TNT Diner

Longtime vacant South Hill space finally gets a new restaurant tenant, Black Bear Diner

The Black Bear Diner in Sequim.
The Black Bear Diner in Sequim.

As restaurant after restaurant has opened in South Hill’s Sunrise Village, one space has remained empty about as long as it’s been occupied.

It formerly held Pizzeria Fondi (2009-2010) and Northwest Vintage (2011-2014).

But the spot with an expansive dining room won’t be empty much longer. Black Bear Diner, featuring American classics and a lodge-like atmosphere, is slated to open there in the first half of 2017.

The restaurant is a franchise from brothers Steve and Chris Orchekowsky. Chris has more than three decades’ experience running restaurants and was the manager who opened Ivar’s Seafood Bar when it returned to South Hill in 2011.

The closest Western Washington locations are in Federal Way, Sequim and Vancouver. In addition to a Puyallup Black Bear Diner, another is slated to open in Lakewood.

The Puyallup Black Bear diner will offer a single menu throughout the day, which means breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast are completely acceptable possibilities.

Black Bear Diners feature in-restaurant bakeries, digital jukeboxes, menus printed in a newspaper format, and decor that resembles the woodsy home of its mascot, a black bear.

Steve Orchekowsky said he grew interested in opening a Black Bear Diner here after a motorcycle trip to Utah introduced him to the restaurant that has locations only in the western United States.

The menu impressed him most. He said it lists more than 100 items spanning the greatest hits of griddle breakfasts, sandwiches and burgers, and dinner entrees such as fried chicken, meatloaf and pot roast.

“The menu is so broad … it’s hard to pigeonhole it or put a handle on it, but it is classic American food. It doesn’t get exotic. You won’t find any lemon caper sauce over some cooked goose. That’s not what Black Bear Diner is going to be. It’s classic American food with generous portions,” said Steve Orchekowsky.

He said he was attracted to the honest food at honest prices and predicted that the restaurant theme would resonate with nearby families with kids (of which South Hill has plenty).

The building permit has been applied for, but construction is not expected to start until later this year. The restaurant will seat 152 and will use the space that formerly held Northwest Vintage as well as an adjacent space that was unoccupied.

As for the Lakewood location of Black Bear Diner, it is scheduled to open the first quarter of 2017 at the Great American Casino, 10117 South Tacoma Way.

Black Bear Diner

Info: 10404 156th St. E., Puyallup;

Opening: First half of 2017.