Our all-time favorite phrase uttered by irritated East Coasters is “Well, I just have to have all four seasons.” Totally girl. Guess what? We do, too. And you know what else? We get to choose when we want to have them. Imagine that.
Two hours outside of Los Angeles up in the San Bernardino Mountains lies SoCal’s very own adventure capital - Big Bear. Come in the summer for sunny skies, camping, and binge-drinking by the lake, and in wintertime for snow, skiing, and binge-drinking by the lake. Big Bear has it all. Except a decent food scene.
Big Bear might never be known for its restaurants, but that doesn’t mean local gems don’t exist. Besides, you’re hungry as hell from all that skiing and we’re not letting you eat at that Denny’s you passed on the way in. Here’s our official breakdown of all the best food in Big Bear and when exactly in your adventure you need to be eating it.
You’re no doubt wondering, “Wait, so like, what’s THE Big Bear restaurant? Where do I HAVE to go?!” First off, calm down. Secondly, go to Grizzly Manor Cafe. This tiny roadside breakfast shack is undoubtedly the best-known restaurant in town and it has the lines waiting outside to prove it. But the good news about Grizzly Manor is that it’s worth it. The food is what you would expect - greasy and excellent. And the portion sizes are enormous. Split those pancakes with a friend or you’re never making it to the slopes.
You could probably walk past Amangela’s a dozen times in The Village without noticing it and that would be a grave error on your part. Because while it doesn’t look like much from the outside (or inside) and the coffee is just OK, Amangela’s is home to one of the best breakfast situations in Big Bear. And that situation is the Bigger Better Breakfast Bagel. This three-egg behemoth topped with anything your heart desires is as good as it looks and a Big Bear must-get before heading up the hill to Snow Summit.
You go to Moonridge Coffee because it’s 7am, you’re hungover and pissed at your friend for assuming it was OK to wake you up this early to get “the freshest powder possible dude,” and you need coffee. Moonridge is probably the closest you can get to the Bear Mountain Resort without actually going in, and that means way cheaper prices (and way better food) than you’d get inside. Breakfast anything is the way to go here - this is your one-stop carbo load before hitting the slopes.
Sure, we just named Grizzly Manor THE restaurant of Big Bear, but Teddy Bear Restaurant definitely gives it a run for their money. Located in the squeaky-clean Big Bear Village, you might not expect a 70-year old greasy spoon diner to make much noise, but on the contrary, Teddy Bear is a Big Bear staple. Filled to the brim with locals, the people watching here is prime and their Jersey Turnpike of a breakfast menu is exactly what you want before a full day of hiking. And those biscuits and gravy are no joke.
The exciting thing about Madlon’s is it looks like Snow White’s sex cabin on the outside but is a delicious, family-run French brunch spot on the inside. Located in the lesser-known Big Bear City, Madlon’s might be a touch pricier overall than what you would expect to find in Big Bear, but the food holds up. Besides, we found a $7 croque monsieur so quit your bitching. Hours at Madlon’s can get tricky, so check ahead of time and go enjoy a delightfully weird Big Bear experience.
The Copper Q is a coffee shop/cafe/trinket store that should be completely abysmal but is not. There’s no doubt this place caters to the Big Bear tourist in all of us, but we don’t care. There’s a giant fire pit outside, some sort of cooking class situation in the back, and lots and lots of moms holding house-brewed mochas and getting an early start on Christmas shopping. Excuse us if we think that sounds like heaven in this bizarre little town.
The thing most people don’t realize about Big Bear is there’s a whole other side to the lake. Literally. The Northside remains a bit of a mystery to most but what it lacks in ski resorts and Sizzlers, it makes up for giant rental homes, great views, and the sleepy little town of Fawnskin. We’d be making sh*t up if we said a whole lot of anything happens here, but if you land a house on the North Shore (highly recommended), North Shore Cafe in Fawnskin is a fantastic little option with solid, simple food and some of the best people-watching around.
Opening at 10:30am, Grizzly’s won’t catch the earlybird ski crowd, but if you’re a normal person who doesn’t frankly care when you start skiing, make this little deli the last pit-stop before heading into the resorts. The sandwiches are way better than anything you’re going to find on Bear Mountain. Our move is the TAB with squaw bread, but you can’t really go wrong with any of the build-your-own options.
With a name like Peppercorn Grille and an outside aesthetic terrifyingly reminiscent of one of those Bavarian hell-towns in Santa Barbara wine country, you’d assume this place would be an easy skip. And you’d be wrong. Peppercorn is amazing, and truly beloved in Big Bear. There’s not one empty table at dinnertime and you sense everyone here has been coming for years. Just don’t get too cute when ordering. This is a steak and potatoes kind of place and that’s exactly what you should get. If you’re going to splurge in Big Bear, do it at Peppercorn.
We know what you’re thinking. A Himalayan restaurant? In Big Bear? No, this is not a yakcident. (Yes, that’s a Nepalese word pun and we’re ecstatic about it). Himalayan is not just the best Nepalese food in Big Bear, it’s some of the best food overall in Big Bear. We’re being serious. Smack in the middle of all the kitschy Village nonsense, Himalayan is a shockingly authentic, well-priced and endearing family restaurant and the answer to your dried-out-burger blues.
Located at the base of Bear Mountain Resort, Black Diamond Tavern is the definition of apés-ski in Big Bear. Take that for what it is. Every weak and weathered skier driving back down the hill and townie with a night free (all of them?) stops at this roadside bar for an early evening recharge. And that means a beer, some nachos, and finally getting service to post all those selfies you took on the ski lift.
When it comes to Mexican food in Big Bear, it’s a general rule to simply steer clear. Most all of it is owned by the same (smart) dude, and that means wherever you decide to go, you’re basically getting the same thing. Except Nuevo Vallarta. Residing in what must be the shadiest strip mall in Big Bear, Nuevo has the curb appeal of Gary Busey in an Annie wig, but just ignore that. The menu is full of the sloppy American-Mexican classics you love (hello, chile relleno burrito) and there’s even an 18-inch monster burrito for when you and the crew smoke out later at the cabin.
Most places in Big Bear with a lake view take that as a free pass to crank up the prices and keep the food at garbage level. Don’t fall into the trap people. Luckily, The Pines has what’s arguably the best water views in Big Bear and the food is actually pretty good. It’s still fancy though, so don’t make any plans to take the ski crew here to stare at a frozen lake. Instead, save it for the summer months and a sexy getaway.
It’s not hard to see why 572 Social is a relative game-changer in Big Bear. With an interior most lifestyle blogs would call "rustic" and an outdoor bar with a custom fire-pit, this place frankly wouldn’t be out of place in most areas of Los Angeles. "Cool" is the word we’re looking for. The food is solid and probably the only place on the mountain we’d confidently recommend ingesting poke. But the overall vibe inside is what gets us most pumped. Everyone at 572 appears to be having a great time and it’s probably because they are.
Big Bear nightlife starts and ends at Murray’s Saloon and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This place is straight-up legendary and can get downright wild any day of the week. Its main source of entertainment? Karaoke. And some of the best you’ll ever come across. Don’t be surprised if you see a woman with cut-off jean shorts singing Rhiannon on top of another man's shoulders because we did. Also cheap beer and solid bar food doesn’t hurt either. Things will definitely get weird at Murray’s and that means you’re doing it right.
Seems every corner of the great USA has thrown its hat into the microbrew scene at this point and Big Bear is no different. There are a few breweries around town but our favorite is Big Bear Lake Brewing Company. Right the heart of the Village, BBLBC has an awesome tap room and an approachable selection of local beer. Also, they have something called The Avocado Bomb on the menu, and we’ll go on record as saying it’s one of the best bar apps we’ve ever had.
B’s is easily one of our favorite drinking holes in Big Bear. But it comes with one giant caveat - don’t go in the wintertime. While Big Bear as a whole comes to life in the snowier months, B’s ideal lakefront location lends itself best to drinking outside in the warmth of the sun. There’s even a separate detached bar closer to the water. We love B’s no matter what, but it definitely loses some of its allure surrounded by feet of snow.