SIOUX CITY | Walking into Bodega 401, patrons can expect to get something to drink, something to eat along with the strange-but-true story surrounding the original Bodega, which opened at the same 401 Pearl St. location more than 120 years ago.
"Back in the day, Sioux City was home to 72 saloons despite Iowa's anti-alcohol laws," Bodega 401 manager Jason Nelson explained. "Heading up a faction that wanted to abolish alcohol was a fiery preacher named the Rev. George C. Haddock."
On the night of Aug. 3, 1886, Haddock was hot to death on the corner of Third and Waters Streets. Witnesses identified the shooter as John Arensdorf, a local brewer.
Brought to trial twice and acquitted each time, Arensdorf reputedly celebrated his legal victories by going out drinking with the jury.
About nine years after (Haddock's death), Arensdorf opened the first Bodega at this very site," Nelson said.
Indeed, a sign inside advertises the location's bona fide: "Bogega 401: Est. circa 1895/Revived 2017."
"While this certainly isn't a celebration of those events, we simply wanted to acknowledge Sioux City's storied past," Nelson said, shortly after Bodega 401's March 2017 opening.
To that end, the new Bodega -- the Spanish word for grocery store or wine cellar -- is full of archival images from the city's colorful past.
"Sioux City's history is pretty interesting," Nelson said. "Since we opened a bar and restaurant here, we're playing it up a bit."
Which is fine by Nelson, who, ironically, spent more than 15 years as a probation officer.
"This is my first experience (in the hospitality field)," Nelson said, "and I'm having the time of my life."
Describing Bodega's decor as sleek, urban and minimalist, Nelson said the vibe is inviting for guests wanting a beer, a glass of wine or a specialty house-infused cocktail.
"While we consider ourselves to be mainly a bar, were also proud of our food menu," Nelson said.
So, what's good to eat? How about the 12-inch brick oven pizza?
Named after Sioux City's former nickname, Bodega's "Li'l Chicago" pizza is made with beef, sausage, Canadian bacon and pepperoni while the "Bad Hunter" -- Nelson's personal favorite -- is a veggie-heavy pie that contains pesto, peppers, tomatoes, red onions, mushrooms and arugula.
"If you don't want a strictly veggie pizza, feel free to add pepperoni to the 'Bad Hunter,'" he suggested. "I'm not gonna tell anyone."
While Bodega 401 has several appetizers on its menu, guests can get a bit of everything from the "Lump 'em Together" sampler platter.
"Our sampler contains jalapeno cheese curds, hand-cut fries, deep-fried pickles as well as some chicken lollipops," Nelson said, setting a platter on a table.
Chicken lollipop, what the heck is that?
"Well, it's a chicken wing where the meat is cut loose from the bone end and then pushed down a bit," Nelson explained. "It looks like a lollipop made of chicken and it is delicious."
Since it opened, he said Bodega has been well received by customers.
"We want Bodega to be a different from other Pearl Street bars while still being a nice place for customers to come before and after shows at the Hard Rock," he said.
Looking over the property, Nelson can't help but smile.
"Sioux City has a wonderfully rich history and so does Pearl Street," he said. "Bodega 401 is simply acknowledging that past while looking towards the future."