Black Bear Diner
Homemade Bread Pudding with Pecan Praline sauce a la mode
Cinnamon Roll French Toast
Traditional Bear Claw
Unbeknownst to me a regional chain with over sixty locations throughout California and parts east an early morning stop at Black Bear Diner was prompted not only by a convenient location and inviting menu, but also by the promise of a ‘dinner and a show’ – in this case the traveling “Chainsaws for Change” crew cleaving blocks of wood into all sorts of shapes while I partook in a four part breakfast…plus a couple items to go. Kitsch in décor with a pervasive log cabin theme speckled by bears both stuffed and carved it was to the tunes of the Four Tops that I entered Black Bear Diner and greeted first by a host behind the small pastry case and then by my server, Ray, the morning progressed in two courses with countless cups of coffee, the carving action outside visible through the windows while I dined. Starting sweet and progressing sweeter it was to the flavor of custard-rich, ice cream crowned bread pudding that the meal began and rife with caramel, pecans, and raisins the steamy block proved surprisingly light while a duo of fresh baked breads with whipped butter and honey proved equally well done; the $0.99 cornbread toothsome and buttery while the $2.39 biscuit was so fluffy it literally flaked apart to the tooth. Working slowly through the trio as wood chips flew it was only after the pudding was polished off that Ray put in my order for round-two and arriving piping hot the quartered cinnamon roll dressed in eggy batter and fried golden was superb, a light drizzle of cream cheese frosting mingling with the surprise of pure maple syrup into pure decadence – the sort of dish best taken with milk or coffee…and perhaps even better, shared. At this point taking my leave and settling the bill it was with two additional items that I exited the cozy confines of the Black Bear and saving them until hours later suffice it to say that it was with some disappointment that I found the signature bear claw’s pastry poorly laminated around pasty nut filling while the requested “Cinnamon Apple Bavarian Cream Pie” had been substituted by a standard, albeit delicious, traditional Apple Pie with a glossy butter crust instead – next time I guess I’ll just have to enjoy all three courses at the table instead.
THREE STARS: Somehow channeling the feel of a locals place despite being a chain while providing both food and service reminiscent of weekend breakfasts during my Midwest childhood Black Bear Diner is the sort of place every city needs and by stepping up both the novelty of the menu and the atmosphere of the space it provides a better value on the dollar than most in the family friendly comfort food genre.
RECOMMENDED: Bread Pudding, Cinnamon Roll French Toast.
AVOID: Bear Claw – far too pricey at $4.59.
TIP: Joining the E-club will net you a free Bear Claw and cup of coffee, but be aware that the email takes 24-48 hours to process. As a chain, the restaurant also offers nutritional facts on the website (and in a clever newspaper on the table)…suffice it to say I wasn’t counting calories.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor