By Emily G. Peters
Bodega Wine Bar is just the kind of drinkery that Pasadena needs. There’s no sniffing, swirling or ludicrous wine descriptors here. An empty stomach and open mind are all the ingredients needed for a stellar night on the town.
Founded by friends Jason McEntee and Greg Seares in 2002, Bodega scratched a certain itch for the pair who, both originally San Gabriel Valley boys, found the wine scene lacking at the time.
“We had both recently moved back to Los Angeles and were looking to try out the wine bars here. We found a small fancy wine bar and cigar lounge that actually allowed smoking in Beverly Hills, no thanks. And a place claiming to have a wine bar, but was really just an Italian restaurant with a small bar that didn’t even have a bartender,” said McEntee. “The next day we decided it made no sense that L.A. didn’t have a proper wine bar. This was our chance to start a business and do something fun.”
As fate would have it, the new Paseo Colorado development was looking for entrepreneurs to tackle the wine crowd. Without any significant restaurant experience, the friends went for it.
“In retrospect, it’s crazy they let us sign a lease in the first place,” said McEntee. “Fifteen years later we find it funny we’re one of the original Paseo tenants!”
Now a with a sister location in Santa Monica, Bodega Pasadena doesn’t seem to have a problem attracting plenty of people to its twinkly patio. Themed happy hours, weekend DJs and a killer annual Halloween party keep the atmosphere lively. The menu itself reflects their manifesto: Have fun, share, don’t take yourself too seriously and trust no one.
It’s an admonition to leave wine snobbery at the door and simply share tasty bites—such as the bacon-wrapped Medjool dates with manchego or fig challah and brie grilled cheese (McEntee’s current favorite). Like the eats, the wine, beer and soju selection is affordable and surprisingly good quality. The owners’ take? If you like it, it’s good. No sommelier certification required.
Fifteen years in, and Bodega is still as necessary as ever. Stripped of pretence, the folks heading here after work aren’t trying to look cool—they’re here to relax, eat and drink well, albeit in an admittedly cool location. And even though millennials are the most wine-drinkingest generation since the boomers, the crowd is mixed—which the owners appreciate.
“Our target audience doesn’t fit into any age/gender/income type, but they all do share a state of mind: Fun,” said McEntee. “Our customer is simply someone who enjoys a casual bar, likes music, and isn’t a wine snob.” And while Seares, McEntee and company do source small production, well-crafted wines, they’re not looking to break anyone’s bank.
“We are more about drinking wine than swirling and sniffing it,” is McEntee and Seares parting remark. So while you could spend your time at Bodega deciding which dish pairs best with a red or white, don’t wait too long for someone to affirm your choice. They’re probably too busy drinking.
Bodega Wine Bar is located 300 E. Colorado Blvd. at Paseo Colorado mall in the fountain court area. Contact the crew at (626) 793-4300, or at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.bodegawinebar.com/pasadena. You can also follow along on Facebook and Instagram @bodegapasadena.