Bear Rock Cafe Review: 2.5 out of 5

I visited a new cafe with a friend recently in Shirlington. It’s part of the newly developed part right at the end of the strip and we were looking for something fast but still with great food.

Bear Rock Cafe had just opened it’s doors the day before we tried it out, and I’ll give most of their staffing and timing issues a nod to it being their second day on the job. I do hope, however, that if I visit again in a few weeks we wouldn’t encounter some of the same issues.

Bear Rock is a small chain in just a few state. You might want to call it a rustic (and more personal and original) version of Panera Bread and has a less “corporate” feel about it. At Bear Rock you aren’t one of a thousand and so it has a more intimate feel. Their menu is also much more diverse and the food has much better presentation.

On service: While the staff was certainly friendly, they didn’t really seem to be in working mode while my friend and I stood around not knowing where to go after we paid for our food and had to ask several times if we waited at the counter or if we were supposed to sit down and the food was brought out. I think I give a lot of grace when it comes to service issues because I myself, like a lot of/most people, did my time in the restaurant world as a youngster and know it is a) rarely easy and b) rarely fun to deal with customers. That being said, I do find a problem with asking if we should stay at the counter or sit down and seemingly annoying the employees.

I did appreciate that the manager came out to my friend and myself to ask personally how our meal was and when she said that hers was okay but not great, he did offer to bring her something else or to throw in a dessert. Neither offer was taken and we were definitely polite, but I did like that he came out to the main area to ask how things were going. Other items I would chock up to second-day-issues were that the woman taking our orders couldn’t really answer any of our menu questions and also their credit card machine was in some way not working – I’m not entirely sure since my friend bought our meals. Whatever it was, the only explanation was “oh, it’s not working.”

The atmosphere of the Bear Rock Cafe is lovely, however. With warm tones, high table seating, booth and bench seating, couch and chairs in front of a fire place, and regular tables, there are a variety of ways to make yourself comfortable there. Going to hang out with your laptop and have coffee? Great place to sit in a booth or in front of the fire and mantle. Quick lunch? Lots of close tables with plenty of chairs. I enjoy when a place can please customers that are looking for very different things at the same time.

Although I don’t make it to Shirlington often (maybe just once every few months), the location was great and there’s a huge (and free!) parking deck just about a third of a block away and across the street that is for customer parking. it was well-lit and had dozens of empty spots at peak time.

The food at Bear Rock Cafe was debatable. I loved my Napa Valley Salad ($7.29) with his smoked turkey, greens, bacon, mushrooms, pecans, cranberries and pinot nor shallot vinaigrette. Other entree salads include a Santa Fe BBQ, Mount Fuji, their traditional Lodge Salad, Chicken Caesar, and a few more creative options.

Their “Pizzetas” selection are personal size thin-crust pizzas, of which my friend has the Pepperoni. All she really wanted was a cheese pizzeta and they were not able to do that because they are prepared with all the toppings so she ended up just picking off the pepperoni. Other pizzetas: BBQ Chicken, Roasted Vegetable, Greek. Their menu is divided up nicely by style or food where you could really say, “I have a taste for…” and go to that section. Vegetarians have no fear – although there are only a few options, you have your own section on the menu as well.

Overall I think that Bear Rock in Shirlington has potential. I enjoyed the food and the atmosphere and believe that if I go back in a few weeks I might have a different take on the service issues, but if I return I’ll update my post. For now on a 1 to 5 rating scale, for the type of restaurant they are going for, I would give them a 2.5 with the potential to be a 4.

Has anyone else been to this one or a different location and have other opinions?

1 Comment so far

  1. Stockard Channing (unregistered) on December 29th, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

    There are Bear Rocks everywhere in North carolina. they are usually pretty good.

    get the SASQUASH!

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