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RIP Bear Rock Cafe

by ARLnow.com October 7, 2010 at 3:15 pm 7,463 29 Comments

Last month we reported that the Bear Rock Cafe in Westlee had closed as the first step in a change in ownership. Now the Shirlington location has closed as well, and we’re told both will be shuttered for good.

The phone number for the Westlee location has been disconnected. The phone at the Shirlington location was answered by an employee who said both locations were closed permanently. When we asked to speak with the owner, the person on the other line hung up the phone.

It’s not immediately clear why the owners decided to close up shop. However, in recent months Yelp reviewers reported that the Shirlington location was regularly running out of menu items, a likely sign of economic distress.

“I liked the place,” said Alana Foster, who was dining outside at Busboys and Poets after discovering that Bear Rock’s doors were locked. She said she appreciated the cafe’s free Wi-Fi, the relatively low prices (compared to Busboys) and the electrical outlets for laptops under every booth.

“I’m sorry to see it go,” she said.

  • Expensive

    The food was pretty expensive and not all that exciting….

  • muckraker

    That’s a shame. The owners seemed like good people, and they tried some new things, like the Southern dinner menu.

  • NorthAdams

    it is too bad. the owners were very nice and arlington residents.
    but the concept is lacking.

  • SD

    The Westlee location wasn’t great and the food wasn’t all that great either. Shirlington is always buzzing so if if couldn’t make it there, sure wasn’t going to make it in Westlee. Put a Chipotle over there and bet you see it booming.

    • Burger

      There are two Chipotles less than 2 miles from that exact location. In fact, one is probably about 1/2 mile on Broad St.

    • DW

      I’d rather see a locally-owned place like Bear Rock (which had great food, by the way), than a national McDonald’s-owned chain like Chipotle, personally. We have enough Chipotles in Arlington already.

  • BrownFlipFlops

    I was down in NC last weekend, and saw some shuttered locations. It could be a national thing.

    • Hmm. I have a call in to a former “Bear Rock Cafe” outside of Philly that just changed its name. Sounds like trouble franchise-wide.

  • Katie

    Not a great concept. Free Wi-Fi usually translates to people using it as an office and ordering coffee refills all day.

  • RJ

    my wife told me that the service at the Westless location was downright abusive. Not surprised it closed. Shirlington though, no idea…

  • LS

    Sad to see the Shirlington location go! The prices definitely could have been cheaper for what you got, but I’m sure the rent in Shirlington isn’t cheap. The broccoli cheese soup was awesome and they had a couple of sandwiches I really liked. It was one of the only quick places to eat in Shirlington, so I will def miss that.

    SD – I emailed Chipotle and Chopt awhile ago to tell them to come to Shirlington, but neither took the bait. I think it’s a little too boutique-y for them :/

  • TB

    The service at the Shirlington location got worse and worse over the last 6 months with 45 minute waits for food on weekend mornings towards the end. It served a need for relatively inexpensive non-chain food, but the service made Luna Grill a consistantly better alternative.

  • mlk

    Now my car will stop being spammed by the Shirlington location!

  • Michael

    I wanted to like the Shirlington location, but everytime I went there was something wrong. Slow service, no wi-fi, understaffed. I think the folks who managed it were really nice, but not up to Panera standards.

  • CKeough

    I was disappointed to learn that the Westlee location closed and will not be reopening. I never had any issues to speak of with their service or food and frequented there at least 2 times a month. Will miss their Garden Sandwich and Baked potato combo.

  • NorthAdams

    Shirlington does not have enough density and public transportation options are difficult, at best. TWO restaurants have failed this year. And I’m sure a few more will go in 2011. Extra Virgin anyone?

    • Katie

      No thanks, wasn’t much fun the first time around. :p

      I noticed they were giving away appetizer coupons, and appeared in ArlNow’s last meal tax delinquency list.

    • There are a number of very successful restaurants in Shirlington Village: Carlyle, Busboys & Poets, T.H.A.I. Shirlington and Guapos.

      • NorthAdams

        Yes, there are some fantastic and extremely successful restaurants. BUT there are only so many people living and working there. How many can it handle? Where is the study? Doesn’t Arlington study everything? But seriously, restaurants survive (Clarendon, Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Dupont, The HIll) on people who live there. How many seats can Shirlington serve?

  • The restaurants that went out of business would have failed anywhere.

    • Katie

      The Vietnamese place next door was really good actually–but not well-managed I think.

  • There are lot’s of good restaurants in Shirlington that have longevity. But it’s hard to compete on that street with Busboys and Poets. You have everything there–a bar, a coffee house, a good restaurant, free wifi, and a Fair Trade gift shop. And you can sit there all day with coffee refills because plenty of others are filling the booths and tables buying meals and the bar buying drinks. Best of all worlds.

  • NovaBriian

    IMHO the general Arlington area needs less places like this-generic chains-and more local eateries. More Earl’s types and less Bear Rock/Corner Bakery*.

    I’ve heard the owners are good people and I wish them luck in their future endeavors.

    *The free Wi-Fi is a nice touch.

  • Let’s Be Free

    The urban village model has been way over-hyped. Unfortunately, you are going to see more and more of these situations in the next few years. A lot of these newly opened places were leveraged up by SBA-guaranteed loans (and thus protected from the discipline of the marketplace) — as soon as the resulting funding dries up, the food service operations go downhill, fast.

    • Rich

      The urban village model is hyped (not overhyped) for a reason. It is the only model that really works. From London, to Jamestown, to Williamsburg, to Pentagon Row the model is an example of proper planning and efficient answers to traffic and suburban sprawl. Urban villages are not new, it is just that every 15 years or so we forget about the concept and a Stafford County, Ladysmith, or (insert name here) traffic, sprawl, crime, lack of funding to keep up nightmare comes about and we return to the only thing that really works, the urban village. I’m not liberal, I’m not Arlingtonian, I have just been sitting in traffic for too long only to wish that my destination looked like Shirlington Village.

      • NorthAdams

        the model is a good model.
        Many of the lifestyle centers will not survive because they are so contrived.
        Shirlington is starting to act like an independent economy. But it still needs more people.
        Carlyle Grand used to have a long a wait. No longer with the addition of Busboys, redone chinese place, etc.
        While no wait is good for the consumer, a little bit of a wait is good for business.

  • Pedro

    I live in the Westlee and was somewhat surprised to see the Bear Rock closed. It was always busy on weekends, and I heard it was a popular spot for business lunches. That said, I’m not really disappointed. The food was mediocre and fairly expensive for what you were getting. It looks like some sort of bookstore/coffee shop/wine bar type of thing is going in there. I’m sure it’ll be jam packed with hipsters immediately.

  • Satuko

    I am soo glad they’re gone!! The owner was rude with people I saw him once telling a customer he needed to order more food if he was gonna keep using the internet!!! I was like really?? Food was greasy, cheap yes but so greasy an their employees plain rude. I went one morning around 10:40am to get breakfast and this cashier tells me that he is gonna do me a favor and serve breakfast!! There was a sign that clearly said breakfast served until 11am so I did them a favor and walked away and never came back!! So great that this place has closed!!!

    • Katie

      That’s a lot of punctuation for something that happened quite a while ago.


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