew it was the spot,” he says of his humid little dining room that mentally transports customers to a tropical land. La Bodega is already a gathering ground and a point of reference for neighbors. It’s adding energy to the street and is becoming embraced by its surrounding inhabitants, who can claim they live or work on the same block as the most tenacious restaurant in Pioneer Square.