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Your tummy is sure to growl at The Bear‘s Den

Al Parker - February 22nd, 2010
Your tummy is sure to growl at the Bear’s Den
By Al Parker
Stroll into the Bear’s Den Pizzeria and you’re immediately surrounded by the aura of the legendary hunter and businessman to whom the restaurant pays homage.
Images of that craggy, wide smile, basset hound eyes and rakishly tilted battered Borsolino hat mean that the spirit of Fred Bear is alive and well in downtown Grayling.
“I hunted with a Fred Bear bow at 13, “recalls Bill Gannon, owner of the restaurant. “My Dad started me out on that and I’ve been a hunter ever since.”
Gannon’s father was a conservation officer and a friend of Bear’s. “Every story you hear about Fred Bear is about how he was a very kind person,” says Gannon. “He was just a real down-to-earth, nice guy. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a negative thing about him.”
That respect for Bear led Gannon to open the pizzeria a few years ago and display his huge collection of Bear memorabilia that he had collected over the decades. Several large framed Bear Archery advertisements line the walls and some 40 Bear bows and dozens of arrows are on display.

“When the Bear factory moved to Florida, people in Grayling were disappointed that there was no place to pay tribute to Fred Bear,” explains Marianne McEvoy, curator of the Bear’s Den collection. “We moved some 40 boxes of items into the Bear’s Den to display the dozens of bows, arrows, memorabilia and other artifacts.”
McEvoy even hand-crafted several antler and arrow chandeliers that hang over the eatery’s tables. It’s not uncommon for locals to see familiar items on display.
“People will walk into the restaurant, see the things and say, ‘I made that bow at the Fred Bear Factory,’” says McEvoy.
A Detroit native, Bear was first captivated by bow hunting in 1927, when he saw a film about the Alaska adventures of Art Young who taught him to make bows, arrows and bowstrings. In a few years Bear was selling them. In 1940, Bear and Nels Grumley decided to go into the archery business full-time.
Bear Archery grew and in 1947, Bear moved it to Grayling - where it stayed for the next 30 years. The company’s designs were revolutionary, but it was Bear’s work for wildlife management and the sport of bow hunting that made a huge difference. He wrote several books, made numerous films, and traveled the world on hunting expeditions. After an article about his exploits appeared in Life Magazine, Bear became an international superstar.
“This is a wonderful place to come,” says Joyce Sorenson, who visits the Bear’s Den often to have lunch and sit in the same seat where her late husband Lewis used to be a regular. Lewis worked at Bear Archery for decades and his own personal Bear bow hangs on the wall above the seat that means so much to Joyce.

Guests at the Bear’s Den might want to start with an order of Cub’s Paws (mozzarella sticks) fried to a golden crisp ($4.99) or lightly spiced Bear Wings ($5.99) with hot sauce or blue cheese dip.
But pizza is the star of the Bear’s Den menu and there are several specialty pies to put an end to any growling stomach. In keeping with the bruin theme, you might go for:
-- The Black Bear with pepperoni, onion, green peppers, beef and ham
-- The Kodiak with pepperoni, green peppers, ham and mushrooms
-- The Grizzly with pepperoni, sausage, ham, beef and bacon
-- The White Bear with cheese, bacon, lettuce tomato and white sauce
All of the pies come in sizes ranging from personal to 14-inch and are priced from $4.99 to $17.99.
Hefty appetites might want to tangle with Bear’s 100 Pounder, an impressive 18-inch pie blanketed with 100 pieces of pepperoni and a pound of cheese ($15.89). Seven days a week there’s an all-you-can-eat pizza, soup and salad buffet for lunch ($6.99) and a dinner buffet Mondays and Tuesdays ($7.99).
There are six salads on the menu and light eaters might want to try the Chef’s Salad ($6.99) of crispy greens topped with ham, turkey, mozzarella cheese, tomato, green peppers, onion and egg. The Taco Salad ($6.99) comes with lettuce, corn chips, meat, onion, tomato, cheddar cheese, salsa and sour cream. Others include an Antipasto, a Tuna, a crispy Chicken and standard Garden salad.
The menu offers 12 different sub sandwich selections, called Hups. You might try an oven baked Italian, Veggie, BLT, Turkey, Ham and Cheese, Meatball, Club or Steak and Cheddar Hup. Prices range from $6.49 to $7.99.
In addition to pizza, other dinner entrees include an assortment of pasta dishes such as Lasagna ($9.99), Spaghetti and Meatballs ($8.99), Portabella Ravioli ($10.99), Cheese Manicotti ($13.99) and Baked Mostaccioili ($8.99).
Fred Bear loved Grayling, especially fly fishing on the nearby Au Sable River where he built his custom-made home. Two years ago, Gannon purchased the home from a dentist who had bought it from the Bear family and was using it as an office. Gannon’s reverence for Bear as both a hunter and a man is obvious in his voice.
“Fred Bear was just a really nice guy,” he says. “Despite his fame and business success, he wasn’t pretentious at all and was very kind to his employees and to everyone he met. He treated everyone well. And that says a lot about the type of man he was.”

Bear’s Den Pizzeria, at 243 Michigan Avenue in Grayling, is open seven days a week and is available for catering. For take out orders or more information, call (989) 344-1234.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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