A Greenpoint restaurateur is having a go at reinventing the city’s most ubiquitous culinary standby — the corner bodega.
Cody Utzman, a former chef at Brooklyn Label and the man behind the popular Manhattan Avenue eatery Papacitos, showed The Brooklyn Paper his soon-to-open hybrid grocery that will merge bodega-style convenience with gourmet-quality goods.
“Bodegas are things that are so close to Brooklyn’s heart — they are places where Brooklynites go two or three times a day for soda, cigarettes, tampons, or an egg sandwich,” said Utzman. “We’re going to have all of that stuff, but our spin is that we’re going to be stocking local products, and everything will be made in-house.”
When the Brooklyn Standard Deli opens at the corner of Nassau Avenue and Jewel Street on April 1, the shelves of the 1,800-square-foot shop will be lined with bodega staples like toilet paper, chewing gum, and other odds and ends — as well as produce from New York growers, eggs and milk from an upstate farms, homemade bread, and prepared foods made in the shop’s kitchen.
“A lot of these organic products are only available in nice restaurants or upscale groceries, but I want to bring these products down to a more pedestrian level,” said Utzman. “The prices of these things usually exclude a whole class of people who can’t afford to use them, but by preparing everything in house, we can charge a lot less.”
For example, Utzman says he’ll sell an eight-ounce container of organic hummus for $2.50 — half of what other “organic” markets charge.
Utzman’s bodega will boast gourmet deli meats, a self-serve salad bar, java from Stumptown Coffee’s new Red Hook roasting plant, and a kitchen that churns out hot foods like pizza and macaroni and cheese.
But will it work? After all, the beauty of the corner bodega is the lower prices that come from offering non-gourmet goods. An old-school bodega worker suggested that Utzman would only succeed if his customers are prepared to pay more for the fancier foods.
“It’s supply and demand,” said Vernice Reyes, who works at the Kaffe Deli on Remsen Street in Downtown, where the most high-end item is a bag of chips labeled “gourmet.”
“People want gourmet products, they just don’t want to pay for it,” she said.
The Brooklyn Standard Deli [188 Nassau Ave. at Jewel Street in Greenpoint, (718) 472-2150] opens on April 1.