Few institutions are more synonymous with life in the five boroughs than the bodega. Though the definition of New York's some 12,000 corner stores may differ depending on who you ask—part convenience store, part grocery store, part liquor store, and so on—the bodega has evolved into a central hangout for each of the city's neighborhoods. From Brooklyn to the Bronx, the stores exist as cramped, enigmatic marketplaces where one can find everything from cigarettes and malt liquor, to cleaning supplies and diapers, to do-rags and sandwiches, all under the same roof.
"I was at the bodega the other day, and they were having this argument about why ISIS isn’t in Jamaica," Desus Nice tells me. We're sitting in an office overlooking Times Square, where he and his partner, the Kid Mero, are busy working on ideas for the MTV shows Uncommon Sense and Joking Off. "Somebody was like, 'Well they can’t take over Jamaica, but if a Jamaican was going to join ISIS, he would be the hardest working terrorist.' And I was just like, 'This is the podcast.' Just random; just out there."
Though the Bronx Bullies have come a long way from the bodega—first breaking out with their Complex podcast and web series, Desus vs. Mero—the duo prides itself on maintaining a brand of comedy that feels uniquely born Uptown. Last year, Desus and Mero launched a new podcast, the aptly titled Bodega Boys, and over the last several months the show has taken on the feel and candor of two New Yorkers standing under a brightly colored bodega awning talking shit.
"The bodega is pretty much the heart of the hood, so we’re giving you that feeling," Desus says. "People call it barber shop-type talk, but it’s just two dudes talking about whatever the fuck is going on in the world."
"You don’t necessarily have to be from the Bronx to understand it," he adds. "But you get that feeling of being in the Bronx."
Now, as skyrocketing rents continue to force dozens of stores to close shop, the neighborhood bodega is more important to preserve than ever. Here, to help us navigate the Vienna sausage-stacked aisle, we present the Desus and Mero guide to New York City's bodegas.