Long-awaited by hungry Trojans who may have spotted it after a workout at the gym only a few steps away, The Baked Bear had its grand opening on Friday afternoon at USC Village. The lucky first 300 Trojans who arrived early enough received blue tickets for free treats from the shop.
Upon entering the store, friendly customer service facilitated the experience of ordering desserts. With a giant chalkboard menu outlining a step-by-step process, any feeling of confusion from first-time visitors fades away. A worker greets each customer and moves down the assembly line of ingredients alongside the customer for quick and easy ordering. From making the frosty desserts to ringing up customers at the counter, all store staff members created a friendly, inviting atmosphere for patrons.
The endless combinations of dessert ingredients, as seen on the menu and displayed enticingly behind glass cases, add to the exciting experience. Choices for sandwich tops and bottoms consist of cookies, brownies, doughnuts or a cookie-brownie combination, as well as the 11 different types of cookies. The choices include Funfetti, red velvet and the current cookie of the month, blue Rice Krispie.
Ice cream flavors range from traditional vanilla and Rocky Road to snazzier flavors such as birthday cake and strawberry cheesecake. However, The Baked Bear also serves desserts beyond ice cream sandwiches. Also served are the Bear Bowl, a cookie or brownie with ice cream; hot fudge sundae, which is served with a cookie or brownie; and root beer float. For simple eaters, the store also offers cookies and brownies separately.
While its desserts prove undeniably picturesque, the shop’s decorations seem surprisingly too simple for such a popular dessert chain. A simple navy and white color scheme is reflected on the shop’s painted walls. Shades of gray metal from lamps and containers also accent the shop and the glossy, white brick walls in the kitchen area. The only wood-paneled wall stood out, adorned with only the chain’s logo of a polar bear wearing sunglasses while happily biting into its own chocolate-chip cookie ice cream sandwich. Counters where diners eat can be found at one end of the shop but without any chairs for visitors to enjoy the store’s atmosphere.
Moreover, patrons gave mixed reviews of The Baked Bear’s desserts, suggesting that there’s still room for improvement. After trying their first ice-cream sandwiches, students who attended the grand opening agreed that cookie choices like red velvet lacked flavor and that the blue Rice Krispie wasn’t spectacular beyond its unconventional appearance. Customers also commented that the cookies were cold, which could easily be solved with clarification that they can be warmed up. While some praised the incredibly large portion sizes, others complained that they were too sweet and that the large ice cream scoops melted too quickly into sugary messes, softening their cookies.
On the other hand, The Baked Bear exceeds expectations with its diverse and tongue-tantalizing ice cream flavors, such as its own house special, blue Bear Batter, and the sweet-and-salty Salted Caramel Fudge. While not cheap, The Baked Bear’s desserts also do not surpass the prices of other ice cream sandwich dessert chains.
Though it definitely has room to improve, The Baked Bear redeems itself with outstanding customer service and begins its legacy at USC with a satisfactory premise, drawing students to its shop for frosty treats.