Restaurateur Dave Rauschkolb is well known for his successful family of restaurants under the Bud & Alley’s brand in Seaside — Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant, Pizza Bar + Trattoria and Taco Bar. As the founder of Table Five, a private chef and catering company, Phil McDonald has led elite kitchens from Florida to New York City. A love of surfing brought these two together. And a love of food prompted them to create an innovative new brand in Black Bear Bread Co., aptly named for the local black bears often found noshing on test kitchen bread at the construction site of the flagship location in Grayton Beach prior to opening in 2017.
With a second bustling location in Miramar Beach at Grand Boulevard, it seems only fitting that Black Bear Bread Co. came home to roost in Seaside where the idea first sparked, as Phil had been baking bread in the oven at Pizza Bar and started having long conversations with Dave about the lack of good bread in our area.
This food writer developed a gluten allergy (not celiac) in 2018, was on the elimination diet, and after about a year, was convinced by Phil that I could eat his naturally-leavened sourdough made with his 70-year-old starter. I caved, enjoyed every bite (without illness), and have never looked back, stopping each week to purchase the sought-after sourdough bread. One thing is certain, there is no lack of great bread here now.
Located on the east end of Seaside at The Court, Black Bear Bread Co. is the town’s neighborhood bakery, serving up freshly baked breads, specialty bagels, pastries (gluten-free included), Stumptown coffee, tea and a bevy of menu items for breakfast and lunch.
I was there for lunch, and upon stepping onto the porch of the quaint white building shaded by native scrub oak trees, could smell the fragrant orange blossoms in the nearby lushly landscaped garden of the outdoor dining space.
Entering the café, my eyes went straight to the glass case showcasing the incredible cakes by pastry chef Kara Enache, a long-time local who is now a leader at Black Bear, overseeing the bakers who arrive in the wee hours of the morning. The cakes are currently only offered at the Seaside location. Stacks of cookies, and bear claws the size of my hand had me rethinking my lunch order, but I stuck to my guns as I was on a mission to try a couple of the new creations that Phil had been testing.
First up was the olive oil poached local-caught tuna crafted into a salad on a sandwich with capers, radish and lemon on multigrain sourdough. Poaching made the fish moist and flavorful and each bite was perfectly balanced with just the right amount of brightness and acidity.
Ginger Sayor, a vegetarian visiting from Colorado, came along for the lunch date. She decided on the kale sandwich, which I was also eager to taste. Layers of avocado, feta, tahini, za’atar butter and fresh kale made up this most unexpectedly delicious sandwich on multigrain sourdough. Ginger said, “Every day brings a fresh change to the menu with so much to anticipate!”
The avocado tartine dotted with peppers and topped with poached egg on sourdough is another one the most popular selections at the café. It’s always satisfying and soul nourishing.
Chef Phil, master of pairing creative seasonal ingredients, was on site and sat with us at the comfortable banquette where the natural sunlight warmed the space. When asked what his favorite lunch menu items are, he said, “Definitely the grass-fed burger with caramelized onions and gruyere, and the bagel and lox board.”
Plan to dine in or linger on the patio at Black Bear Bread Co. with a glass of chilled chablis or a hot latte. You can also enjoy your lunch on the go. Just don’t forget to take a loaf of sourdough home with you.
Susan Benton is a longtime freelance food and travel writer, and the owner of the original 30A blog, 30AEATS.com, where she shares her passion and her commitment to sharing her healthy recipes and promoting local businesses and restaurants along Florida’s Gulf Coast.