|Bodega Brew Pub has good food. It’s true. Photo by Charish Badzinski.|
I’ve long toyed with the idea of writing a “10 Great Places to Have a Beer” story. It might include Cafe Gollem in Amsterdam, or Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in London, Mezcalito’s on the island of Cozumel, McSorley’s in Manhattan, The Salty Dawg in Homer, Alaska, and a cozy rakomelo bar without a name just down the hill from the Acropolis in Athens. I’m even rather partial to the Last Turn Saloon in Brainerd, Minnesota–though probably more for sentimental reasons than objective ones.
But the conclusion I keep coming to is this: though I’ve been to many drinking establishments in the world and I’ve enjoyed myself at most of them, there’s only one I really want to write about: Bodega Brew Pub in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
|Bodega Brew Pub, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Photo by Joel Badzinski.|
Now, La Crosse has more than its share of places to imbibe (some claim there are more bars per capita there than any other city), and there are some wonderful, quirky, thirst-quenching establishments in pretty much any city, anywhere. It is not my intention to discount them. But Bodega is special.
|The usual suspects at Bodega. If you see these guys, and chances are you will, buy them a beer.
They’re good people. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Bodega is the kind of place where you go not only to have a beer, but to have a really good beer…or, heck, a really cheap beer. In fact, with about 400 beers on their menu, plus a wide variety of rotating options on tap, you can get almost any kind of beer you could possibly dream of wanting. Like beers from Thailand or Greece or ambitious microbreweries you’ve never heard of. Beers you can’t get anywhere else. Beers that blur the lines of your opinions on what is or is not beer.
|Bodega. Good thing they don’t serve breakfast, or I might never leave.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
|A great place to tuck in on a cold winter’s day, and enjoy some mildly disturbing art
and mildly numbing libations. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
More than that, in recent years Bodega branched into food, and what they do, they do very well: artichoke dip with bakery-fresh, delightfully toasted sourdough baguette, homemade soups, flatbread pizzas, and sandwiches. Like the cubano, with ham and pulled pork (I add bacon and call it The Three Little Pigs), or the New York Deli Style Corned Beef sandwich that’s big enough to share, should you be feeling virtuous.
|Go ahead, belly up. Photo by Charish Badzinski.|
Yes, the beer list is admirable, even daunting. And the food is freshly-made and predictably delicious every time. But Bodega is even more than the sum of these parts. It is the kind of place where the staff welcome you like a long lost friend. It’s the kind of place where the manager knows what you like (IPAs, bitter, hoppy and heavy-hitting) and pours you a sample as soon as your foot hits their charmingly-worn hardwood floors. It’s the kind of place that isn’t afraid to let its politics be known, or show work from local artists in its windows, or hold on to sticky old board games so you can try to beat your friends at Yahtzee over some suds.
Bodega wears its time-worn atmosphere like a badge, and it feels as comfortable as a buttery-soft sweatshirt you stole from your high school boyfriend. And it’s the kind of place where employees come back to show off their newborn baby, even before going home from the hospital.
Bodega is like home.
|Whatever your pleasure, chances are Bodega Brew Pub has it.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
And, luckily, it’s right in my backyard. Should you ever want to give it a try, order off their awe-inspiring beer menu or take your chances and spin the Wheel of Beer. Get yourself The Three Little Pigs and some jalapeño chips. Find a comfy stool and listen to local, live music while you soak in what is truly one of the best pubs in the world.
But do me a favor; drop me an email first. Chances are, I’m thirsty too.
What’s your favorite drinking establishment? Why do you love it so?