Finding the Perfect Bodega: A Guide

The corner store, or "bodega" as it is affectionately misnomeredis a staple of life in New York. It's a port in the metropolitan storm, providing everything from baking supplies to baby supplies, from drink mixers to the coffee-Advil-bacon-egg-and-cheese combo you'll need the next day. It's the best part of your morning, and the last stop before you return home at night. It's the reason why Big Apple defectors who return to visit are able to buy beer at 3AM and say, "Damn it, I miss this city."

Every time my roommate and I discuss moving, one of us brings up the fact that we'll have to find a new bodega and we drop the subject. Ours is a bond that cannot be broken. Once you've found your bodega, you won't be able to visit another one without lamenting the fact that they don't know your coffee order or don't have that one flavor of Kettle chips that you bought that one time when you were drunk and need right now.

Finding your bodega can be a challenge. There are countless options in every neighborhood, leading you to think you need to try them all on for size. Like any good relationship, you and your bodega take maintenance and dedication.  Love is patient, after all.

If you're on the fence about your connection to your corner store, ask yourself the following questions to determine if you've met your match. Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, but it also doesn't hurt if they see you picking out a yogurt in the back and have your iced black coffee, no sugar, waiting for you when you step up to the counter.

LOCATION ASSESSMENT:

Is it within two blocks of your home?
Is it within close range of your route to/from work?
Is it actually ON a corner? Note: If it's not, do not trust it.
Is it near other priority amenities, such as a liquor store or food cart?

PRODUCT QUALITY:

Does it offer a broad range of munchie/drunk-chie options?
What about Ben and Jerry's ice cream? Do they have the "cookie core" flavors? Specifically Boom-Chocolata?
How's their coffee? Note: if it's anything above "brown water" then you can stop your quest
Do they have craft beer? Note: If so, stop, leave, this place is a franchise waiting to happen.
Deli meat selection: Boar's Head or nah?
Bagels: do they need to be toasted? Note: Again, if so just walk out right now because this is New York for God's sake.

GENERAL ATMOSPHERE:

Is it clean?
Is it bright?
Does it smell like frying breakfast meat and glory?
Will they let you bring your dog in there?
Will they get mad at you when your dog eats a piece of cake that was displayed at his eye-level?

STAFF AND SERVICE:

At peak hours, does the line progress in a timely fashion?
Is the food prepared quickly, but with attention to detail (i.e. not skimping on the avocado slices)?
Are the counter guys friendly?
Do they remember your daily coffee order after only a few visits?
Do they ask you about your day?
Do they not pull this kind of sketchy shit?
Are they nonjudgmental when you show up at 4AM and the only things you buy are a pack of cigarettes and a jar of Queso dip?
Are they equally nonjudgmental when you show up at 2PM the next day and the only things you buy are Earl Grey tea and a fistful of aspirin packets?
Are they incredibly attractive?
Do they have several brothers and cousins who also work at the bodega, and are also incredibly attractive?
Do they have a super adorable grandmother who serves the coffee on the weekends, and maybe makes you leave your dog outside but then stands by the window to watch him and make sure no one steals him while you wait for your smoothie?
Are you hoping one of them will propose to you one day?
Like literally any one of them? I mean sure the 6AM-4PM counter guy is the most attractive and he and you kind of have a casual flirting thing going on, but it would be an honor just to be considered...?
Would Grandma propose to you?
Does Grandma hug you when you leave?
Do you think they have a spare room in the back you can live in?
Do they use environmentally-friendly food packaging?

If you answered "yes" to most of these, your search has concluded. Treasure your bodega, and hope that if and when you ever have to move, they have some cousins who own one in your new neighborhood.