At first glance Bear Bar & Restaurant in LIC may appear random.
But every aspect — from interior design to a “chef-driven” menu — harmonizes and creates an inviting atmosphere with distinctive dishes.
Yes, Bear Bar is different. There is a guitar, books and paintings gracing the right wall of the restaurant, while the left side glitters with colored stones. The front wall opens like a garage gate, almost welcoming patrons home, while providing a natural outdoor feel.
“For us as a concept restaurant, we’re not like a diner, we’re not like an ethnic restaurant, we’re not a French restaurant or whatever,” Natasha Pogrebinsky, executive chef and co-founder, said. “These are books from home. These are my father’s paintings. That is my guitar. It’s all personal.”
Natasha and her brother Alex Pogrebinsky, immigrants from the Ukraine, built and opened Bear last year. She cooks all orders herself, while Alex does everything else; bartending, waiting, even managing the website.
She was a history teacher, but they decided to enter the restaurant business years ago on a whim inspired by Natasha’s passion and talent for cooking.
The name Bear doesn’t have an exact meaning either, she noted. It was chosen spontaneously from the siblings’ journeys, when they would see popular bear statues at rest spots in Pennsylvania.
The menu, of course, follows this same improvised mentality. It changes daily based on what ingredients Natasha finds at local farmers’ markets she visits every morning.
“My style is, if I’m inspired by something, I get so excited about it that I want you to try it,” Natasha said. “That’s the point of my menu. It’s like I’m cooking for friends.”
Don’t let the unstructured style fool you, though. The appetizers and entrées Natasha crafts every night are as creative as they are flavorful. Moreover, her daily menu has something for everyone, as it ranges from pastas and seafood to salads and steak.
An example is her crab cakes. Her version of the usually bread-based treat is jumbo crab meat covered with a creamy mayo and mustard sauce, served on light flaky toast with kiwi parse.
A house special is roasted duck. It’s one of the few dishes that is a mainstay on the menu because of its popularity. The roasted bird bursts with juice and seemingly melts when eaten. It is served with apples and plums, which bring out even more flavor.
Bear also has a wide range of drinks to go with Natasha’s cooking, including beer, wine, juices, coffee and fun, tasty cocktails that Alex blends. One cocktail, properly named “The Demon,” mixes whiskey, gin, vodka and coffee; the siblings ignite brown sugar at the table before dipping a flaming spoon into the drink.
“The neighborhood is open to new restaurants, new ideas,” Natasha said. “It feels like a different world here. It’s not Brooklyn, it’s not Manhattan, its Queens.”
Bear Bar & Restaurant
12-14 31st Avenue
Long Island City, NY, 11106
Dinner Tuesday-Sunday 6 -11 p.m.
Brunch Sunday noon – 3 p.m.