Bear and Flag

Whatever questionable decisions one chooses to make in life, regret will follow almost immediately if that choice involves tackling the burger from Bear + Flag Roadside in the car.

It’s no mistake to order the burger, mind you. Two smashed patties with a singular rugged opulence, a sweet rasp of red onion and the countering jabs of tomato and pickle reward you well. 

The burger is made from The Meatery’s intensely rich ground beef blend, so dripping with flavor is not a platitude. It oozes and cascades and seeks to escape.

“It’s not a road burger,” says Parker Fisher, Bear + Flag’s manager. “That’s the fun of it.”

The concept is fast casual diner fare, but crafted from ingredients deserving of a white tablecloth and gilded place settings. It's a counter service restaurant that defies convenient tags.

Bear + Flag trails the brakes on the fast in "fast casual." It asks one to pause and appreciate while grabbing and going.

“It’s not a fast food place,” Fisher explains. “We aren’t trying to rush people.”

Instead, the little space is a celebration of the American road—picnic tables under a shade tree, sandwiches bundled in butcher paper—but the team is unwilling to skimp. The turkey sandwich starts with a whole bird soaking in brine for 24 hours. Their take on the grilled cheese sandwich involves brie and pear, for now. There’s a local, seasonal vibe to the “Rainbow Bowl,” a salad that begins by roasting beets.

“It’s simple: really good food,” Fisher says of the idea behind the place. “The kitchen is super tight, but we make it work.”

Bear + Flag occupies the old Valley Hills Deli space alongside Carmel Valley Road. Emily Frew and Ada Fisher and their families are behind the rebrand after taking over the location in October and spending a little time working out the possibilities. 

Of course, there’s a big advantage when one of those supportive family members is stellar chef Todd Fisher. So  Bear + Flag has touches of Seaside’s The Meatery, including the burger and the signature smoked tri-tip.

These are items to savor, even when it comes to pimento cheese. Far from something whipped together for snacking kids, it’s buttery with a tangy jingle and a prickly heat that wavers and holds. But the spread also reveals an elusive herbal note.

This is not your 1950s party tray pimento cheese...although it does come with celery sticks.

There's comfort, perhaps a touch of nostalgia. And yet again, the place can't be placed under the comfort food banner. While there are those picnic tables, seating on the porch and a few tables inside, fineries such as craft beer and local wines lend an elevated touch, as do labels like Baker's Bacon.

Bear + Flag encourages guests to hang out, grab and go style.

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