Why The Internet Won't Stop Arguing About Bodegas

There are few things more sacred to a New Yorker than their local bodega. The bodega has your favorite late-night snacks. It's there when you need some dish soap at 2 AM and boasts the best reliably good breakfast sandwich for under $5. There's a claw at the ready to grab hard-to-reach packs of chap-stick, plus enough time to grab a lotto ticket on your way out. It's one of the few businesses people lovingly refer to with the possessive "my." And among those of us who are New Yorkers, who hasn't cried at their bodega? Unfortunately, all that attachment can come with a rather indignant protectiveness when it comes to what meets the "bodega" criteria (via Grub Street).

In an incident people are already calling "bodega-gate," Andrew Yang is being accused of not knowing what a "real" bodega is (via the Lo-Down). The New York City mayoral candidate, who has lived in the city of convenience for almost 25 years, according to the New York Times, posted a video on Twitter of himself buying some green tea and an entire bunch of bananas at a store that he called a bodega, saying "New York city relies upon its 14,000 bodegas so much. I love bodegas, and we gotta make sure they continue to stay open and do their thing."

What is a bodega, anyway?

Of course, the internet did what it always does: split hairs. A litany of comments on his post says the store he went to, which was brightly lit and spacious, was a grocery store or a deli, but not a bodega. Twitter reactions included things like "What you entered was grocery store, not a bodega; there's a distinct cultural difference between the two. If there's no smell of Bustelo, then it's not a bodega!" and "Bodegas have apparently gotten a lot bigger in the last few months." One even compared it to a Whole Foods. As another Twitter user put it, "If you can spread both of your arms and spin around without literally knocking over two shelves full of expired laundry detergent you're not in a bodega."

So what is a bodega, really? Does it have to be small, cramped, and dark? Is it even a bodega without a bodega cat? For some, a bodega might just be a place that sells deli sandwiches at all hours and carries cigarettes and coffee. As one user tweeted, pushing back on critics, "All you people complaining about this not being a Bodega are out of touch with NYC. Not all 14,000 Bodegas are run down and dilapidated." Others argued that bodegas come in all shapes and sizes. There's only one thing that's certain: if you try to take a public stance on bodegas, someone will fight you on it.