Your Big Day in Big Bear

Posted January 24, 2008 in Feature Story

Alarm set. Check. 

Mittens and gloves. Yes sir. 

Dumb looking beanie that you wouldn’t usually be caught dead in. Oh yeah

It’s drive time. First, avoid most of the traffic on the 330-18 highways route. Take the back road. Lugonia Avenue in Redlands turns into Highway 38, which not only gives you a quick tour of Mentone—a highlight of the Inland Empire (save for Muscoy, which is an entirely different day trip) and a cheaper spot to get gas for the long haul—it takes you straight to Big Bear City. As your hugging the curves, you’ll be tempted to pull over at the first sight of glaciation. Check yourself. There’s plenty where that came from. 

Once you’re in Big Bear City, you may be ready for a cup of joe. Yes, there are even Starbucks in the mountains (three, if you count the one inside Vons), but first you’ll see East Side Book Café. That’s where you should stop to get a good cup of coffee, and if you need to take a load off there’s a cozy sofa by a fireplace surrounded by used books for sale. You’ll be tempted to settle in with a gently-used copy of Catcher in the Rye. But you have snow to conquer. Make a mental note and move on. 

If breakfast is what you’re hankering for, and a little pick-me-up morning insult will do ya, head to Grizzly Manor Café. With big-ass spatula in hand, owner Jamye Nordine will spend the entire length of your meal, within shouting distance, complaining about his kids, telling you you’re ugly, or whatever catches his whimsy. And when they say, “the quality of your meal fluctuates with the moods of the cook,” they mean it. Either way, he serves up the biggest, best pancakes on the mountain. It’s food with ‘tude.

Now you’re ready for some action. Snowboarders and skiers know to hit up Bear Mountain Resort or Snow Summit Resort. Bear is for rippers; Snow Summit is for those who want a leisurely day minus the jibbers. For those looking to shred, either mountain will suit your fancy, just matters how much of an audience you’re looking for. And manmade snow is perfectly controlled snow, which makes for good conditions most days—unless it rains, which sucks and they usually have to close the mountain. But that rarely happens. On weekends, Bear Mountain offers an afterparty to the all-day party at the Scene, the beer patio down by the Park, which during the day offers a great view of local up-and-comer shredders. 

For the kiddies who weren’t up for the ski school, there’s Big Bear Snow Play or Magic Mountain at Alpine Slide. A seven-person-deep inner tube flight is a thrill you should not deny yourself! And it takes all that pesky hiking out of the sledding equation since they have their magic carpet to take you from bottom to top. 

For the moms who just drop off at the resort, a little shopping might not hurt. I mean, hey, you’re already 7,000-feet in the mountains. And shopping burns like 150 calories an hour! Do it for your health, and to work off that big jalapeno turkey wrap and sweet potato fries plate you scarfed down at Peppercorn Grille. 

First stop, Rejoyce, a little boutique that is like a high-end country store. You can find everything from a dolled-up fireplace bellow to warm mountain gear that will best show off your womanly wiles. Stop in and see granola girl Renee Fulkerson at Equada Outfitters for any yoga gear you may need before heading to Kitchen ‘N Things for cool ceramics and gourmet treats, the latter of which is very generous with the jam tastings. And then, you’ll thank me for this, it’s O Koo Ran time (40780 Village Dr., 909.866.6652). Owner Jeannie Antes painstakingly brings your favorite little L.A. boutique to Big Bear, from the moment you step onto the leopard print floors, you’re in girlieville. 

But, if you’re not, say, a lady who lunches, and you’re more the beer guzzling after a long, hard day’s worth of hitting the slopes type, the best happy hour in town is at La Montana Mexican Restaurant. You’ll get one buck tacos and cheap Coronas, and it’s at the bottom of the road from Bear Mountain Resort. If from there you’re ready to retreat to your cabin or hotel room, right across the street is Pirate Alley Wine Shoppe where you can pick up some grog. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you spy a statue of an old pirate who looks like he’d rather kill ya than look at ya. 

If, however, your party is just getting started, call a cab from Big Bear Taxi and head to Big Bear Village. First stop, the Super Bear Arcade for some skee ball and Centipede. A few doors down stop in at the Mandoline Bistro’s Loft Bar while you’re still feeling respectable. Jazz bands play every Friday and Saturday night in a low-key atmosphere complete with velvet couches and the requisite stuffed moose heads and stuff. 

Now you’ve got your drink on and it’s time to get serious. Chad’s Place is the dankest, dirtiest watering hole (except Sugarloaf’s Roadhouse on the east side of town, which is a whole other story and you’re not that drunk yet) in Big Bear Valley. Friday and Saturday nights always host a cover band so when Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love” comes on, you’re in your zone just fine. But a word to the wise, the old drunk lady at the bar is probably a prostitute, on meth or has scabies. And in case you’re feeling particularly frisky, the bouncers will kick your ass. Seriously, I’ve read the police reports. Someone gets scraped off that pavement in the back nearly every weekend, and it’s not pretty—be fair, it’s usually self-defense on the bouncer’s part, but they’re not the ones getting airlifted to Loma Linda. 

If you’re still standing, you need only walk about 50 steps to Murray’s Saloon and Eatery for the best karaoke in town, seven days a week. About four of those nights, Big Bear’s local celebrity who goes by the name Jose Spears will be wowing the crowd with his own choreographed versions of Britney Spears songs. We haven’t checked in with Jose since the whole Britney-went-shit-crazy debacle, but we’re pretty sure someone needs to buy him a beer. Just don’t be surprised if a few drops hit the floor for his homey. Now hit redial on your cell and get that taxi. Just don’t forget your souvenirs. 

And we hope it’s not that chick from Chad’s.


Your Big Bear Directory



East Side Book Café, 409 W. Big Bear Blvd., (909) 584-8910


Grizzly Manor Café, 41268 Big Bear Blvd., (909) 866-6226


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