Recently, I have been infatuated with the idea of a New York-style bodega. I have never been to one, or New York for that matter, but I have a good idea of what it would be like in my mind’s eye.
A cross between a convenience store, a supermarket, and a hot food deli. The aisles are packed tight with all sorts of grocery items and packaged snacks. There might be a bodega cat wandering between the cluttered shelves. I can order a sandwich and have it made for me as I shop for other daily necessities.
I am familiar with the people who work behind the counter, and they know my sandwich order when I walk in. I, and others in the neighborhood, frequent the business regularly. It is a cornerstone of the community.
When I heard of Rain City Market in downtown Renton, I expected that I might experience something similar to what I expected a traditional bodega to be like — and in many ways it was.
Upon entering the market, the openness and cleanliness of the space was in immediate contrast to what I would expect from a New York-style bodega, because the amenities it offers and what it could represent for the community share more than one similarity.
The goods that lined the shelves included basic groceries like cereal, toilet paper and tampons, but they also had locally made seasonings, pickled vegetables, sauces, craft beer and other goodies.
What I came there to try was their food. Their menu included a variety of interesting comfort foods. They had breakfast burritos, breakfast sandwiches, breakfast plates with eggs cooked your way, your choice of a protein, and your choice toast, rice or fried potatoes. They had chicken and waffles with what looked like deliciously crispy breaded wings.
Among their most interesting options were salmon sushi deep fried in tempura batter on a stick and drizzled in a Japanese-style aioli, and a pineapple dole whip soft serve, which was a treat I thought only existed in Disneyland.
They had cold cut sandwiches as well as hot sandwiches like the Renton Philly — their take on Philadelphia’s cheesesteak — a classic BLT, pastrami on rye, and my choice, the Chop Cheese.
The Chop Cheese is a sandwich that is iconic to New York, and traditionally served at neighborhood bodegas. For those unfamiliar, it could be described as a hamburger patty chopped on the griddle with melty cheese and scooped into a hoagie roll with lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise and often other classic hamburger condiments.
I had never had one, and had been dreaming of getting my hands on one for quite some time. It did not disappoint. It was cheesy, beefy, and deliciously simple.
I am looking forward to visiting Rain City Market again, and trying their other offerings. The staff there was friendly and accommodating and I believe it could become a cornerstone of the neighborhood, much like a New York bodega.