by Karen Fisher
Outside, the Bear's Den is an unassuming block of brick on a bland Berkley street. There are no windows, and the main entrance is completely unmarked.
As you open the door to the bar, you'll gasp at the sight of a giant stuffed polar bear mounted inside a brightly lit glass case. The bear dominates the room with a menacing presence as it stands tall on its hind legs, baring its teeth and reaching toward you with its huge clawed paws.
Beyond the bear, the rest of the bar is stereotypically laid out a long counter and Naugahyde-covered barstools, a large gilt mirror behind, and a silent TV going at one end.
But a sense of familiarity is one of the reasons there's such a homey, friendly feeling to this place. The folks here haven't come to be seen, but to drink and have a good time and the cheap draft beer and pitcher specials make it easy to join in. Inexpensive appetizers, burgers and other tavern fare are also available most evenings.
The large, low-lit room next to the bar has a woodsy feel, with exposed wood beams and rustic paneling. On Sunday nights, the Howling Diablos take the stage and the dark, smoky space comes to life. The colored lights dance around the room, the girls jump up to boogie with their beer bottles and everyone grooves to the horn-y funk. The polar bear seems to be the only one with a scowl on his face.
The Bear's Den provides a comfortable lair for everyone from older biker dudes to young chicks with glittery T-shirts, from flannel shirted homeboys to quiet married couples. Isn't that what a neighborhood bar is all about?