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Drew Reid and Michelle Nieman
People Parade: Drew Reid and Michelle Nieman find a quiet space to sip on their bottomless coffees one Saturday night at Great Bear & Los Osos Cafe.

Oso Special

The simple life endures amid the mayhem at Great Bear

By Melissa Hunt

Great Bear & Los Osos Cafe
19 N. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos 408.395-8607

AMID THE FLURRY of sophistication on the far West Side, Great Bear & Los Osos Cafe is a refreshing gulp of down-to-earthiness. Unlike some of the homes, shops and restaurants in its own neighborhood, Great Bear, like its namesake totem, remains steadfast and simple.

In Great Bear, people seem to behave themselves without really trying. Ceiling fans turn lazily amid old-fashioned chandeliers. Coffee drinkers sit at round, neatly polished tables in slat-back chairs. An exposed brick wall shows off photographs by Andy Nozaka. Oodles of coffee beans line the back wall, fronted by a long wooden bar, not the usual in coffeehouse seating.

As a place to people-watch, Great Bear is king. On a weekend night, a casual observer can take in everything from flocks of college-age trendies to dotcommers in their weekend wear, from colorful old money to almost-alienated youth.

If you sit and sip a hot chocolate-topped chai or a bottomless cuppa joe for two bucks, you'll be treated to a constant stream in the street. Here comes Mr. Bean's twin. There goes a woman with a stroller like a BarcaLounger on wheels, her little King Tut perched rather unhappily atop its plump cushions. A bespectacled guy at the next table, in sweatpants and a corduroy shirt, barely peeks out from behind his Business section when I ask if I can borrow the chair next to him. He manages a grunt.

My attention turns to a swanky-looking, well-dressed couple on the other side of me. As intensely as they are indulging in one another, it's so obvious. First date.

Aside from the usual offering of coffees, teas and espresso drinks, Great Bear's a good dessert stop, with rhubarb pie, cheesecake, chocolate truffle cake and fresh-baked pumpkin and lemon breads. If your tummy's growling for a fill-up, try the quiche or pesto calzone. During the day, when the kitchen is open, the menu is more extensive.

Imagine a real bear sitting peacefully amid the noise and haste of N. Santa Cruz Ave. Imagine no busybodies rushing off to call animal control. That's the feeling of Great Bear.

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From the June 22-28, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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