Founder and Operator Jason Dugan knew he wanted to open a restaurant from an early age. His idea was to create an atmosphere where a welcoming staff would host a giant party each evening. Jason believed that a tapas-style dining experience could only compliment this vision, and would give guests the opportunity to taste a wide variety of dishes.
Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, in which the main character, Santiago, closely links his life’s work as a fisherman with his own core values, Jason set out to turn this dream into a reality. Continuing with the Hemingway theme, Key West, Florida seemed as good a place as any to begin this adventure. In 2004, armed with love and support from family and friends, and equipped with a trailer crammed to the brink of explosion, Jason traded Kansas City for the Southernmost City of the Continental USA.
Two years of hectic hurricane seasons and the usual difficulties in opening a restaurant threatened to shut down the dream before it had a chance to get off the ground. But, like Santiago, the team persevered, and Jason’s vision flourished.
Now, over a decade later, Santiago’s Bodega is the embodiment of Jason’s dream: a welcoming neighborhood restaurant where you can enjoy great food with family and friends who turn into family.
Please take a moment to look around you and note the love and dedication that goes into creating each Bodega. Creative Director, artist Robert Henry Thompson, is responsible for not only the remarkable artwork, but also for the look and feel that so acutely defines Santiago’s Bodega. Under Robert’s leadership, the tables and bar have been built using reclaimed wood, the stained-glass doors have been uniquely pieced together, and the floors have been hand-laid. Even the outdoor signs are handcrafted, built by family out of wood harvested from an old barn at Jason’s childhood home. As with his food, Jason believes that building each restaurant from scratch provides a quality not attainable with ordering preassembled product.
Stained glass and extraordinary flooring may help set a tone, but the staff at Santiago’s Bodega is, without a doubt, the number one reason for success. These team members are here to welcome you to our house, and to throw the best party each and every evening. Thank you for enjoying our neighborhood restaurant. The entire team wishes you good health and great food.