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Kansas City-Style Barbecue Is the Star at Bodega by La Cabra Brewing

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Growth has been steady since La Cabra Brewing‘s Dan Popernack expanded his Berwyn operation to Bryn Mawr this past summer. Former tenant Biga Pizza + Beer certainly had its passionate regulars, but this craft brew and barbecue joint has some distinct advantages, including a more customer-friendly layout and an actual bar area. And with its trippy rock soundtrack and quirky corner space, Bodega by La Cabra Brewing is a fiesty offshoot with its own distinct personality.

At the six-stool bar, patrons can negotiate a rack of ribs while sampling a beer menu that changes frequently, along with a small selection of Penns Woods wines. Another main attraction—aside from La Cabra’s award-winning beer—is chef Luke Loomis’s live-fire cooking prowess as reflected in the savory smokehouse essence of his traditional Kansas City-style barbecue. Though a different beast from the original location’s rich Spanish-skewed gastro-pub fare, it’s a menu that perfectly complements Popernack’s rotating selection of meticulously crafted brews.

 

(From the left) A crowler of beer; dry-rubbed baby-back ribs with pit sauce; a hearty salad. 

 

Loomis manages an impressively high level of consistency and quality at Bodega, thanks in large part to his custom-made Oyler barbecue pit. The delicious aromas that waft through the quirky corner space can be traced to the slow-burning, locally sourced split oak logs. The signature wings—double rubbed and smoked whole—have a peppery outer skin that traps the juices. Other hearty appetizers include Gouda-and-cheddar mac and cheese, deviled eggs studded with smoked bacon bits, and a rabbit leg enhanced with fragrant cayenne butter.

The menu also features a variety of hefty sandwiches. Standouts include the house-smoked turkey BLT, maple-cured Atlantic salmon on an everything bagel spread with charred caper and shallot pub cheese, and tender thigh-meat chicken fried Nashville style and served on a Conshohocken Bakery potato roll. There’s nothing fancy —but plenty tasty—about the collard greens, baked beans, watermelon salad and other old-school sides.

Sliced brisket, fried onions and pit sauce on a Conshohocken Bakery potato roll, with a side of gouda-and-cheddar mac and cheese. 

 

The three distinctive “From the Pit” selections include a dry-rubbed half or full rack of baby-back ribs, Creekstone Farms brisket piled atop house-made trencher bread, and “Burnt Ends.” The beneficiary of a gratuitous dunking in tangy pit sauce, the latter’s outer crust houses perfectly marbled fall-apart brisket. Tasty and affordable, this popular item sells out quickly, so be advised.

The barbecue is a clear star at Bodega, but there are some lighter options, including healthy mixed-greens harvest salad and a satisfying grain bowl with pearled barley, arugula, roasted eggplant and chopped walnuts. The latter looks quite lovely and colorful, though it lacks sweetness to offset its earthiness. Craisins, sweet potato or a honeyed dressing (instead of the red wine vinaigrette) would do the trick. Dessert may be the last thing on your mind after a meal at Bodega, but the complimentary house-baked chocolate chip cookies are a nice touch. 

 

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