Big Pine has a new place for tasty, finger-lickin’ food.
“A man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. He sits on a hot barbecue for a minute, it’s longer than any hour. That is relativity.”
– Attributed to Albert Einstein (who may or may not have actually said it.)
Tasty barbecue remains relatively high on the list of things that are still held in high regard by the public.
Fortunately, unlike in the “Einstein” quote, the only “butt” sitting on the barbecue at the new Copper Top BBQ in Big Pine is likely the pulled pork which is often called “pork butt” even though it is actually the shoulder cut, but trust that this “butt” is on the hot barbecue much longer than just a minute!
Good barbecue takes a long time to cook, which is also why it is both so good to eat and why it can be a difficult business to run. High quality meat is expensive and there is little “fast food” about it. According to Matt, the Copper Top BBQ manager and youngest son of the owner Hank Otten, there are some days it is so busy they run out of food. After eating at the new Copper Top BBQ eatery it is easy to see why — the food is really that good!
The new food outlet is located at the corner of Locust and Main Street, directly across from the Big Pine little league field at 310 North Main Street. It’s hard to miss with its large bright red and white Coca-Cola umbrellas and picnic tables. It would also be difficult to miss the large “copper-top” grill and smoker for which the new restaurant is named.
The owner, Hank Otten, grew up on dairy farm in Southern California before his parents moved their dairy to Bakersfield. Asked why he chose to open a new business in Big Pine, he said, “I fell in love with the Eastern Sierra when I was 15 while camping here with a friend. Ever since then I have always wanted to live here.” That and both of his sons strongly encouraged him to do so.
Otten lived in Bakersfield for 17-1/2 years as the government sales representative for John Deere Company selling equipment to the State of California. He chuckled when he said, “If you see any John Deere equipment on the highways of California, there’s a good chance that I was the one that sold it!”
One of the things you notice quickly about Otten is that he enjoys what he is doing and has a quick smile and warm sense of humor.
The new restaurant has received great reviews from locals as well as visitors traveling through the area. Review websites such as Yelp, Google maps, Facebook, or Trip Advisor give the Copper Top BBQ high ratings with excellent reviews for the food and service, the beautiful view of the mountains from its location, and the friendliness of the people running it.
Otten’s love of the Eastern Sierra as a teenager was a factor that brought him to Big Pine, but it was largely the encouragement of his sons to make the move that settled the matter in his mind. His son Adam is a local California Highway Patrol officer who was assigned to the Bishop Area Office right out of the academy. Matt, his younger son, had been living and teaching English for a year in Japan before returning to California. Both sons encouraged him to make the move. It was a “win-win” situation — living in an area that he has long loved, working doing something that he has a genuine love and passion doing with his younger son, and being close to both of his sons, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.
“I’ve grown up with my dad cooking barbecue since I was ten years old,” Matt Otten said of his dad. “His passion for cooking explains his quest for perfecting his barbecue.” He went on to say, “We are in this for the long haul. Not only do we have a good time doing this, we really do care about what we are doing. It has to be the ‘best’ possible; nothing less will do.”
“Nothing less will do” is why all the food served at the Copper Top BBQ is made fresh daily. Available with the barbecued meats are side dishes of Grandma’s potato salad, Old Fashioned Mac and Cheese, and Gene’s Green Chili Black Beans. For the upcoming winter sports season the restaurant, which is to be open year-round, will be offering cornbread and chili to skiers and snowboarders. A great way to “warm up.”
Plans for the future include a dedicated website, local home delivery, catering, and a special lunch menu and pricing for local students.
The Copper Top BBQ is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. There is onsite, outdoor seating and takeout. Call 760.970.5577 for takeout or more information.