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Taste the Flavors of Northern Vietnam at Bodega SF in San Francisco

Taste the Flavors of Northern Vietnam at Bodega SF in San Francisco

The sizzling and fragrant aroma of authentic Northern Vietnamese cuisine fills the air in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. It’s the inviting scent of Bodega SF, a traditional restaurant with a contemporary twist. “Bodega SF started out offering take-out and meal kits to the public and operated out of our home every Saturday at the start of the pandemic in March 2020,” Owner Matthew Ho told us. “As it grew in popularity, we decided to operate as a pop-up out of Rooster and Rice in the Castro in August. Once furloughed from my fine dining job, I focused exclusively on Bodega SF and looked to improve our menu and expand our operations. As a result, we experienced continued success and found our own space in February 2022. Our first day as our own brick-and-mortar was May 26, 2022, and we haven’t looked back since then.” 

The mastermind behind this culinary oasis is Matthew Ho, who transformed his family’s restaurant into a modernized, casual fine dining experience. Bodega SF is a must-visit destination for foodies and visitors seeking an explosion of flavors from the beautifully crafted dishes. “The original restaurant opened in 2003 at 607 Larkin Street in the Tenderloin,” Ho explained. “The restaurant was first run by my Uncle Jimmy, and my father took over in 2010. I worked there throughout high school and college in the front of the house. In 2017, the original restaurant closed, and I focused on fine dining. During the pandemic, I decided to reopen Bodega SF with a modern twist; thus, Bodega SF was born.”

Bo Tai Chanh at Bodega SF (©Erin Ng)
Bo Tai Chanh at Bodega SF (©Erin Ng)

“The spirit and approach of the restaurant make it feel modern yet familiar, from our service to the decor. We focus on highlighting lesser-known Vietnamese ingredients and show our guests how to enjoy a variety of dishes. From the very beginning, we didn’t want our guests to expect just pho when dining with us, and we wanted to challenge their tastebuds and knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine. Authenticity is a personal opinion. We do what feels authentic to us as a family and continue to innovate with that as our foundation.”  

The menu features a wide variety of delightfully genuine flavors. “We do our best to include vegetarian options for our guests. For example, we use a vegetarian fish sauce that’s made from fermented pineapple in a handful of our dishes. It still brings out the essence and umami of fish sauce for guests who can’t enjoy the non-vegetarian options,” Ho said of the menu. “We do our best to use suppliers that source from local organic farmers for a significant amount of our produce. We also strive to use every part of the animal that we purchase to minimize waste. Our take-out containers and bags are 100% recyclable, and we also use high-efficiency dishwashers in the kitchen and the bar to minimize water and electrical use. We are also diligent in composting and recycling waste products in both the front and back of the house.”  

From the moment you step through the door, it’s clear that this is more than just a restaurant; it’s a cultural experience that immerses you in Vietnam’s flavors, smells, and textures. “We recently opened up a new speakeasy underneath our restaurant called The Felix,” Ho told us. “The majority of our events happen down there most nights of the week. For example, we have an ongoing collaboration with local music acts and DJs from Wednesdays – Saturdays to highlight the DJ scene in San Francisco.”

Whole Fish Cha Ca at Bodega SF (©Erin Ng)
Whole Fish Cha Ca at Bodega SF (©Erin Ng)
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