The city of Big Bear is a local get-a-way for thousands of tourists year round. Whether you are hitting the slopes for ski season or hiking, biking and kayaking your way through the summer months, Big Bear is a quaint town with lots of activities to keep you occupied. One of the most important quests as a new visitor to the little mountain town is to find the best restaurants without having to eat your way through the worst.
Luckily we got a recommendation to try the Sweet Basil Bistro and so we stopped in the second day of our week-long trip to give this little place a try. Sweet Basil Bistro is easy to find even though it is not located in the main “Village” downtown where the greatest concentration of tourism and storefronts are found. The bistro is part of the storefronts housing the giant red bowling barn, on the far left. If you travel the main road though town, you will be able to see this landmark building along your way.
Surprisingly, we thought the bistro had just opened recently as many of the locals we spoke to had not eaten there, but on inquiry at the bistro they told us they had been open about 6 ½ years. Seems it takes some time for the news to get around.
Max seating at the bistro appears to be about 45, so you’ll find it intimate and cozy. A tempting list of specialty cocktails is available as well as beer and wine. We ordered Panini sandwiches - the Meatball Marinara and the Grilled Three Cheese on ciabatta bread. Portions are just right; enough to fill your belly without making you feel guilty or overfed. We instantly fell in love with this place, the food was so good. The meatball sandwich was stuffed with large flavorful meatballs and cheese. Ask for a side of the house marinara to dip this sandwich. A side of the house salad was fresh mixed greens, very lightly dressed with crushed pistachios, a nice accompaniment. On to the grilled cheese – one bite and you have to stop, close your eyes and savor the combination of gruyere, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses with garlic aioli. Make sure you order the option of pesto and pepperoncinis. The combination made this hands down, the best grilled cheese sandwich – ever. The side pasta salad was simple and flavorful, an elbow macaroni with a light tomato based dressing.
Sadly, the bistro is closed on Monday and Tuesdays, so we eagerly waited for Wednesday to go back to our instantly favorite lunch establishment. Our next trip we tried the Hot French Dip and the Grilled Portobello Mushroom Panini. The French dip au jus was served on the side for your own dipping, much appreciated by this diner who doesn’t like soggy bread and the grilled portobello mushroom was meaty and flavorful with roasted tomatoes and garlic aioli. We also indulged in an appetizer of homemade Garlic Fritters, little balls of garlicky pizza dough deep fried and served with marinara for dipping. Ok, these are heavy, loaded with garlic and like we said, an indulgence.
We didn’t have a chance to go back for dinner, but it will be a must for our next trip. From light selections of Quinoa salads to a rich Gorgonzola Stuffed Filet Mignon we’re sure the Sweet Basil Bistro would be a favorite for dinner as well.