LA BODEGA OWNER MANU ALFAU holding the sandwich you have to eat.
  • Kelly O
  • LA BODEGA OWNER MANU ALFAU holding the sandwich you have to eat.

If you're going to open a sandwich shop in Pioneer Square, Seattle's Sandwich District, you'd better have a good reason. I'm not talking about a gimmick. Gimmicky or otherwise overly precious sandwich shops tend to flail and die; just ask the late, already forgotten Built Burger that opened on Second and James a few years ago. I'm talking about an identity, a sandwich mission statement that you can point to and insist, "This is why we're here."

La Bodega carries its mission in its name. It's a self-described "Dominican food shop," and owner Manu Alfau built the menu around favorite family recipes from his childhood in the Dominican Republic. This is one ethnic food that is not yet overrepresented in Seattle—while La Isla has dominated Caribbean cuisine in our city for years, there's plenty of space for a Dominican lunch counter to make its mark, even in an overcrowded sandwich environment.

And La Bodega certainly presents well. Tucked away on a corner of the criminally underdeveloped Prefontaine Place—seriously, this block should be a strolling urbanite's dream, but it's never happened, for a variety of reasons—La Bodega is small but attractive. It looks the way a lunch counter should: The walls are painted in bright whites and spring-friendly yellow-greens and pinks; there's a jaunty Dominican flag spread over one wall. All the tables and chairs are brand-new and tightly packed together—when the restaurant is full, it can be hard to leave without asking a neighbor to shift out of your way. The bathroom—and this is a rarity for Pioneer Square—is clean and attractive and spacious.

But how's the food?

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