Dive #1: The Crippled Bear Inn

June 17, 2012

With a list of beers and malt liquors as long as your arm, a speedy hot breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and a few taxidermied game to keep you company while you dine, The Crippled Bear Inn is an experience. Taxidermy is typically not to my taste (though I highly recommend the independent film Taxidermia, not for the faint of heart). I prefer décor to be a little subtler. But The Crippled Bear is the sort of place that wouldn’t feel quite right without it.

It’s got bare, varnished wood walls inside, typical diner tables, a bar that’s lined with chandeliers made of antlers, and a reputation for making a fine hot wing.  

The woman who waited on us was excellent, practiced, and fast, and though there wasn’t anything particularly imaginative on the menu, it was all cheap. And a lot of it was deep fried.  Two huge wins in my book when assessing a diner or dive.

My friend who introduced me to the place raved about the burgers. She intimated they’re as big as your head. No fooling. They are. And, on request, served with hand-cut French fries, which was pretty neat.

We are both massive macaroni and cheese fans, so we ordered the Mac and Cheese Wedges to start. Arriving piping hot, the grease practically sizzling on the breading, no dipping sauce needed, these little pellets of potential cardiac arrest were fine indeed. Squishy and salty in the right ways, the day-glow orange sauce squeezed between our teeth, and sometimes a gal just can’t get enough of that forced, synthetic cheddar flavor.

I ordered the Buffalo Chicken and Blue sandwich, which was a breaded, fried chicken cutlet dunked in their hot wing sauce, served with lettuce, tomato, and a side of bleu cheese dressing. I asked them to replace the potato chips with fries because you all know my antagonism toward obligatory potato chips. And though my disappointments with the sandwich were small and, probably, unreasonable, they were this: If a sandwich is called a Chicken and Blue sandwich, I’d like the blue to be in the sandwich, not on the side. And while the Kaiser roll was pretty tasty, I think they should’ve toasted it.  

Still, it was the kind of comfort food that dripped down to my elbows and had to be tackled with a fork for the last third.  

The wing sauce was pretty boss. I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur, but I have a pretty high tolerance for heat, and at home, we debate the virtues of Frank’s vs. Louisiana or Crystal pretty hotly. See what I did there?

My pal had a burger which was also dripping and so large she didn’t finish. It was also served on a Kaiser roll, and she also upgraded to fries over chips. She was pleased.  

Their coffee was not extraordinary, though I can hardly penalize a dive for having mediocre coffee, and it was served in the perfect-sized mug. They aren’t stingy with the cream, and all the sugar accoutrements were right there on on the table. It must’ve been a twelve-ounce mug, dark blue, with a white Crippled Bear logo on the side. The thing about a bigger mug? The coffee stays hot longer, and to me, that’s a big deal: if it ain’t good, please make it hot.

Crippled Bear Inn does that exceedingly well.

They also have an excellent website at www.crippledbearinn.com.

So I will award five capers for service, four for food, and three for atmosphere, making The Crippled Bear Inn a straight-up four-caper place.      

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