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Saturday morning, August 29, 2009, I found myself heading north on Ca. State Route 99, at the small Butte County town of Gridley, on my way to the Chico Air Show.  Generally at 0730 on a Saturday morning, I have one thing, and one thing only on my mind:  Breakfast, and since I was passing through Gridley, a stop for breakfast at Black Bear Diner seemed the proper thing to do.

Photo:  Black Bear Diner, features good old fashioned family food, served in a family-friendly atmosphere.

My wife and I enjoyed breakfast at Black Bear Diner in Reno, Nevada a couple of years ago, so I'm quite familiar with the format of the restaurant, the friendly service, the gigantic portions, and the delicious food that Black Bear prides themselves on.  Black Bear Diner is a small chain of nearly 30 restaurants, located in the Western United States, and true to the name, each restaurant is "bear themed," which is an excellent way to promote their brand. You know that you're at Black Bear Diner, as there is bear "stuff" everywhere you look.  The restaurant's web site states Black Bear's mission and values, as "At Black Bear Diner, our mission is to be the pre-eminent family dining concept, providing excellent food and value, served in a fun, uniquely bear themed atmosphere, by friendly, committed and knowledgeable employees."  

Black Bear Diner's decor is very rustic, as it's comprised mostly of paneled wood, even on the ceiling.  Seating consists of a mixture of tables and booths, with a nice breakfast counter placed in front of the kitchen.  The "bear theme" is readily apparent, as there are stuffed bears, wooden bears, bear pictures and posters... and yes, the Gridley location includes the obligatory gift shop where you can purchase bear merchandise, just in case you didn't get enough of a bear fix during your visit to the restaurant.  As I walked into the restaurant, I was immediately greeted by a friendly greeter, and seated in the main dining room, near a window that looks out to State Route 99, as it passes through the small Sacramento Valley farming town of Gridley.

Photo:  Black Bear's dining room is cheerful, rustic and very comfortable.  Naturally, it's squeaky clean!

Next, I was greeted by my waitress, Barbara, who brought the breakfast menu printed on news print, which resembled a small newspaper.  She asked me if I wanted coffee, and I replied with an enthusiastic "Yes!"  and in a moment I was rewarded with a delicious cup of coffee, that never seemed to get empty, no matter how much I drank.

Black Bear Diner features an extensive breakfast menu, with a line-up sure to put a smile on the face of a breakfast enthusiast.  The menu proudly states that they use large plates, as the portions are huge, and they will gladly supply a container to take home any extra.  If you're not in the mood for a huge breakfast, their menu has a section titled "A Little Less" which are scaled-down entrees, with scaled-down prices.  In my case, I ordered my favorite breakfast:  Fried eggs, homestyle potatoes, with a biscuit and gravy on the side.  

Photo:  Here's the view that greets you as you enter the restaurant.  Note the jukebox to the left of the photo, and the wooden bear sitting on the counter.

As I waited for my order to arrive, I got a chance to take in the decor, watch the traffic on the highway, and check out my fellow diners.  Black Bear caters to a local crowd, and on the last Saturday morning in August, harvest was in full swing, so Black Bear Diner seemed to be a "who's who" of local ranchers, most of whom were dressed in western fashion, and arrived at the restaurant in their pickup trucks.  In case you're wondering, many peaches, plums and nut crops are grown in the Gridley area, and harvested in late August and early September.

My delicious breakfast arrived in a very timely manner, delivered by my friendly waitress Barbara.  I don't recall how the subject came up, but we started talking about grandchildren; she has a 5 year old granddaughter, and I have a 10 year old grandson.  Naturally I had to remark to her that she looked way too young to have a granddaughter; ladies seem to like that!  There was no doubt in my mind that I would get enough to eat, as the breakfast was HUGE, as it completely filled the large plate.  Black Bear Diner is not kidding when they state that their portions are huge, as the portions are gigantic, and should satisfy the appetite of a hungry lumberjack, or at least a dude on his way to an air show.

Photo:  My friendly waitress Barbara poses for my digital camera with my breakfast.

Not only was the breakfast at Black Bear Diner gigantic, but it was delicious.  I often judge a good breakfast by the quality and quantity of the homestyle potatoes that I usually order, and Black Bear Diner excelled in that area.  The potatoes were cooked to a golden brown, and were not greasy, and included diced white onions, along with both red and green bell pepper slices.  How many restaurants serve both red and green bell pepper slices?  Not many, but Black Bear does.  I ordered fried eggs over easy, and they arrived cooked perfectly to order.  A large, freshly made biscuit rounded out the plate, and the gravy was in a separate bowl.  To enhanced the presentation, the breakfast included a twisted slice of orange, and a sprig of parsley.  (I always eat the garnish...)  Everything was fresh, made in-house, cooked perfectly, and served by Barbara, a friendly, enthusiastic server.

Photo:  I asked Barbara to take my photo, and she graciously did.  Check out the size of that plate!

I managed to eat my entire breakfast, but it took some doin' and I cheated the hot dog vendors out of a sale or two at the air show, as the breakfast kept me full until dinner, nearly 12 hours later.  Not only are the portions gigantic, but the food is simply delicious, and the service was as good as it gets.  Barbara was very gracious to allow me to take her photo, and she happily took my photo upon my request.  At the end, as I paid for my delicious breakfast, her wonderful attitude was rewarded with a generous tip.

Photo:  My delicious breakfast... check out that huge biscuit!  Note that the coffee mug and the glass are branded with the Black Bear logo.  The paper napkin even features bear paws...

When you're traveling the highways and byways of the Western United States, and you're in the mood for a delicious breakfast, make bear tracks for the nearest Black Bear Diner.  Specifically, if you're tooling down Interstate 5, in Northern California, a detour to Gridley, and the Gridley Black Bear Diner will make your morning!

Gridley Black Bear Diner
1586 Highway 99E
Gridley, CA 95948
530 846-3043

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