The block of Fairfax around the corner from me has never really been that exciting. There's a medical supply shop, a kosher pizza joint where the Orthodox high school kids hang out on Saturday nights, and not much else. About a year ago though, I was walking down Fairfax, and noticed something interesting. The windows on one of the shops were frosted over, save for a small decal shaped like the silhouette of a bull. I knew this image from when I had visited Spain: when you drive through the country, you'll occasionally see a billboard that is nothing but a giant black bull silhouette. Apparently these used to advertise some sort of liquor, but have outlasted the ad campaign, have been painted over, and have become an unofficial symbol of Spain itself.
This was promising -- some sort of Spanish establishment coming up around the corner? I hoped it was a restaurant perhaps, or a tapas bar. I was holding off on major excitement just yet though. Over the next few months, I continued to peek around for clues whenever I passed by. The place slowly started to take shape -- a big wood door replaced the old plain one, they painted the exterior a charming red. Then a small square business card appeared tacked onto the door: Bodega de Cordova. I'm liking the sound of that -- reminds me of Córdoba, my favorite of all the cities we visited on that same trip. Then one day, we got something in the mail -- a notice that this establishment had applied for a wine license. Spanish and wine! It's getting better!
I became obsessed. Every day I peeked over as I drove to and from work, waiting for any activity. I kept friends up-to-date on every minute step forward, to the point where one christened it "Tannaz's Bodega", and that's correct, it's all mine. When a 'coming soon' sign was replaced one morning with a 'grand opening' one, I knew the day I was waiting for had arrived. But, that night, I already had plans! But I stopped in just to greet my new neighbor and check the place out, and was very pleased. I had a quick chat with the bartender, Raul, and told him my intentions of being a regular. I have most certainly fulfilled that goal.
Bodega de Cordova is the perfect little wine and tapas bar to have around the corner from your apartment. There is nothing ostentatious about it; it was designed and carried out on a shoestring, but it provides a pure and very warm experience not unlike what you'd get in Spain. It's a small cozy space, a dimly lit galley in reds and wood. The beverage selection consists solely of Spanish wines, with most very reasonably priced (around 20 dollars for the average bottle of white). Although I know what I like, I don't know much about wine. But Kenny, the owner, has graciously engaged me in many conversations about intricacies like a wine's syrupy 'legs' as an indication of alcohol content, the benefits of decanting, or the definitive Spanish grape, tempranillo. I've had the pleasure of trying many different wines thanks to his and the bartenders' suggestions.
No glass of wine would be complete without something to nibble alongside. On weeknights, the Bodega's tapas menu is, like everything else, on the basic simple side. The offerings are not entirely consistent from night to night, but may include olives (there used to be these amazing black olives from Seville that were the selling point for bringing new friends in. They tasted different from any other olive I've had, and absolutely delicious. Apparently the supply is not steady though, so they're not currently available), manchego with bread, or slightly sweet fig cakes. They've also recently started selling 70% cacao chocolate bars. Last night, we had thinly sliced, paprika-laded chorizo, and a plate of white asparagus dressed with olive oil and fresh parsley. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, the tapas list is longer. A series of tiny servings of crostini-like mentaditos, bread with various delicious toppings, a more extensive cheese plate with nuts and quince paste, and more hot items beef up the menu.
There are a lot of ways this place could not have been the perfect local spot for me -- could have been overpriced, could have attracted a Hollywood scene, could have been stuffy or snobby. As it turns out, though, it suits me to a tee. I really believe in the bare-bones approach (oh yeah, it's cash-only (although there's an ATM in the back)), the staff are warm and friendly, and knowledgeable without being overbearing. And I never feel gluttonous after an evening there. It's rare to really foster a relationship with your neighbors; what luck to have one as hospitable and inviting as Bodega de Cordova.
My little Bodega is located at 361 S. Fairfax, just south of Blackburn. They are closed Sunday and Monday nights.
PS: Surreal moment of the night:
(Within a conversation about area codes, speed dial, cellphones, etc.)
Friend1: There are some numbers my fingers just have memorized, like 288-4545.
Friend2: Why do you call CAA so much?