Bonberi ‘Bodega,’ the West Village’s Newest Vegan Cafe

Lauren Ong
The quinoa bibambap and the chilled soba noodle bowl, two menu items at Bonberi Bodega on Bleecker Street. (Photo by Julia McNeill)

While $30 might get Simon and Garfunkel an apartment on Bleecker Street, the same amount gets you two salad bowls at Bonberi Bodega. Nestled in the the faux-boho neighborhood of the West Village, the shop offers vegan treats like juices, smoothies and salads served in a minimalist space with decorated with a robust citrus scent.

Serving looks straight out of a Martha Stewart home catalogue, the bodega splits half of its space with Bonberi and the other half with a floral business called Fleurotica. The shop doesn’t bear resemblance to the bodegas that New Yorkers know and love but Nicole Berrie, the creator of the shop, intended on this.

I grew up frequenting New York bodegas where the shelves were stocked with 99-cent toilet paper, goldfish, Advil and bacon, egg and cheeses,” Berrie said. “But as I transitioned toward a plant-based lifestyle, they were no longer serving my needs.”

Bonberi began as a popular blog sharing the ins and outs of a plant-based lifestyle. As the site continued to grow, Berrie created the Bonberi Bodega as a means to assuage the overwhelming amount of inquiries about where she buys food, beauty products and kitchen supplies.

“Just as I originally created Bonberi as a platform to share plant-based alternatives to classic culinary favorites, the Bonberi Bodega was born out of my audience’s necessity,” Berrie said.

Opening a space to feature the products she loves, the store is her way of providing access to those products with the convenience of a bodega on the corner. Every dish on the menu comes straight out of Berrie’s daily diet. She recommends the quinoa bibimbap and the chilled soba noodle bowl.

The quinoa bibimbap balances the flavors of the veggies and the acidic bite of the vinaigrette dressing perfectly. This golden ratio is what really pushes this dish into greatness. It delicately registers the complexity behind the flavors of the bibimbap, allowing the acidity to shine while accentuating the nutty quinoa taste. The serving size is perfect for a big weekend brunch meal.

The chilled soba noodle bowl, on the other hand, fell short of expectations. The dish is served with carrots, zucchini, nuts and soba noodles and topped with a peanut sauce. With the first few bites, the dish seemed fairly decent.

The peanut sauce was an interesting contrast to the dry soba noodles. The sauce’s texture is less oily than the average peanut sauce, and its consistency is similar to hummus. Nonetheless, this taste gets boring after a couple bites. The flavors are repetitive, and the sauce is thick, making the noodles feel dry and slightly harder to swallow with each bite.

The bodega was also offering a freshly-made cashew milk as a new addition to their menu. If there is anything that I would go back for, it’s the chocolate cashew milk. Its consistency is closer to water than that of normal milk, making the chocolate taste fresher without being overwhelmingly rich. The aftertaste is satisfying without feeling overly indulgent. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for vegan milk alternatives.

With many veganism solidifying its place in New York’s culinary scene, Bonberi Bodega might just be one of the places that you leave with nothing but a good Instagram picture. While the ingredients were noticeably fresh, the flavor simply does not provide enough incentive for a second visit. Unless you are looking for vegan lunch right after your visit to Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment, your best bet for a good meal — or an actual bodega experience — is probably elsewhere.

Email Lauren Ong at [email protected]

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