I went to college in Olympia, Washington. I lived there for four years and for several years afterward, I made nearly weekly return trips there to perform with my improv troupe.
The location that is now the Black Bear Diner used to be a Coco's. A Coco's I had never once visited. I don't think I had ever actually eaten at a Coco's until I went to Japan. Yes, Japan, but that's a story for another time....
If you've never been to a Black Bear Diner, you are really missing out. It's a chain of diners in the greater Northwest that is not run like a chain. The first one I ate at was, I believe, in Bend, Oregon. The menu stated that each Black Bear Diner prepares things a little differently so don't go expecting the same thing at another Black Bear somewhere else.
Black Bear Diners are going for a rustic atmosphere. In fact, if it weren't for the fact they call themselves a "Diner," I might dismiss it for just the surface elements. It's nice. It's cozy. It feels like home...you know, if you lived in a restaurant.
Part of this homey-ness is that the menu is presented to you like a newspaper. The place mat gives you the history of the chain and its establishment in 1969.
On this day, I was treated to just how unchain-like a Black Bear Diner can be. The heater was broken in the restaurant and it was getting quite a bit chilly in there. I heard someone order a fresh squeezed orange juice and be informed that the juicer was broken and they only had regular juice. When it came my time to order, I was debating between the Beary Crunch French Toast or the Praline Pecan Sauce French Toast. I asked my waitress which one was better. She replied "We don't have any pecans so you have to get the crunchy." Yes, she said I "HAD" to. I wasn't going to argue. She clearly knew her stuff.
"What makes it crunchy?" Don't get ahead of yourself, Turbo. Let me first add that these are three slices of sourdough bread, battered and then rolled in crushed cornflakes. My god! This was delicious. It's probably one of my favorite things that I'd had on this entire trip.
PS- the menu does suffer from a little too much "bear" cuteness, like my Beary Crunchy French Toast or the Beary Nice to Meet You Eggs Benedict (okay I made that one up).
955 Black Lake Blvd SW
Olympia, WA 98502