Dirt Cheap Eats 2009: Big Bear Cafe

Simple, fresh sandwiches and salads made with care are the reason to order more than a cappuccino at this corner cafe with a lived-in, European feel. Music swings from jazz to soul to alternative, and a seat by the tall windows yields a view of herb, flower, and vegetable gardens and a cobblestone patio.

Grilled sandwiches arrive with a salad of lightly dressed mixed greens and, perhaps, a marigold from the garden. The chicken-mozzarella-and-pesto sandwich ($7.50) gives off a lovely aroma of fresh basil, while a less substantial but tasty sandwich of spicy fig marmalade, fromage blanc, and arugula ($6.50) is a reminder of the cafe’s close ties with the neighborhood farmers market.

A turkey-apple-and-Brie sandwich ($5) and Jessie’s Salad ($7.50)—topped with grilled chicken, feta, and cucumbers—also make nice meals. Coffee is taken seriously, and your latte’s foamed milk will sport a palm-frond design.

Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; closes at 6 on weekends.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.