Bear Paw Café
St. George, Utah (last visit: May 2009).
As near as I can tell, the Bear Paw Café (or is it the Bear Paw Coffee Company) is a St. George institution, serving breakfast and lunch 365 days a year. It's a convenient stop when traveling between Las Vegas and Zion, Bryce, or Grand Canyon (north rim) National Parks.
The menu is huge, running on for about 25 pages. Drinks include all manner of juices, coffees and teas, as well as hot chocolate, hot vanilla, Italian sodas and smoothies. Breakfast choices include all the standards, plus crepes, quiche, and much more. Lunch choices are more modest, consisting mostly of a large number of sandwiches.
The feel is that of a typical café. The floor is carpeted, which is nice in theory, but tends to show all the dirt and food that patrons drop. Tables are crowded close together, but chairs with casters make maneuvering a lot easier.
It's interesting how the atmosphere of a place can change depending upon the day's circumstances. Before I went the first time, I had read that it got crowded; the reports were correct. I arrived on a Sunday at 9:30 am. The restaurant was nearly full, but I was lucky and got the last empty table. Shortly thereafter, there was a line that literally went out the door. Despite the crowd, service was prompt and cheerful and food arrived reasonably quickly. Large windows allow lots of light into the room, making it pretty cheerful.
My second experience was very different. On a Sunday in May at 8 am, the place was almost empty; only four other tables were occupied. There was little lighting in the room, and it wasn't bright enough outside for the windows to help much. Things seemed a little dreary. Perhaps this mood infected the staff as well; service was prompt but not cheerful.
Oh, the things I do to my body when on vacation. I started with hot chocolate. Made with what tasted like whole milk, it was very chocolaty, with a nice big glob of real whipped cream on top. Good stuff!
A short stack of pancakes followed. A short stack consisted of two good sized pancakes; it was plenty of food. The pancakes were a little different than normal. Made with at least a little coarse corn meal, they were light, sweet, and had a slight crunch - a bit of a corn bread taste. There was also a bit of a tangy flavor - buttermilk, perhaps? It sounds great, but the pancakes tasted a little bit too much like corn bread and not enough like pancakes. I'd classify them as good enough to be worth eating, but not good enough to order a second time.
I started with a proven winner. Hot chocolate was as good as last time. Next came Old Fashioned French Toast: four large, thick slices of somewhat eggy, dense bread, with a slight cinnamon flavor. It was a good but not great version of traditional French Toast; it needed more egg to get a better rating. I like the plain version, so it suited me. If you like things a little fancier, they also offer a version where each slice is filled with "spiced apples, vanilla brule cream or chocolate brule cream [sic]."
The food wasn't bad, but I can't recommend going out of your way to eat here. On the other hand, it was certainly better than my meals at Bryce or the Grand Canyon's north rim. If you're in the area, it makes a pleasant place to stop and refresh yourself.
The meals were about $10 plus tip.
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