Postcard from... Big Pine, USA


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The Independent Online

The consumer review app Yelp recently published its annual “100 best places to eat in America” based on the ratings of millions of users, and comprising otherwise unheralded spots in places such as Honolulu, Pittsburgh and Big Pine, California – home of 2015’s top-rated restaurant, Copper Top BBQ.

Copper Top is an unassuming joint beside a windswept highway, whose patrons get a mountain view with their food. The kitchen is a former coffee shop, the dining room a handful of picnic tables. Owner Hank Otten cooks the meat on a pair of outdoor grills.

Business is brisk. On the day I visited, Matthew had one call from a prospective customer in New York, and another from an LA news channel. Copper Top is almost a victim of its newfound success: it has an average Yelp rating of five stars, but Hank said one customer recently wrote a rare three-star review because the queue was so long and they didn’t serve brisket.

What they do serve is smoky chicken, tri-tip, pulled pork and ribs, served with sides (mac and cheese or “Granny’s potato salad”). I paid $16.47 (£11) for a two-person sampler platter, washed down with root beer and “High Sierra Crushed Ice”. Is it the best restaurant in the US? Maybe not – but I give it five stars all the same.