They have pizza, cheeseburgers and local art you can buy right out of a vending machine, but staff at The Bodega at Hi Line has huddled their top sellers together at the register.
That’s where you’ll find the industrial buckets of germ-nuking surface sanitizer solution, 10-packs of surgical masks (FDA approved) and 3M’s N95 masks these days. There are only a few boxes left of the 3M masks. House manager Airto “AC” Castañeda-Cudney pulls one out from behind the counter like it’s expensive Champagne. Toilet paper, of course, is the No. 1 most-purchased item.
The residents of AMLI, the Design District — the bodega’s situated at the ground level of the apartment complex — have been using the bodega as a safe haven. Cheeseburgers and paper towels and condoms are available for purchase late into the night (or early in the morning).
“The first couple of weeks were pretty intense,” Castañeda-Cudney says. He brews a strong coffee called Night Rider that he sells in-store — he’ll slap on a label and fill a glass bottle while you’re waiting for your sandwich. “A lot of people were coming down to get out of the house.”
Breakfast burritos are a hit. Their sandwiches are mini safe havens on their own.
The chopped beef gets cheddar, coolingly fresh tomato and a couple of lettuce slices. It’s a frill-free cheeseburger, nicely seasoned, with 360 degrees of seared crunchy bits. The winter coat of seasonings lights things up. The rolls are soft with a slight crackle.
The place is nearly empty — just one soul dines in-store in a booth across the room — as Mercado plates the sandwich with a nest of peppered chips.
A chess board sits empty on the communal table. It’s honestly welcoming to see a staffed-up bodega, walls clustered with everything an apartment dweller would need without leaving the building. They're cleaning often and furiously. The bodega's business has peaked and valleyed over the past few weeks, but the sandwiches are as good as ever, Castañeda-Cudney assures, and they're open late.
Breakfast is around whenever, and the coffee's good. They've been fully open — beyond takeout and delivery — for the residents of the AMLI in the apartments above the store. Get a Cubano, with shredded pork and thick-sliced ham and a chopped cheese because the simple things are comforting in tough times.
The Bodega at Hi Line, 1400 Hi Line Drive, Suite 120 (Design District).