To bear hug is to envelop with love. It’s fitting David Ellertsen and Lee Hirswill posted a sign on their kitchen’s exit that reads, “Until We Meet Again – Bear Hugs”.
That’s what the partners are dishing up at Brown Bear Baking, their Orcas Island bakery. In a variety of delectable flavors and sizes, David and Lee share a big hug and lots of love with each person who visits.
When they opened in 2013, their menu featured just seven items – including their signature pecan sticky bun. Nearly the size of a dinner plate, this monstrosity borders on dessert with its nut-crusted top and soft interior.
Today, the locally owned and operated bakery is more café-esc in its offerings. The scratch-made menu has been expanded to include a seasonally-inspired collection of hearty soups and sandwiches. The fellas are even pickling their own veggies!
Formerly residing in Las Vegas, baking was initially just a passion for the two men. David and Lee, previously an architect and creative director respectively, spent their vacations at the San Francisco Baking Institute. “We took classes a week at a time because that’s what we could manage with work,” explained David as he pulled a tray of Brown Butter Toffee Cookies from the oven.
With an open-kitchen concept, the aroma of the cookies engulfed the entire restaurant and slipped outside onto the sidewalk. Pedestrians passing paused to breathe a little deeper. David smiled at the eight-inch diameter cookies. And, I tried to calm my growling tummy.
If you want your pick of pastries, I strongly recommend arriving early in the day – especially during the summer. It’s not uncommon for the pastry case to quickly sell out. Come for your morning coffee. (They make a great pour with Victrola coffee, locally roasted in Seattle.) Snag a slice of their rich quiche. (The egg-cream pies are loaded with vegetarian and meat options.) Then finish off your meal with a sweet treat, like one of their delicate aux amandes or seasonal apple gallettes.