Black Bear Diner in Vallejo

In the northern part of Vallejo close to Discovery Kingdom is shopping area where a lot Vallejoans get their wears and grub on. A few years ago a long time eating establishment by the name of Lyons closed their doors. Lyons died a slow death and unfortunately (or fortunately) saw its demise in early 2011 but out of its remains rose the Black Bear Diner which opened its doors in the summer that same year.

The first time I ever ate at a Black Bear Diner was in Suisun and to me it seemed like a super suburban type of place – almost country – that served good food and had good service. There’s a lot of wood used in the decor. Of course a Black Bear statue or several of them stand guard inside and out of the restaurant. The one in Vallejo even has a log toy train with little bears on them and my kids didn’t hesitate climbing atop and pretending to ride it and acted like they were friends with these cub statues. Adding to the ambiance, the menu looks like a old time newspaper from small town. You get the idea. It’s like you’re out in the country where black bears may join you for dinner.

Newspaper Menu

Newspaper Menu

The decor does make the restaurant feel livelier compared to Lyon’s during its last months. Where Lyons felt a little drab and depressing, Black Bear Diner is bright and cozy. I’ve been to Black Bear Diner four times in the last year and each time it was busy enough that I’ve had to wait. It’s a good sign. A busy restaurant (no matter the Yelp ratings) is a good thing to me. It means that people like the food enough to pay for it. The food is somewhat fresh because of turnover. As more people eat, the more food has to be brought in. And the service is decent enough that it doesn’t turn away customers.

newspaper menu

Black Bear Diner newspaper menu

Prices at Black Bear are right where a restaurant in a bedroom town like Vallejo should be – affordable. For a family like mine with 5 kids – 4 with restaurantable appetites – affordable is important. A burger, fries, and a shake with extra tin cup for the extra for under $15 bucks is welcome. Steak dinners for under $20 – pretty good.

Burger, Fries, and a Shake - John Gamboa - Vallejo

Burger, Fries, and a Shake

If you know me, my biggest criteria in deciding whether I’m going to enjoy my visit to a restaurant is the dessert menu. Good thing Black Bear Diner has banana cream pies in the dessert display fridge. Winner! Oh, they have other pies, too, but banana cream is my very favorite.

Another cool thing they have is 24 hour breakfast. So if you’re craving some good ol’ breakfast foods, you’re covered. Eggs, hash browns, sausage – you’re covered.

breakfast Black Bear Diner Vallejo John Gamboa

Eggs, Hash Browns, Sausage

If you’re in the area of Vallejo, American Canyon, and Discovery Kingdom and you want some good affordable food, stop by Vallejo’s Black Bear Diner and bring the family!

Napa’s Gott’s Roadside

Napa, Gott's, diner, burgers - John Gamboa

Gott’s Roadside

One of the coolest and fun places to eat in Napa is Gott’s Roadside, formally Taylor’s Automatic Refreshers. First established as Taylor’s in St. Helena, then later sold, it’s named changed to Gott’s Roadside. Gott’s Roadside expanded to a location in Napa and most recently in Palo Alto where they serve some of the most delicious dishes around the Bay Area. When the weather is favorable we love eating in the outdoor dining area.

They’ve got good burgers no doubt. Their meat is fresh, their bread is mmm-mmm freshly baked good! Garlic fries and sweet potato fries are excellent. But one of the things that makes this place truly an awesome place to eat are the interestingly unique menu items. The first one is a signature burger.

Burgers, Gott's, Roadside

Juicy burgers

It is their Ahi tuna burger. Oh my goodness! My family and I first heard of this place on Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins. Triple D and Guy Fieri went to the one in St. Helena (30 to 40 minutes north of Vallejo and American Canyon) where they featured the Ahi Burger. The wasabi mayonnaise is crazy good and makes the sandwich amazing! They also add a cole slaw to add crispiness to the burger. The mixture of flavors and textures is such an unexpectedly wonderful surprise.

Next is another signature item I enjoyed on our last trip there. The ahi poke crispy tacos and they are incredible! So tasty! What a mouthwatering delight. You get three per order and you WILL finish all three. If you’re a fan of ahi poke, you’ll love how Gott’s combined that with Mexican flair.

Gott's, roadside, napa, ahi, poke, tacos

Ahi Poke Crispy Tacos

As for your sides, they have much to choose from. Check out Gott’s menu here. When our large family goes there, we are lucky enough that there’s enough variety in what we all order that we get to try many dishes in one trip. My favorite side dish is the garlic fries. My wife’s are the sweet potatoes. I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll enjoy.

For drinks, I highly recommend their shakes and malts. It’s just a nice accompaniment to an appetizing meal. Their strawberry shakes have little chunks of strawberries and the chocolate ones are rich and thick. They also have root beer floats, another favorite of mine.

When you’re done, you can chill in their outdoor dining area or walk around downtown Napa, St. Helena, or Palo Alto. It’s a good trip no matter which one you go to.