EDITORS NOTE: This article has been updated to include several restaurants that were unintentionally not included as restaurants offering outdoor dining. Added are Evergreen Cafe, Bigfoot Bowls, Jensen’s Market and the Blue Ridge Inn.
Wrightwood is a small community located in the San Gabriel Mountains, 15.6 miles West of the I-15 freeway. As a town accustomed to tourism, outdoor dining is available in most of the local restaurants and eateries to maximize on the gorgeous scenery. So, when the order for businesses to shutter indoor operations came down on July 13, adjusting to outdoor dining was not a big obstacle. But as the coronavirus rages across the country, some restaurants worry about what the damage will be if closures continue for an extended period.
Ryan Kossack is the owner of The Yodeler, a traditional pub and grill. The restaurant offers patio seating, which he says is currently paying the bills, but not much else. Popular items on the menu are the corn beef, the tri-tip, and the chicken alfredo pizza. The coronavirus has “taken its toll,” he explains. “Tourism is definitely down.” The business would normally operate around 15 tables and barstools. Right now, they are only running the 5 or 6 tables on the patio. Because of the virus, “beer distribution is down tremendously. The skyrocketing prices on beef” have even forced him to take high end meats off his menu entirely. “We had to take them off the menu. They’re outrageous, they’re hard to find.”
Over at Mexico Lindo, business has also been slower than usual. The restaurant offers a big outdoor dining area that overlooks the Wrightwood Veterans Memorial, and has rotating lunch specials during the week. Leo Romero is a server there, and he says that business is down around 30 percent. But no one has been laid off. He hopes that things return to normal soon, although it seems unlikely. “The first time they said for three weeks, but it was for like three months,” he recalls of the closures that took place in March. He has also noticed that local tourism has a taken a big hit because of the virus. Normally during this time of year tourists would visit throughout the week. But now they are only around on the weekends.
The Wrightwood Brew Co. is a restaurant that offers outdoor patio seating, cold brews, and a family friendly environment. On this day, the patio is filled with patrons. When businesses closed in March, they were able to stay open without laying off staff by offering to-go orders. Among their best sellers are the Reuben sandwich, and the BBQ Chicken Flatbread. “We’re very family oriented” says Megan Lucker, a server at the restaurant. “You are able to bring your children in here. You are able to bring your whole family here if you would like to. And that’s very different from another bar down the road, or a different restaurant down the road.” According to Lucker, a drop in tourism is obvious around town. “If this continues through the snow season, I think it’s just gonna be awful.”
Other Wrightwood restaurants that offer outdoor dining are Evergreen Cafe/Racoon Saloon, The Grizzly Café, Bigfoot Bowls, Jensen’s Market, Blue Ridge Inn, The Village Grind, and Mile High Pizza. In Phelan, Mountain Top Café, Arturo’s Bar and Grill, My Hero Subs, and Red Mango Grill. In Pinon Hills, Rick’s Roadside Café.