Update: Can you tell me how to bodega?

The REAL reason that I started this website is because in my first week I walked into a bodega (code word for “deli”) on the corner of my block and I asked for a sandwich and the response I got was “What did you order?”.

Safe to say, this is incredibly confusing for someone who has just arrived from Australia (or, I imagine) anywhere else really, because I hadn’t ordered anything… That’s why I was there! I know that this might seem completely trivial to some, but this was honestly one of the most daunting things I’ve done (and I still find it difficult sometimes).

So why is this and how are you meant to go about things properly?

Ordering a sandwich

When you walk into a bodega, you’re probably going to see someone sitting behind a cash register. This is NOT the person who you want to speak to about your sandwich.

  1. Walk straight past the person with the cash register and approach the higher counter, the one that is probably filled with deli meats, salads, and bread;
  2. Hover;
  3. Use this time to look around at what appears to be on offer. In some places, you will see a range of sandwiches they recommend printed above. If you want to be safe, pick something you like on this list (it probably has a name or a number);
  4. Keep hovering until it feels a little uncomfortable;
  5. Someone will inevitably pop their head up and ask what you would like (“Eh?”);
  6. In describing what you would like, you have a few options:
    1. If you picked something in 3., tell them what you picked;
    2. If not, you need to select a meat
      1. Chicken, turkey, ham, bologna etc.
    3. Some salads
      1. Lettuce, tomato, bacon etc.
    4. A dressing
      1. Mayonnaise, ranch, hot sauce etc.
    5. What type of bread you would like
      1. This is probably the most confusing thing because I’d never heard of a “hero” before. In answering, I was thinking Spiderman, and what they meant was “a roll that is bigger than your head and could feed a family of 6”. If you’re a big eater, go nuts, otherwise, I would suggest you don’t need this, just go with a “white roll” or “wholemeal wrap”;
    6. Finally, whether you would like it toasted;
  7. The next step is that you leave that nice man or woman to their business and shuffle along (maybe in line) towards the counter;
  8. This person will ask what you ordered, and you will pay with them;
  9. When the sandwich is ready, it will be delivered to this person, normally with some chips and maybe even a free soda (soft drink) or water!
  10. Run away, relieved, to eat your sandwich.

Ordering a salad

This process is almost identical to the above, however when you walk in, you will sometimes find a fridge with what looks like a bowl of greens. You need to grab one of these, and hand it over the counter in Step 5, above.

From here, you’re on your own. I’ve never actually ordered a salad here!