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New Caribbean restaurant brings 'Pura Vida' to the Pocket neighborhood

Bodega Kitchen and Cocktails serves everything from ceviche and Cuban sandwiches to Jamaican jerk chicken wings.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A new Caribbean restaurant and bar called Bodega Kitchen and Cocktails opened in the Pocket area of Sacramento just four days ago, and so far, it's been off to a great start.

Located at 6401 Riverside Boulevard, Bodega Kitchen and Cocktails serves everything from ceviche and Cuban sandwiches to Jamaican jerk chicken wings and pan-fried prawns.

"The Caribbean is so wide that we have many different islands to choose from, whether it's Jamaica or Trinidad or Puerto Rico," said chef and co-owner Matt Brown. "I just like the idea that we're taking ingredients and recipes and we're kind of just adding our own spin to it."

Co-owners Rafael Jimenez Rivera and Chris Sinclair wanted to bring their childhood and what they grew up with to the Pocket area.

Being that they live right around the corner, driving down the street and not seeing diverse food options in the area made Jimenez Rivera and Sinclair realize that they needed to represent and bring their culture to the Pocket.

"I'm from the East Coast," said Jimenez Rivera. "Originally, where I grew up, there was Jamaican food, Haitian food and Puerto Rican food... all readily accessible. Here in Sacramento, none of that is readily accessible, so we decided that we were going to make a Caribbean restaurant where our food isn't necessarily authentic, but we are going for the flavors of the Caribbean, the vibe of the Caribbean. We want to transport people when they come in here."

When he was young, Jimenez Rivera's father owned a restaurant in Puerto Rico, so he and his sister would help out in the kitchen, making food for catering events.

At first, Jimenez Rivera went to college to study film, but he soon rediscovered his love for the kitchen and started working at restaurants. He then went to the Culinary Institute of America in New York and worked in kitchens all over New York and Southern California.

Initially, the plan was to be a Puerto Rican restaurant, and Jimenez Rivera even had a few themed pop-ups hosted at Odd Cookie Bakery, Cafe and Bar last year. However, he noticed that it wasn't just Puerto Ricans showing up, it was people from all over the Caribbean that would show up and support them.

This sparked a fire in Jimenez Rivera to fully get Bodega Kitchen and Cocktails up and running for the community.

Fast forward to today, after dealing and still dealing with some supply chain issues and the COVID-19 pandemic as well as awaiting their liquor license, the Pocket area and surrounding community has welcomed Bodega Kitchen and Cocktails with open arms, reaching out to the owners and mentioning how happy they're to see them open.

"It's a dream come true to own a bar and restaurant," said Chris Sinclair. "We just want to like have dope food that's inspired by our experiences, that's made well, and that's affordable and brings the community together. For us to be able to live here and bring a part of ourselves to offer to the community is a big deal for us."

Bodega Kitchen and Cocktails is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. When their liquor license comes in, they plan on shifting their hours to serve their customers from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and until 12 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

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