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ROCKY MOUNTAIN CONCEPT OVERLOAD 


What do plastic antlers, a nonworking fireplace and free wireless Internet access have in common? Not much, unless you're immersed in the unnecessarily overthemed environment that is Bear Rock Café. Feeling that fresh, substantial sandwiches wouldn't quite set them apart from Panera, Atlanta Bread Company and all the other similarly oriented chains, Bear Rock decided to go for some sort of "Rocky Mountain" theme. (Which is confusing, since the company is based near Chapel Hill, N.C.) Said theme involves bears, khaki shorts, copious use of green in the color scheme and a vague feeling that, because you're in a restaurant that pretends like it's in the great outdoors, the gigantic "Reuben's peak" sandwich ($5.79) is somehow healthy. It's a bit ridiculous and threatens to overshadow the surprisingly broad menu Bear Rock boasts.

With more than 20 different sandwiches and wraps (from $5.49-$5.99) – and the potential for more with the "create your own" option ($5.99) – more than a half-dozen salads ($4.59-$5.89) as well as soups, baked potatoes and even a breakfast menu (surprise, there's a bear claw on the list), Bear Rock would have been better off going for the "Any Freakin' Sandwich You Want" theme, rather than the fresh air and sunshine route. Whether it's old-school deli sandwiches – the aforementioned Reuben or a ham and Swiss on rye ($5.69) – or more unusual selections like the "hoot owl" (turkey, Havarti, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts and onion dressing; $5.69), you'll likely find a sandwich to suit your needs.

I sat down with one of their vegetarian options, a massive "garden" sandwich ($5.79) with generous portions of fresh greens, tomatoes, mushrooms and sprouts. It would have been just good, were it not for the soft and springy vegetable bread it was stuffed into, and the swell touch of Havarti cheese and a garlic/tomato spread that pushed it way past the bland flavorings of many other restaurant's veg-only sandwich choices and into the realm of "excellent." A baked potato ($3.29 alone; $1.50 as a side option) was slathered in butter and sour cream (health, schmealth) and was cooked perfectly.

So, forgive Bear Rock's needless theming and enjoy them for their sandwiches. After all, when you're plunked down next door to a nail salon and between a Home Depot and a Super Target, there's little that a wooden chair can do to convince a diner that they are anywhere but Orlando.

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