Food & Drink

The Bodega Boys on Chopped Cheese, Hangover Cures, and Why Your Bodega Probably Isn't Legit

Published On 12/07/2016 Published On 12/07/2016
Bodega Boys
Marissa McWilliams/Team Eipiphany

If you haven't been subscribing to the Bodega Boys’ podcast in the last year, you're doing yourself an immense disservice. The guys who run the weekly series, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, first gained popularity for their hilarious and irreverent hot takes on Twitter, which run the gamut of sports, entertainment, politics, food, and anything even tangentially related to pop culture. In 2013, Complex picked up a weekly Desus vs. Mero podcast, and a couple of TV show appearances later, they returned to the podcast scene in 2015 with Bodega Boys. The takes were hotter, the brand was stronger, and previously used ableist terminology was thrown out the window quicker than your local bodega cat after a girl named Amber complained about it. The success of the podcast caught the attention of Vice Media and, in 2016, the duo was picked up for a show on Viceland, naturally called Desus & Mero.

Today, Desus and Mero are bigger than ever. But they still stay true to their Bronx roots with an unfettered appreciation for local bodegas... specifically the ones that serve up an authentic chopped cheese. We sat down with them to talk everything from delis to annoying food trends.

First things first: I've never had a chopped cheese. Where do I go to get a real chopped cheese?

Desus: The further up in New York you go -- especially in the Bronx -- the better the chopped cheese.

Mero: Yeah.

Desus:  So the best chopped cheese are literally near the border of Mt. Vernon and the Bronx way up north... Because the further away from Manhattan you are, the better the quality of meat. For some reason, in the Bronx, bodegas take pride in slamming a chopped cheese sandwich. And what happens is, the sandwich makers start adding extra stuff like adobo. They might like, start curating the meat before, you know what I'm sayin? Like my man at the bodega, he actually came in one day with roasted onions and this stuff that the bodega generally does not offer because he's bringing this stuff from home.

Mero: It's ill because it's like, if you see the dude that's making them [the chopped cheese], you already know what time it is. If it's an old Spanish dude, you already know he's going to throw some extra shit in there and it's gonna be slammin'. He's not just gonna throw meat and cheese and just chop it up. There's gonna be a little extra finesse in there.

“The further up in New York you go... the better the chopped cheese.”

But what about if I, personally, went to one of these bodegas and ordered a chopped cheese? Would I get that same treatment? This cook has never seen me before.

Mero: You look mad Puerto Rican. You good.

Desus: And it isn't even about how you look, it's how you ask for it. When you go into a bodega [starts clapping hands]... You be like, "Papi [claps hands twice more], lemme get that chopped cheese!" Like that. That's what you do. If you come in like, "Ummmmm hi there... excuse me... yes, hi, do you guys make... this sandwich called a chopped cheese."

Mero: You're not gonna get the chopped cheese. And if they say they don't make it, they lying.

So what would I do there? Try again? Go to another bodega?

Desus: You be like, "C'mon Papi make me one." The only reason a bodega won't make you a chopped cheese is if they say the grill is off because they're cleaning it. That's literally the only reason a bodega in the Bronx won't. And also sometimes in the morning they switch the grill to make bacon, egg, and cheese and shit like that.

Yeah, I've hit the bodega late before and had to wait for the grill switch.

Desus: So yo, that's the best time to enjoy chopped cheese -- between 3am and 5am. When you're SMACKED. You can't even stand. You be like, "Yo, Papi! Throw four cheeses on that. Put the cat on it, I don't care!"

Mero: Put a 40 on it. Dump a 40 on it.

Desus: You be in love with Papi -- shit like, "Papi, I love you dawg." You'll be talking to him saying how he makes the best sandwiches. He's like a father.

Mero: And if you catch the afternoon switch, when they go from bacon, egg, and cheese to sandwiches and other shit. And you get that little bacon essence in your shit... that's it.

Desus: Make sure they don't change the grease. The older the grease at the bodega, the more flavor you'll get in your chopped cheese.

Mero: It sounds very unsanitary, but you know how they do the shhhhh BANG BANG and just scrape all the meat and grease on the grill?

Desus: Yup -- that's all the flavor in there. All the fat and MSG. Yo, I was in the bodega when this gentrifier was like, "Can you change the oil when you make the french fries?"

Mero: WHAT?!

Desus: And everyone in the bodega... we just laughed and laughed.

Was it the same girl who snitched on the bodega cat on Yelp?

Desus: Was it her?! I think she might've been a nurse. We just let it go.

Is chopped cheese your hangover cure? Or do you try something else?

Desus: For a hangover, it's definitely a Gatorade and a chopped cheese. The Gatorade puts electrolytes and sugar back into your body, the chopped cheese, the fats absorb all the alcohol. I drink all the time. Constantly. AM/PM. I'm doin' that podcast while drinking. I'm drinking at work, I don't ever get hungover. It's not a problem like that.

Mero: For me, this is wild. I was out all night doin' illegal things and we go to the bodega real bright and early. It's me and my man JB. We go to the bodega, my man JB starts yellin' "Yo lemme get a bacon, egg, and cheese." We've been drinkin' and doing all types of wild shit all night. So we go there, and I'm just like wild rocky, hungover, feeling like trash... know what I'm saying? And I'm like, so yeah a bacon, egg, and cheese should do the trick. But you know a bacon, egg, and cheese always on a roll? My man JB with it like, "Yo, Papi. Yo, lemme get a bacon, egg, and cheese. Put that shit on a hero though."

Desus: Yo. You know that's too much bacon egg and cheese? You can't get a bacon, egg, and cheese on a hero. That's like when they built that tower in the bible too high and god was like "NAH!" He was like "A bacon, egg, and cheese on a hero?! I will smite you! How dare you! I will smash it down!"

Mero: But he did it and I was like, "Yo that's a great idea!" To me, that's a hangover banger, know what I'm saying? Plus, I just smoke so much weed that I don't get hangovers.

Desus: I'm the drinker, he's the smoker.

“You can't get a bacon, egg, and cheese on a hero. That's like when they built that tower in the bible too high and god was like ‘NAH!’”

Let's talk food trends. What food trends are you sick of and what food trends are you predicting for 2017?

Desus: We're in Williamsburg now, because that's where Vice is. That's where we're at. I do not like these authentic tacos. I don't like it. I do not like authentic tacos. I like the Taco Bell with the cheap, knock-off American things. I don't wanna pay $3.50 for two pieces of steak, one onion, and a fancy name on the menu. Like, that's not a taco! Give me my nasty Taco Bell. The 12 tacos for $12 with shredded government cheese. It comes with the handle so everyone knows when I'm walking out that I am a scumbag when I'm eating non-Mexican tacos.

Yeah, but when you take that to a party, you're a hero.

Desus: You'll be at a taco restaurant in Williamsburg and you're spending $30 on four tacos and you're hungry as fuck after. And you know that if you went to a nasty ass Taco Bell, for $12, you will be full for three days. You will have the violent shits, but you will be good.

Mero: To me, the future is dressing up ‘hood food. You know what I mean? Like making an artisanal bacon, egg, and cheese. Like, leave 'hood shit in the 'hood. Let us have the bacon, egg, and cheeses. Let us have the chopped cheeses. Know what I'm sayin'? Let us have all the ethnic food that people take and try to sprinkle some extra shit on... Like, "Oh, it's jerk chicken with nori flakes!" I want my chicken from the dude in the truck with the fucking smoke barrel. You know what I mean? It's like a little Jamaican carriage.

Desus: There was a woman. She had a deconstructed chopped cheese sandwich for $23 in her restaurant.

What even is that?

Desus: Exactly! Listen, go ask Papi for a deconstructed chopped cheese sandwich. He's getting the broken bat from under the counter.

Mero: Get out!!

Desus: Deconstructed. Get outta here.

Let's hit food in 2017. What do you think it's bringing?

Desus: I feel like because we're from the Bronx, we're poppin’. And we're about to be extra poppin’ out here. A lot of Bronx foods. So like, bodega snacks. Star Crunches, donut sticks.

Mero: Little Debbie!

Desus: Basically like anything in the bodega that's under $0.50. So you'll go to like, NoBu [North Bronx] or some shit and they'll have like, Charleston Chew but with fancy chocolate.

So when I open my new shop down by Vice Studios...

Desus: Call it Le Bodega. Have everyone sit on milk crates, and overcharge them for everything. $18 for a taco. Cats everywhere. Persian cats.

Mero: Cats are the centerpiece for the table.

I think I have time for one more here before I get the boot. What are three elements that an honest and true bodega must posses to be called a bodega?

Desus: The cat. Papi... the guy running it. He has to be Palestinian or Spanish. And what's the last? Oh, there has to be like a person that's not really employed there but is helping to stock the shelves.

Mero: And he gets paid in beer.

Desus: He gets paid in alcohol and he doesn't work there but he's always there, sometimes he might fight with you. He's there to make the shoplifters go away. But he's always there. He never talks to you. He might be drunk and talking to papi. But these are the key things: The cat, the papi, and the drunk.

Mero: And Papi's ignoring this guy the whole time. He's talking to Papi like, "Lemme tell you something. Donald Trump is going to change this country.” Just talking wild.

Desus: Just drunk talking shit.

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Alex Robinson is an editor at Thrillist who is still searching for NYC's best chopped cheese. Hit him up with your favorite on Twitter @itsalexrobinson

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