Big Bear Cafe combines charming nature and tasty food


Photo courtesy of Harper Dunn and Anya Herzberg

Ruby Mason and Isabelle Pala

Imagine being surrounded by a curtain of vines and newly planted flowers. You sit down at a rustic wooden table while sipping your warm cup of hot chocolate. The buzz of activity around you seems distant as you take in the beautifully designed exterior.

That’s exactly the atmosphere Big Bear Cafe creates for their customers. Located on the corner of 1st and R Street NW, this cozy little cafe opened in 2006 and has been operating in the Bloomingdale neighborhood ever since. The staff is extremely welcoming and friendly, and the service is fast.

Weekdays are the best time to go because the lines aren’t too long and seating is usually available. Although the tables are a bit wobbly and you have to clean them yourself, the cafe is a great workplace for studying due to its cozy and quiet environment.

Big Bear Cafe also offers an outdoor seating area decorated with plants and string lights. The cafe is prepared for a cold fall with heating lamps. As you sit outside, you are immediately encompassed by nature, and realize that nature may be a bit closer than you think (both of us were bombarded with a not so welcome substance: bird poop).

The beverages at the Big Bear Cafe are individually made and delicately crafted, perfect for chilly fall afternoons. We ordered iced coffee, chai tea lattes, and hot chocolate, which were all refreshing, sweet, and rich. The cafe also offers a large variety of food, from lox bagels to tortilla soup.

One staff member, Henry, said the most popular and delicious items include the “grass-fed beef burger, the cheddar mac-and-cheese, and the chai latte,” and the last, we can validate. Dinner is available every day starting at 5 p.m. with a frequently changing menu.

We highly recommend the pulled pork sandwich, made of tender pork with a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, then topped with homemade coleslaw and placed on a toasted bun. They also offer vegan and vegetarian options such as the beet burger and farro pasta with roasted vegetables. In addition, almost all ingredients are fresh from local farms.

If you’re in the mood for something sweet, Big Bear Cafe also serves pastries such as cookies and biscuits, which are great for dipping into warm coffee since they are a bit dry. The manager, Ashley Shey, described the cafe as “a great community for all kinds of people.” In one word, she would describe the cafe as “comfortable.”

Based on our experience, we definitely recommend visiting Big Bear Cafe. So next time you are in the NoMa-Gallaudet area, make sure to stop by this lovable little cafe!