I will start by saying that the food really is excellent--some of the best venison (served over white beans, spinach and mashed potatoes) I've ever had; my husband had chicken Marsala, which was also fantastic. However, I caution you about the quirkiness of the place. The staff is very nice, but perhaps a bit surly (though the guy behind the bar who I'm guessing is the manager/owner is extremely nice). The decor is odd--not particularly clean with a lot of 'stuff' here and there (a Chinese phone book and a calculator with other crap on one of the tables). I'd suggest they clear things out a bit so it's not so cluttered and you don't feel like you're at your eccentric aunt's house who's a bit of a hoarder but is a lovely person and an excellent cook.
The wine selection is decent, with reasonably priced options. However, please keep in mind that the storage of the wine is questionable and I probably wouldn't order an expensive bottle here only to find it's faded. They really should invest in a decent cellar, particularly for the Caymus, Silver Oak and other high-end labels.
The other recommendation is that you ask about the prices of the specials. They all sound amazing--and the venison truly, truly is--but my entree ended up being $49; my fault for not asking, but I didn't think it'd be quite that pricey (in Big Bear, really?). It was flawlessly prepared I must say, but for that price I'd expect a lobster tail as a garnish rather than a carnation and two potato chips :o)
The other thing I'd recommend is eating on the patio, which is lovely at sunset. The restaurant would be much improved if they put nice tablecloths on the outdoor tables to make it less beach casual and more elegant. The inside is what I think they consider to be the desirable tables, but they're really not with the dark, cluttered and sort of dusty-feeling atmosphere. If they upgraded the outdoor tables with tablecloths (and heaters for winter) and candles, they'd really have a great place.
This dinner was definitely entertaining. However, my advice to the owners is clean out the dining room, spruce up the tables with lighter linens, better lighting and less clutter, and upgrade table settings/linens outside so it's nicer (and can still accommodate casual diners). Also, for God's sake, you really should tell people the prices on the specials just in case they don't ask--you really wouldn't think you'd pay $50 for an entree in Big Bear (Vail, Breck and Aspen--sure, but Big Bear?).
But hats off to them for the best venison ever.
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