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Aug 28, 2014
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The Great Grizzly Bear Sets Itself Apart
By Steven Fitzpatrick Smith
Posted On: 09/01/2002   

Soulard is full of original corner tavern bars that lend a comfortable and natural neighborhood feel. Too few neighborhoods understand how a bar is integrated into its fabric. But the new owner of The Great Grizzly Bear, George Albers, understands how a neighborhood bar needs to set itself apart to gain the respect of the discerning Soulard drinker.

There have been several changes over the past year to this landmark establishment, but the Grizzly Bear, located in the thick of Soulard, is one of the longest-running bars in this traditional neighborhood. The recipe for its success is great music provided by the Soulard Blues Band and Billy Peek on regularly scheduled weekly performances. The crowd is diverse, with a strong contingent of older music fans checking out Peek, who played with Rod Stewart in the ‘70s. The younger crew starts to roll in later, to fill out and eventually pack the club regularly. The live music on other nights of the week ranges from blues to bluegrass to rock.

The dark wood interior of this bar breathes the history of its surroundings. The staging, with the band in the front windows and the bar in the rear, does not separate the musicians from the crowd and allows the patrons to give the music their undivided attention. The bar is far enough away from the performance space to allow for a more social atmosphere in which the music is an integral part of the fun, but not the absolute focus of the good time.

The drinks are eclectic, with Fat Tire Amber Ale, Schlafly Hefeweizen and Amber Bock on tap, beers like Corona and Amstel Light in bottles and 16 assorted vodkas. For those wanting a sip early, the beer before 5 p.m. is at a pauper’s price. Unlike many Soulard establishments, the Grizzly Bear does not draw upon Louisiana for its theme or its food, instead drawing upon our river city’s traditions. The restaurant smokes almost all of its meats itself and prides itself as a smokehouse and barbecue restaurant, adding to its individualistic flair.

The brick-floored courtyard is the urban drinkers’ outdoor paradise. Natural brick walls surround the garden and a fountain pond compliments the experience. The “Bear” garden, as they call it, has an organic feel thanks to a layout that is at the mercy of the surrounding buildings, which provide many of the courtyard’s walls. There are nooks and crannies that give the space a natural effect, unlike more formally planned courtyards.

Later in the evening, at dusk, the tables are set with tea lights, which give the yard a distinctly intimate feel. The sense of place is strong at the Grizzly Bear, from its corner location on the outside to the unique outdoor patio at its heart.

There are scores of bars to choose from in Soulard alone, but there are reasons to go to specific taverns. The Grizzly Bear has the key ingredients necessary to a popular Soulard drinking establishment, but it its own strong identity is a natural lure to the thirsty, discerning patron.

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