Years ago, if you’d told Debbie and George Sayegh that Bodega would become what it is today – a culinary staple in St. Pete’s EDGE District with a second location in Tampa‘s Seminole Heights – they might have laughed it off. The truth is, the motivation for creating Bodega was mostly selfish. “We built it for ourselves,” says Debbie with a laugh. “We were just hungry for something different.”
The couple is originally from Brooklyn, where they owned and operated various restaurants, including a Cuban coffee shop serving up the same Cuban sandwich recipe Bodega is known for today. Debbie and George left New York and headed south to Atlanta, where they lived for a few years before making their way to Florida. After visiting St. Pete to see George’s parents, they were sold. The EDGE District reminded them of a young Brooklyn when it was beginning to bloom. It held promise.
Some of George’s culinary training was spent in Miami, where he discovered and fell in love with Latin food. Seeing nothing like it in St. Pete at the time, George and Debbie wanted to fill the void.
Enter Bodega: the little box at 1120 Central Avenue that packs big flavor. The building’s structure dictated the design, and the result was a casual and tropical space with cafe tables facing the order window and covered open–air dining space in the back. Despite the Florida heat, people from all over flock to Bodega’s window every day. If guests want to cool off they step into the juice bar next door for fresh smoothies and juices.
Bodega‘s success in St. Pete begged for a second location across the bridge, and now you can find Bodega in Tampa‘s Seminole Heights neighborhood. This second location is a bit bigger than the iconic first location and features shuffleboard courts and Mandarin Heights, a rum bar in partnership with Mandarin Hide.
Debbie and George are still in awe of Bodega’s loyal following and the local support they’ve received over the years. But most of all, they are incredibly thankful to all of their guests, especially those who visit every week and tell their friends, family and out-of-town guests to stop by. They are the foundation of Bodega, and the Sayeghs look forward to serving up Latin street fare, smoothies, and juices to the St. Pete and Tampa communities for years to come.