Bodega SF/ San Francisco

Bodega | San Francisco, CA

Photo Credit: Ani Clifford

Carrying the Family Torch

The traditional North Vietnamese food at Bodega SF comes with a significant family legacy. Chef Matthew Ho grew up in the family’s bistro, a destination for Vietnamese food in San Francisco until 2017.

Bodega SF is an evolved version of its beloved predecessor and no less a family affair. Matt’s dad Billy Ho is a chef. Matt’s mother and aunt make the hot sauces, marinades and Banh Cuon (fresh rice rolls). His high school friend Eugene Kim runs the front of the house with another friend and former co-worker from Nobu in Palo Alto, Adrienne Fornier. Matt says he likes having his people get together.

“My dad is there daily with us grinding it out, even if we have enough staff to help. My uncle will come in and help if he knows we’re busy. They were all involved in the menu process as well,” Matt says. “Without their help and their own unique way of encouragement, there’s no way any of this would have been possible.”

Creative Cocktails for a New Generation

Simple, fresh ingredients drive Bodega SF’s menu of elevated traditional North Vietnamese food. There’s plenty of California influence, too, in dishes like Oysters with Yuzu Coconut Foam, Chilean Sea Bass Ginger and Bun Rieu (crab, egg float, tofu, tomatoes and vermicelli).

A big change from the family’s prior format is Bodega SF’s full bar, featuring an Asian-inspired menu of fresh, creative drinks. Bodega SF’s best-selling Mango Calamansi Spritz mixes calamansi juice, chrysanthemum syrup and The Perfect Purée Mango with soda water.

Matt says Adrienne designed the drink to showcase calamansi, a cross between a lemon and a lime native to Southeast Asia, which the kitchen also uses to make ceviche. Matt says its sweet-and-sour flavor is perfectly balanced by sugary floral chrysanthemum syrup, tart mango and citrusy calamansi. The zero-proof Mango Calamansi Spritz has cross-generational fans and complements Bodega SF’s traditional North Vietnamese menu.

“It’s definitely going to be a mainstay. Kids will drink it, adults will drink it, everyone drinks it,” he says.

Fruit-Forward Flavor

From 2003 to 2017, the Ho family’s bistro in the Tenderloin District regularly topped lists of the city’s best Vietnamese restaurants. During the pandemic Matt reinvented it as a pop-up. Now in a permanent location in the same neighborhood, Bodega SF is bringing high-quality Vietnamese cuisine back to the community with a modernized, casual fine dining experience.

Since Bodega SF’s bar menu debuted it 2022, it’s featured Perfect Purée flavors including Prickly Pear, Passion Fruit and now Mango. A new downstairs speakeasy bar and lounge gives bartenders more room to experiment. “We could be using different fruits to get that going,” Matt says. “I think [The Perfect Purée] is more flavorful compared to other purees and syrups. They’re very fruit forward and just make our job easier.”