Blind Bear

"Bear" Breakfast

A few weeks ago, I decided to break my typical Saturday routine of eating brunch at Bardog Tavern by having it at a "non-traditional" restaurant. Of course, 2020 has been non-traditional in a lot of ways due in large part to COVID-19, putting stress on both the public and the economy. In particular, the coronavirus has taken a toll on small businesses like restaurants and bars that rely on large volumes of customers for their livelihood. That task has been made harder because of various measures by state and local governments limiting the operating hours and capacity that restaurants and bars can have. This has resulted in many restaurants and bars (particularly new ones like the recently departed Lucky Cat Ramen restaurant) to close and forced many others to take extreme measures (like laying off employees) to stay open. One "limited service restaurant" (the official Tennessee designation for a bar) that has fought hard for its survival is Downtown Memphis' favorite "speakeasy," the Blind Bear. Known as a late night bar and music venue where folks young and old can party the night away while drinking the intoxicating libations served by its bartenders. Surprisingly, the "Bear" serves a delicious menu of burgers and other bar food (including its delicious 14 oz. cast iron ribeye) that has gotten rave reviews. 14 oz. Cast Iron Ribeye with Mac 'n Cheese from Blind Bear Speakeasy in Memphs, TennesseeFor those familiar with this blog, I talked about its sliders in Ken's Food Find's much heralded series "Battle of the Downtown Memphis Sliders" that began and ended at the location of the Blind Bear. Since then, the speakeasy no longer serves sliders but in its place is the Jager BBQ Burger that is among the best in Downtown Memphis. It's one of many items in a recently expanded menu that includes an unlikely subset: breakfast.
Given all the things that Blind Bear serves, why focus on breakfast? The better question is why the Blind Bear focused on breakfast. With the operating restrictions imposed on it, the bar had to do something to keep its doors open. Prior to the global pandemic, the "Bear" served brunch on the weekends and never opened before 11:00 A.M. Now due to the current environment, owner Jeanette Comans decided to expand weekend brunch into daily breakfast throughout the week starting at 7:00 A.M. (without alcohol, so no mimosas or Bloody Marys during the first four hours after opening). So far, I don't know how successful that has been, but I hope the breakfast menu will help keep one of my favorite bars open during these troubling times.

Blind Bear Omelette

For my first official "breakfast" at Blind Bear, I decided to get an omelet, one of my favorites at Bardog. Initially, I wanted to get it with bacon, cheddar cheese and a lot of veggies, but that would have been costly because the "Bear" charges extra for anything beyond what's included in the Bear Omelette. Fortunately, the omelet has a lot in it, including mushrooms, onions, jalapeños and tomatoes so it wasn't lacking in substance. For a little extra, I added steak to the omelet for a more meaty breakfast that turned out being a good decision. Overall, the omelet was quite good in a way that really hit the spot. The eggs were fluffy and slightly charred (similar to omelets I had during my Air Force years in Europe) and hefty on the inside. The strips of steak was tender and tasty and everything else was superb.
For sides, I got bacon and hash browns (I believe they're called "home fries") that went well with the omelet. I was surprised that the hash browns included onions, adding a little "bite" that I wasn't looking for but I was cool with it. Personally, I wish the onions were more caramelized but that's more of a preference than a gripe. Still, the sides were good and made the breakfast very delightful.

Blind Bear Speakeasy's Chicken and Waffles

In the past, my favorite brunch item at Blind Bear was the chicken and waffles. I usually get it with sides of scrambled eggs and sausage to round it out. While the chicken wings isn't on par with Gus's, it is quite good and makes for great bar food by itself (and it goes great with its famed mac 'n cheese). It's well seasoned yet mildly tasty in a way that is very satisfying. The waffle and everything else is decent, making for a nice meal. Now that the Bear's Chicken and Waffles is available seven days a week, I will try to get it whenever I can.

SIDE NOTE: Whenever I write about a restaurant, I usually refer to its online menu to ensure accuracy. If I can offer a piece of advice to Blind Bear's webmaster: put the menu in an SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format. Unlike JPEGs, PNGs and other bitmap images, an SVG image looks good on any screen with very little pixelation. Reading the menu from Bear's website on my phone was a strain on my old eyes. Anyway, I'm not trying to stir things up or be controversial but rather making an objective observation based on what I see.

From what I had so far, it seems like the Blind Bear's expansion into the breakfast realm is off to a good start and I hope it has much success. If this becomes a regular feature post-COVID-19, it should bolster the Bear's status as one of the best restaurants/nightspots in Downtown Memphis.

UPDATE: A day after posting this review, Jeanette announces on Facebook that breakfast will be discontinued at Blind Bear because it wasn't profitable. I'm sure it's a disappointment to the entire Blind Bear staff, but all might not be lost. It's possible that instead of breakfast, the "Bear" could serve daily brunch instead, starting at 10:00 A.M. Hopefully the breakfast/brunch menu won't change, but that remains to be determined.

NOTE: By the way, Blind Bear usually participates in Memphis' annual Downtown Dining Week (DDW) promotion that runs through the first week of November. The promotion consists of participating restaurants offering some of their dinner entrées (usually in an appetizer/main course/dessert combination) for a price equivalent of the numbered year divided by a hundred (example: 2020's DDW price is $20.20). It's a great deal from many of Memphis' finest restaurants that you can never get at any other time of the year. Because it is such a good deal, it's best to make reservations far in advance.

Blind Bear Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

NOTE: One way to support your favorite restaurant is through Rally for Restaurants, an organization dedicated to supporting bars and restaurants in their time of need. It's a one stop website for placing online orders and buying gift cards for participating restaurants (the Blind Bear isn't participating in this, but online ordering can be done through Doordash and gift cards can be bought directly from the "Bear"). Also, for every time that the hashtag #RallyForRestaurants is used in social media, one dollar is donated via (another organization helping restaurants and its workers) to community organizations supporting local restaurants. It's a good cause that I hope people get behind.

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