I'm reporting live, that's how good it is.
This neighborhood needed a gem like this! NYC has been plagued with gentrification and the Upper West Side has seen its fair share, especially effecting family owned businesses. David Arias felt the pressure when his family bodega was on the verge of closing it's doors after 50 years. Changing with the times, Arias transformed New Day Market into Bodega 88, a sophisticated and sleek sports bar featuring tapas. Still a neighborhood gem, but instead of bread and milk, they offer a range of food and beverages representing many Latin countries.
Let's just start with the fact that happy hour is from 11am-7pm. I never start restaurant reviews at the bar, but the bartenders shake up some delicious and affordable drinks. My favorite is the mango margarita, but I can admit I've tried several on the menu. Happy hour drinks are half off and they include the margaritas, sangrias, caipirinhas, and mojitos. Already, you've got four countries checked off. Since I'm a natural wanderer, I also had the pisco sour. Don't think they cut corners during happy hour; drinks are served as they should be: tasty and strong. My favorites are the pisco for being tart and frothy and the margarita for the fruit purée choices (passion fruit, strawberry, or mango). The sangria surprisingly arrived in a tall glass and was light and refreshing.
For my first trip, I played it safe by just ordering tacos. The chicken features chipotle escabeche, which is essentially Spanish-style pickled chipotles. The pernil (roasted pork shoulder) is served with mojo, a citrus and garlic based Portuguese sauce. These aren't basic tacos. They also come two per order, ranging from $6 to $8. As a Mexican food aficionado, I can tell you it's quite difficult to find tacos at that price, and not just for a happy hour special. They come with all the toppings and fixings - lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, cilantro, radish, lime, and salsa.
Another must have is the calamari. Disclaimer: I love calamari, but I rarely order it because it can be quite predictable and repetitive. Bodega88 offers a remedy: Dominican honey glazed calamari. It's lightly fried and hand tossed in sweet sauce with a hint of cashew. It's terribly addicting. For the same price of $13, you can try the camarones al ajillo (shrimp and garlic sauce) that does not lack in flavor, even down to the garlic bread on the side.
The chimichurri fries were very close to being a hit, but the Manchego cheese was a bit too congealed and there was not enough chimichurri, I had to ask for more on the side, and my server gladly gave me extra. I couldn't get enough of this Argentinian sauce and it's delicious here.
This place is buzzing and the hype is for real. It's easy to forget this is an upscale sports bar, it's super trendy - albeit small - but the decor screams trendy bistro and it does not feel cramped. There are individual TVs in the booths, but I'd never have the to ask them to turn it to Real Housewives if Whatever, but they'll gladly turn to whatever you'd like. They have a lot of premium sports channels, so this is the place to be when it's game time. The staff is friendly and familiar with the patrons, mainly because they've been in the neighborhood for years, but Bodega 88 is attracting new clientele and friends. The crowd is mixed - sports fanatics, UWS moms, families out sharing a table of food, quiet people reading by the window with a glass of wine, girls night out...
I can't wait for my next visit and I'm elated to make this my regular neighborhood hang.
73 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024