The cozy little Bodega on Main restaurant, at the intersection of Vancouver’s Chinatown and Olympic Village, has always been drenched in the importance of family. For one thing, the Spanish tapas house, opened in September 2015 by Paul Rivas, comes on the heels of the beloved La Bodega, a downtown staple for 43 years that closed in 2014—and was co-founded by Paul’s father Francisco. Bodega on Main is a glass raised to its former iteration, welcomed by both those who loved the original and those embracing the now-rampant tapas trend (for which La Bodega can be greatly credited in the city). But the roots of this family story grow deeper still, with Bodega on Main’s announcement that every Monday, 15 per cent of all food sales will be donated to Rethink Breast Cancer. It is a cause close to Paul’s heart: his sister Natalie Rivas, the restaurant’s business manager, is a breast cancer survivor.
“I was diagnosed in 2011; at the time I was 37-years-old, and felt young compared to the other women I was seeing in the waiting room,” Natalie says. “I started to feel there wasn’t really a peer group as far as other women my age going through it—everyone seemed to be a lot older.” When she mentioned this to a doctor, she was directed to Rethink, an organization designed to offer support for women under 40 who are affected by breast cancer. “I got to take advantage of some wonderful programming,” says Natalie. “It was women in my own age going through the same challenges.”
For Paul, who also co-owns The Parlour in Yaletown, the choice to give away part of his weekly profit to charity was easy. “It seemed like a really good fit,” he explains. “We thought, ‘Why not give back to something that’s been supportive to [Natalie] in the past?’” He had always known he wanted to have a philanthropic aspect to Bodega on Main, and Rethink was the organization that hit home. “My brother has been very supportive through my entire journey, he’s been a rock,” says Natalie. “Because of his support and everything he went through with me, I think a breast cancer charity was a natural fit. And because this one was so important to me, it’s the one we chose.”
When the money for the food one is eating goes (at least partially) to charity, it certainly tastes that much better; but Bodega on Main is delicious regardless, with its combination of La Bodega staples (a patatas bravas recipe from Paul and Natalie’s father, for one) and modern reinventions. The gambas al ajillo (sautéed prawns in chillies, garlic, sherry) are tangy and spicy, and the meatballs with grated manchego and tomato sauce are robust and hearty. Hanging from the ceiling of the warm space are the chandeliers from La Bodega (some of the former wait staff returned, as well), but plenty is new, too. “The food is updated,” Paul says. “I got to source out really good quality products from Spain. We have a really good cocktail program and a good wine program. It’s been really fun; I think people are enjoying it.”
As of Feb. 15 the restaurant is also open for lunch, providing the perfect place for a mid-day work break or a pre-supper snack. No matter the time of day, the beauty of tapas is that each dish is meant to be shared, dispersed among family. A bite for you, a bite for me. Another bite for you.
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