Where to eat/drink
Big Bear offers an unusual per capita ratio of restaurants and bars for a 15,000-population town in San Bernardino County. Nearest to the resorts are Black Diamond Tavern (it has live entertainment and an extremely delicious heirloom tomato salad) and Hacienda Grill & Bar with its Mexican folk art interior, killer salsa bar, and big-screen TVs to catch the games. Looking for something swankier? Big Bear Chateau at the Best Western (yep, seriously) has a cocktail lounge with European flair, complete with ouzo straight outta Lesvos. Just got a hankering for some munchies? Grab some carne asada French fries at Wabo’s Tacos and go.
Or head to the Village and you can choose from two, seriously -- two!, Indian food restaurants that could go head-to-head with any in the world. Seriously.
We’re pretty sure the Himalayan has converted more masala lovers than any Indian restaurant in the tri-county area. And as if that isn’t enough reason to jump in your car and floor it to the mountains right this second, on the other side of the Village is the new momo-maker on the block, MasalaCraft, which has people splitting their aloo allegiances. You’re on your way? Good choice.
But maybe you’re thinking, that now those places are going to be packed because you just explained that the best Indian food in the world is in Big Bear Village. We hear you. There’s an amazing little Italian place called Sweet Basil Bistro on the outskirts of the Village, located under -- we’re not making this up -- The Bowling Barn. Best drinks in town, too. Chef Sally’s daughter worked as a bartender in New York for years, and she hooked up that drink menu with mixology-style concoctions like the Blushing martini with raspberry puree and Champagne and the Blackberry Gimlet.
Before your buzz begins to wane, skip calling Big Bear Taxi just yet and head up the stairs with your liquid courage to belt out some karaoke at the Alley Oops bowling alley bar. You know Adele’s “Hello” is eating you up. Get it out, then go bowl your ass off. Call that taxi (or walk!) and head to Murray’s Saloon, the local watering hole and karaoke bar. (Pssst, the best burger in town comes directly from this hole-in-the-wall, and the kitchen is open late). The best part about Murray’s is the mixed pool of visitor talent from all around the world. But the lineup is the lineup, no matter how impressive your pipes are. No cutsies.
Prefer to let the professionals take the stage? There are plenty of live music options, with little folk duos at places like Friar Tucks above Nottinghams and Le Dolce Vita wine bar and Top 40 cover bands and dancing at watering holes like Chad’s Place (it moved!) and Whiskey Dave’s. There is also a fairly newish music venue in the Village called The Cave, which brings in touring and tribute acts, with recent acts including punk-reggae-ska fusion from The Aggrolites and a Johnny Cash tribute, Cash’d Out. Come January, Mickey Avalon, Los Lobos, and Missing Persons are booked.
On the serious tip: the altitude makes your alcohol intake at least twice as potent. So do the math. If you down two shots at Murray’s between epic renditions of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Friends in Low Places,” that is like doing four shots. Check yourself. And you are not going to kick that bouncer’s ass, so just simmer down or you won’t need a taxi. You’ll get a ride courtesy of one of Big Bear's finest, and the destination will be either the hoosegow or the ER. Choose fun. And visit often.
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Arrissia Owen writes about music, business, social issues, and travel. She left the city behind for Big Bear more than a decade ago and doesn't miss the 101 or the 405 one bit.