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Where exactly to find Bear Buns

The family-owned, throwback coffee shop offers baked goods from scratch

Everything you want in a blueberry muffin, from Bear Buns Bakery
Everything you want in a blueberry muffin, from Bear Buns Bakery

It’s been around for going on ten years, but I’d never once seen the place before making my first order at the counter last week. East of Birdland, south of the Montgomery-Gibbs airport, up the hill from the old stadium site — it’s not that Bear Buns Bakery sits in a remote location, exactly. It’s in central Serra Mesa, circumscribed by most of the city’s major freeways. But it’s out of the way, in the sense that, with so many ways to drive past the mostly residential neighborhood, you’d pretty much have to live there to drive through.

Place

Bear Buns Bakery

3251 Greyling Dr., San Diego

Unless you’re emphatically in the mood for, say, a cinnamon roll. They’re very good: baked from scratch and, unless you request otherwise, coated with a thick glaze still practically frothing from being whipped up in the kitchen that morning.

A standalone coffee shop in Serra Mesa

The cinnamon rolls ($4.95) are definitely part of the reason I keep finding a line of people waiting to order. At first, I assume they must all live nearby. This is their neighborhood coffee shop, of course they’d line up as regulars. But then there’s a couple visiting from France, deliberating over all the pastries on display inside the glass counter: the glistening pecan sticky buns ($5.25), the gluten-free carrot cake ($4.35), or an indulgent bread pudding made from leftover cinnamon rolls ($3.95).

Cinnamon rolls draw lines daily.

The family-owned bakery sits in a small, yellow, standalone building, with a glassed-in storefront and an A-frame kitchen in the back. It’s an anachronism, given the homogeny of polished metal, mixed-use structures we’ve all grown accustomed to. And though Bear Buns has yet to finish its first decade in business, it too seems like something out of time; a throwback to neighborhood bakery counters from before such places touted high contrast cupcakes and neon-lit aphorisms embedded in leafy Instagram walls.

The "Bella" breakfast sandwich, in an Italian seasoned roll

I’m particularly impressed by the assorted muffins ($3.85). I rather stodgily stick to the classic blueberry, but more intriguing options include cranberry-orange, brown butter banana nut, and maple pumpkin.

However, I remain lukewarm on the coffee. That’s one area where the advent of contemporary specialty coffee shops have ruined me for old school establishments. But if you’re not snobby, if you take it with cream and sugar, as flavored lattes, or blended frappes, you’ll find plenty to caffeinate you, all from organic roast.

The "Basic" breakfast sandwich, with bacon on foccacia

And if you’re looking for savory options, consider how much time you have. A selection of ready-made croissant sandwiches ($4.25) will quickly get you the likes of ham and swiss, or turkey and pepper jack. But if you want one of the shop’s eggy breakfast sandwiches, expect a wait. They, too, are made from scratch, whether you stick with the house roll — a rounded bun made savory by Italian seasoning — or opt for a sandwich built on focaccia.

Easiest is to order the basic egg and cheese for $5.75, then add your choice of bacon, sausage, ham, or avocado for about a buck each. But if you like something more involved, I got a kick out of the Bella ($7) which pairs bacon and provolone with spinach, sundried tomato, and pesto. I like it a little better on focaccia than a roll, but it’s tough to go wrong here, in this less-traveled corner of Serra Mesa, where the buns are best not bare.

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Everything you want in a blueberry muffin, from Bear Buns Bakery
Everything you want in a blueberry muffin, from Bear Buns Bakery

It’s been around for going on ten years, but I’d never once seen the place before making my first order at the counter last week. East of Birdland, south of the Montgomery-Gibbs airport, up the hill from the old stadium site — it’s not that Bear Buns Bakery sits in a remote location, exactly. It’s in central Serra Mesa, circumscribed by most of the city’s major freeways. But it’s out of the way, in the sense that, with so many ways to drive past the mostly residential neighborhood, you’d pretty much have to live there to drive through.

Place

Bear Buns Bakery

3251 Greyling Dr., San Diego

Unless you’re emphatically in the mood for, say, a cinnamon roll. They’re very good: baked from scratch and, unless you request otherwise, coated with a thick glaze still practically frothing from being whipped up in the kitchen that morning.

A standalone coffee shop in Serra Mesa

The cinnamon rolls ($4.95) are definitely part of the reason I keep finding a line of people waiting to order. At first, I assume they must all live nearby. This is their neighborhood coffee shop, of course they’d line up as regulars. But then there’s a couple visiting from France, deliberating over all the pastries on display inside the glass counter: the glistening pecan sticky buns ($5.25), the gluten-free carrot cake ($4.35), or an indulgent bread pudding made from leftover cinnamon rolls ($3.95).

Cinnamon rolls draw lines daily.

The family-owned bakery sits in a small, yellow, standalone building, with a glassed-in storefront and an A-frame kitchen in the back. It’s an anachronism, given the homogeny of polished metal, mixed-use structures we’ve all grown accustomed to. And though Bear Buns has yet to finish its first decade in business, it too seems like something out of time; a throwback to neighborhood bakery counters from before such places touted high contrast cupcakes and neon-lit aphorisms embedded in leafy Instagram walls.

The "Bella" breakfast sandwich, in an Italian seasoned roll

I’m particularly impressed by the assorted muffins ($3.85). I rather stodgily stick to the classic blueberry, but more intriguing options include cranberry-orange, brown butter banana nut, and maple pumpkin.

However, I remain lukewarm on the coffee. That’s one area where the advent of contemporary specialty coffee shops have ruined me for old school establishments. But if you’re not snobby, if you take it with cream and sugar, as flavored lattes, or blended frappes, you’ll find plenty to caffeinate you, all from organic roast.

The "Basic" breakfast sandwich, with bacon on foccacia

And if you’re looking for savory options, consider how much time you have. A selection of ready-made croissant sandwiches ($4.25) will quickly get you the likes of ham and swiss, or turkey and pepper jack. But if you want one of the shop’s eggy breakfast sandwiches, expect a wait. They, too, are made from scratch, whether you stick with the house roll — a rounded bun made savory by Italian seasoning — or opt for a sandwich built on focaccia.

Easiest is to order the basic egg and cheese for $5.75, then add your choice of bacon, sausage, ham, or avocado for about a buck each. But if you like something more involved, I got a kick out of the Bella ($7) which pairs bacon and provolone with spinach, sundried tomato, and pesto. I like it a little better on focaccia than a roll, but it’s tough to go wrong here, in this less-traveled corner of Serra Mesa, where the buns are best not bare.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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