Big praise for Big Bear out of 5.
Location-4(Big Bear Cafe occupies an island corner at First and R Street NW, just off Florida Avenue. The location is a little odd and it is hard to determine where the hoards of people are coming from. There is a lot of residential apartments around but not much else in terms of shops and restaurants. It appears that as the Shaw-Howard area is developed more there will be more spill over to old corners such as Big Bear’s).
Barista Cuteness-4.5(Barista’s are charming, helpful, and seem to be in a very joyous mood. They often chit chat with people sitting at the bar and will periodically circulate to make sure everyone is satisfied. There is not a clearly defined system for calling out drink and food orders which leads to a bit of confusion, but if there voices weren’t muffled by their oversized chunky circle scarves, they wouldn’t be true hip baristas now would they)?
Coffee Knowledge/Expertise-4.5(I have kept my drink orderings pretty simple at Black Bear, ordering a house coffee and pot of tea thus far. While I have not been able to apply the cappuccino test yet I can comment on the drinks that I have had. Counter Culture Coffee, one of my favorite espresso roasters extremely impressed me with their drip coffee beans. While I do not know the specific name of the house brew being served up I know it was one of the most delicious, house brew black coffees I have ever had. There was definitely blackberry and other fruit flavors present along with a strong boldness and crisp finish. On my second outing my friend and I split a large pot of Jasmine Pearl tea. Our first cup was great but the tea turned soapy in taste pretty quickly and we had no obvious way to remove the over soaked leaves from the pot, sadly).
Ambiance-5(Big Bear knows hot to do cute decoration and simple furniture choices. The inside look is very rustic with wooden tables and chairs. The colors are rich and dark, burgundy bar stools do not clash with the wooden atmosphere and carved out booths are spacious and comfortable. There is a great, sturdy, communal table that anchors the room and slender windows that perfectly frame cozy two-tops. The outdoor seating is also a treat and there is a canopy of Edison style lights over the entire patio. There is a lot of seating but a pretty high demand, so snagging a table is the biggest challenge).
Pastry/Food Selection-4(Camping out at Big Bear is easy because it doubles as a Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner restaurant as well as a cafe. On my first leisurely Sunday I enjoyed an amazingly zesty pulled pork sandwich that had an incredible sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. The bowl of navy beans I chose as my side was quite cold and sad but they were very fresh in quality. The second trip to Big Bear was all about getting work done via pastry motivation. My friend and I split a brown sugar cookie and vegan peanut butter cookie. The peanut butter cookie was really good and you couldn’t even tell it was vegan, always a plus. The brown sugar cookie was a chocolate chip cookie minus the satisfying chocolate chips, so it tasted great but was slightly disappointing. We decided having standard chocolate cookies would have been far too mainstream).
Overall Rating: 4.4