We were recently in Big Bear and had an opportunity to sample a few places. Here's what we found:
MANDOLIN BISTRO - excellent; in the quaint Village of Big Bear Lake and housed in a Swiss chalet. The interior is elegant and cozy. We were told that this is where the locals eat when they want a really good meal. Good selection of wine and beer. Menu is somewhat eclectic (tempura avocados). Seared Tuna Sashimi was a very delicious starter. Plank-smoked salmon and pumpkin tortellini were good too. Meals about $25.
COWBOY EXPRESS - bad; we were told this was a fun place but we found it kind of dismal (maybe because it was a Monday). Avoid the BBQ which is just grilled meat swimming in awful, over-the-counter BBQ sauce. Portions are big. Steaks we heard were good (didn't have them though). Meals about $12-16.
GRIZZLY MANOR - good; a hole-in-the-wall breakfast joint which has been there forever. The interior looks like a Wahoo's fish taco being stuck everywhere with decals. Portions are HUGE and tad greasy, but you're more likely going for the "local" experience. Pancakes are decent but be careful while ordering because the menu can be confusing: a "one cake" order is one giant pancake about 12" in diameter, while a short stack is three giant pancakes. Since there is an odd price differential, we made the mistake of ordering two short stacks thinking we would be getting a stack of smaller pancakes. This led to doggie bags. Breakfast about $6-7.
B's BARBECUE - good; where the Blue Whale used to be right on Big Bear Lake. Barbecue is just so-so, but ambiance and decent choice of sides makes this worth it. Sandwiches about $10.
BIG BEAR MOUNTAIN BREWERY - good; a fun roadhouse place which is now brewing some decent beer. Try Red Hill Red Ant lager, the signature brew (which you can also buy in a six pack) or ask the ladies at the bar for a black and tan blend of Orange-Blossom & Grizzly Bock -- it's special even if it's not your acquired taste. The baked brie & sliced apple appetizer was pretty good. Bagged chips and nuts available at the bar. They'll even make your child a peanut butter sandwich. $2 pints on Tues. Appetizers around $8-9. Sandwiches about $10.