Innovation, boldness and passion have long fueled McAllen’s creative culinary spirit. These qualities are enduring among the city’s best chefs, who garner and satisfy the appetite of local devotees every passing evening.
Adam Cavazos, owner of Bodega Tavern & Kitchen, believes that a passionate cook is always learning. And at some point, a seasoned chef might find a niche, but Cavazos is still looking for his. “I do know that I like to cook and be creative,” said Cavazos. “I like to show off a bunch of different techniques in one plate and give you something that you’ve never seen before – or something that you have seen, but in a new way.”
The Rio Grande Valley has been fortunate enough to have a handful of talented chefs attempt to uplift the dining community. At Bodega, his new 10th Street restaurant, he’s hoping to bring high-end dining back to the heart of McAllen by serving regional Texas cuisine that adheres to today’s popular organic and sustainable principles. In addition to this, Bodega has separated itself from the rest of McAllen’s dining scene due to their execution and commitment to quality, locality and service. Bodega is a restaurant with a decisive point of view and identifiable personalities, regardless of price points or cuisine.
“Bodega takes the farm-to-table concept to another level, sourcing much of their decor and menu items locally,” said Robert L., one of the restaurant’s very first customers. “The highlight of the restaurant is its meat curing room. This is the only restaurant south of San Antonio doing this.”
Execution and presentation are hallmarks of Cavazos’ cooking. Bodega’s bold menu features flavors pulled from an array of culinary traditions, and because of Cavasos’ commitment to freshness, the menu changes seasonally. Determined by the availability of local produce, past menu offerings have included tender tongue and cheek sopes with charred cabbage, radish and jalapeño lime caviar; and a wild boar belly and chop with tomatillo-piquillo relish garnished with edible flowers. The sweetest ending to any meal, a seasonally-available Shiner Bock pound cake with prickly pear ice cream drizzled with piloncillo caramel, will leave you with the enduring taste of Texas. An impressive cocktail menu caters to diners looking for a trendy downtown restaurant destination set in a contemporary space with a patio that’s perfect for those warm South Texas nights. On any particular evening, one can enjoy an Aviación, a riff of the classic Aviation cocktail made with gin and tequila (hence the Spanish name) instead of the traditional maraschino liqueur.
The essence of cooking at Bodega revolves around Cavazos’ simple yet personal philosophy when running his kitchen.
“I like to have fun, and it shows when you’re cooking and in your food,” said Cavazos. “Food is a reflection of your mood that day. I truly believe that if you and your staff are having fun while doing it, it shows and it makes everything run smoother.”
Bodega’s kitchen is a well-oiled machine, with the cooks effectively maintaining Cavazos’ high standards of quality. Cavazos is the mastermind behind the menu, but he invites his kitchen staff to brainstorm when it comes to developing a new recipe. A good idea as a result of this collaboration could very well be incorporated into the next chef’s special or menu addition. Guests have come to expect the creativity of Cavazos’ menu and know it is carefully curated to include only the most delicious, original plates.
“You never know what they are going to put together,” said Eloy G. “I’ve seen everything from watermelon and blueberries to chipotle and goat cheese – always a fun surprise.”
This is Cavazos’ first time as both the head chef and principal owner of a restaurant. Although it has proven to be his most challenging undertaking to date, his motivation stems from his youthful desire to belong in the kitchen.
“I was always fascinated watching my grandmother cook and take something raw and turn it into something edible and beautiful,” said Cavazos, who has been working in the industry since the age of 16, first by garnishing plates and pulling tickets. “Cooking always fascinated me. I never dreamt of making it my career.”
As with most children who are asked what they want to be when they grow up, Cavazos seemed to always feel pushed to pursue a profession that earns a lot of money, such as a doctor or lawyer.
“That just wasn’t me. I didn’t want to be in a suit or tie,” said Cavazos. He found that he enjoyed the pace of the restaurant and the camaraderie that one finds among cooks of the line. “It really is its own little world, working in the kitchen.”
Once Cavazos earned his undergraduate degree, he decided to enroll in the Texas Culinary Academy at Austin, Texas. Determined to pursue what he felt was the only road for him, Cavazos made his way from one kitchen to the next, eventually branching off to start his own enterprise: Bodega Tavern and Kitchen.
Cavazos’ latest endeavour hopes to be McAllen’s fine dining focal point in a competitive dining scene that would be unrecognizable a few years ago. Bodega offers so much for those in the area that crave a modern dining experience and unique food. It’s for those who are adventurous and seek out the extraordinary and unconventional.
Visit their website to learn more: http://bodegamcallen.com/