Big Bear residents have long known about Wyatt’s Cafe and Saloon at the Convention Center at Big Bear Lake, for years open only on Wednesdays before Fridays were finally added. It’s a local favorite for all the above reasons and more: huge portions at minuscule prices, family-friendly with stuff for the kids to do, great patio in summer under the pine trees.
The decor is straight out of the Wild West, a virtual frontier town really with intricately-designed facades representing church, Marshal’s office, hotel, and more. Wyatt’s saloon fits right in as a place to whet the whistle and fill the belly, the perfect spot to run into people you know.
Wyatt’s has expanded its schedule to include Friday nights, often with live bands from down the hill, and starting in mid-January Saturdays too, so weekenders will be able to discover what locals have enjoyed for years. Those who only think of the Convention Center for Big Bear Oktoberfest, for instance, set for September 9-October 28, 2017 are in for a treat.
Like the pulled pork, for instance. Pork shoulder, 7-10 lbs. of it, starts out in the morning in the slow smoker, where it gets three to four hours of tender-loving care. It’s bathed in special marinade to keep it moist and tender, then finished in the oven. Because it’s pulled, most of the fat is removed, resulting in very lean and tender shreds of meat.
Just the smell wafting through the Convention Center is enough to signal something special is happening.
Pork is fork tender and served in a heaping helping of it—over half a pound!—in Wyatt’s famous pork platter. It comes with cole slaw and huge pile of fries for just $8.99, and wife Sandy enjoyed a heaping helping one recent Friday.
Signature burgers at Wyatt’s are something to behold. Like the 50-50, a specially created burger that’s half Angus beef, half applewood smoked bacon. topped with cheese for $9.99. Same price for Manny’s Southwest charro burger, with guacamole, pepper jack, jalapenos if you want them, and served with chips and homemade pico de gallo.
On our visit I went with the Smoking Gun, with Angus beef patty topped by pulled pork, coleslaw, onion rings and two slices of pepperjack. It takes a skewer to hold the sandwich together as it stacks up several inches high. Not just the usual one or two onion rings either but several, each crunchy golden brown.
And that’s not even the biggest burger at Wyatt’s! That honor belongs to Doc’s Double Barrel, featuring not one but two of those Angus patties, still with bacon, onion rings, etc. For tamer appetites there’s regular burgers with bacon, Swiss, mushrooms and such, still oversized and served with fries or salad.
Massive Arizona cheese steak and half-pound marinated chicken sandwiches are other highlights along with the tastiest fish tacos, baked not fried. Chicken by the platter or kabob is drenched in Wyatt’s own Good Courage Ranch sauces like sweet or orange jalapeno.
There’s always entertainment and never a cover at Wyatt’s, Big Bear’s country dancing hot spot Wednesdays and some weekend dates. There’s line dancing with free lessons as Vonesh spins an array of sounds to get people moving.
Fridays and Saturdays often feature live music at Wyatt’s with some terrific talent. Street Music Band is a regular, with longtime Big Bear musicians Steve Johnson, Terry Copley, Rich Spaulding and Tom Burton. Southern Spirit is another, a favorite on the Spaten Stage at Oktoberfest.
January’s lineup includes The Working Poets, The Rippers, Terry McRaven and Southern Spirit. Others often performing at Wyatt’s include guitarist Duke Michaels and his wife Peggy Baldwin, the latter a worldclass cello player who has worked with Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne, Yanni and others and has a host of television credits including a recent performance on The Voice.—Marcus Dietz
Wyatt’s is at the Convention Center on the boulevard at Division. Call (909) 585-3000.