21C Museum Hotel recently opened Bodega, a coffee-shop-meets-bistro, to guests and walk-ins, and it will open a pool bar soon.
Mary Eddy’s in the 21C Museum Hotel has always had great food, but the 6,100-square-foot space made it difficult to seat and serve efficiently. Seating was available from the bar to the very back of main dining, about a football field away, and the main dining space — a former manufacturing facility floor — was spacious in a way that made warm ambience an impossibility.
“The space was too large, too cold,” said Alberto Abreu, the hotel’s general manager. “We wanted smaller, warmer spaces, and we wanted to be front-facing for our community.”
That community is the West Village complex that sits on the hotel’s east and south sides, and Hall Capital has been developing a community that includes 21C, Jones Assembly, Stitch Cafe, the apartments and mixed-use space. The temporary closure of 21C due to COVID offered up the perfect opportunity to pivot, and instead of offering one cavernous, sprawling space, the team of designers and hoteliers came up with four separate concepts — from very casual to fine dining — that best utilized the space for hotel guests and community neighbors.
“We have roughly 900 neighbors down here, and we needed more food options,” Abreu said. “What we had was already excellent, but the period from 3 p.m. to dinner was pretty dead.”
The new Mary Eddy’s reopened to much-deserved fanfare in October last year, after a very successful pop-up called Palm Lounge — elements of which will remain on various menus — but the rest of the space remained under construction. Mary Eddy’s remains a dinner-only concept with an excellent bar, but a full-service hotel needs more comprehensive dining options, and Bodega is the first new concept to emerge after Mary Eddy’s.
“This is the first concept in the 21C family to offer full coffee service,” said Melanie Briley, director of sales and marketing for the hotel. “In that sense, we’re a test run for the larger company. Every 21C has a great restaurant attached, but when people visit a boutique hotel, they want excellent coffee too, so we’re very excited to provide this at Bodega.”
The coffee-shop-meets-bistro aesthetic creates a warm, comfortable atmosphere that encourages guests to hang out, work, meet with friends and enjoy a full breakfast menu as well as grab-and-go options like a smoked pork burrito and pastrami sandwich. In fact, Bodega will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, and the hotel now has a direct entrance to the space on Fred Jones Boulevard on the hotel’s east side.
“We knew we needed to add a front-facing door to the apartments,” Abreu said. “If we want to welcome in the community, we had to have an entrance that wasn’t just the hotel’s main entrance.”
Sometime between July 19 and 21, the pool bar is expected to open. This space is the bulk of the old main dining and the bar seating that faced the open kitchen. Abreu said he expects the pool bar to be a popular choice at night and on weekends. There will be full cocktail service with a menu different from Mary Eddy’s, as well as a third menu that will focus on burgers, wings, sandwiches and other elevated bar food. Some of the menu items were pulled from the old Palm Lounge menu. Nathan Cover, one of the city’s young, rockstar bartenders, will be bar manager.
Both Bodega and the pool bar will be counter service, fast casual concepts, a model that makes staffing much more manageable during the current staffing crisis. It also reflects an intentional plan to create more casual, community-accessible spaces in the hotel. The pipe dream of any boutique hotel is that it becomes a destination for the local community and not just guests. With the three dining concepts, and the soon-to-be-completed pool, 21C has a chance to actually make that dream real.