Copper Top BBQ off Highway 395 in Big Pine, California

Copper Top BBQ menu in Big Pine, California on a hot summer day
Copper Top BBQ menu in Big Pine, California on a hot summer day

Copper Top BBQ, off Highway 395 in Big Pine, CA, is a BBQ restaurant known for its grilled and smoked meats, such as tri-tip and pulled pork. The restaurant gained notoriety when it was first in Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2015.

I am familiar with Big Pine as I often drive along Highway 395 to Mammoth Lakes for some of the best snowboarding and fishing in the county. The highway passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world along the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Out of all the places in the world, I would least expect a restaurant in the tiny town of Big Pine to be ranked one of the top in the country.

Every time I drove past Copper Top BBQ, I was curious but never made the stop for one reason or another. Though beautiful, I have only stopped in Big Pine for fast food, gas, or to head up Big Pine Creek.

When I saw that Yelp had awarded it the best in the nation, I knew I finally had to try to check it out.

Arrival at Copper Top BBQ

Hank watching over all the meats on the grill
Hank watching over all the meats on the grill
Mobile smoker pumping out delicious smoked meats
Mobile smoker pumping out delicious smoked meats

I arrived at Copper Top BBQ on a hot summer weekend. The first thing that caught my attention was all the meat being smoked and grilled in front of the restaurant by a man in a cowboy hat.

This man was Hank, one of the restaurant’s owners. You could tell that Hank loved his job and that there was nothing fancy going on here, just excellent smoked and grilled meats. Hank’s son Matthew usually deals with social media and customers inside.

Chicken and tri-tip cooking over a wood fire
Chicken and tri-tip cooking over a wood fire

Another thing to be aware of was that there was no indoor seating. There were only a few picnic-style benches out front. The weather in Big Pine can be blistering hot in the summer and cold in the winter, so be prepared for the weather if you plan to stay and eat at the tables outside the restaurant.


Thanks to Yelp, Copper Top BBQ is always packed
Thanks to Yelp, Copper Top BBQ is always packed

Thanks to Yelp, Copper Top BBQ has exploded in popularity. When I arrived, the place was busy, mostly with roadtrippers passing through Big Pine on their way to Los Angeles or destinations in Northern California.

Because of this popularity, a line of about ten people was waiting to order in front of me. Luckily, it only took about ten minutes to reach the front of the line to order. I used the small wait to take photos of the restaurant and take in all the sights and smells of the meat cooking out front.

After I placed my order, it took about ten minutes to be ready. When ready, I walked to the window, where a lady handed me my sandwich wrapped in foil and a small coleslaw. It was nothing fancy but a great sign that the food was the main focus.

Copper Top BBQ Menu

Copper Top BBQ menu
Copper Top BBQ menu

The Copper Top BBQ menu was quite simple. They offered four types of proteins: tri-tip pulled pork, chicken, and Saint Louis-style pork ribs. You could order only meat or meat in a meal with a sweet roll and two sides. In addition, you could order two types of sandwiches with tri-tip or pulled pork.

On my visit, I forgot to try any of the sides, which I heard were delicious. Sides included fire-roasted green chili with beans and potato salad.

Adam’s Favorite Pulled Pork Sandwich

A big pile of pulled pork on Adam's Favorite Pulled Pork Sandwich
A big pile of pulled pork on Adam’s Favorite Pulled Pork Sandwich

After much debate, I ordered Adam’s Favorite Pulled Pork Sandwich ($13.99) with coleslaw. The Santa Maria Tri-Tip Sandwich will have to wait until my next visit.

When I unwrapped the foil, I saw a mountain of pulled pork piled high inside a pretzel bun. As you can see in the photo, Copper Top BBQ is very generous with its pulled pork portions, unlike other BBQ restaurants I have visited in the past.

The pulled pork was so simple yet some of the most tender I have ever had. It literally melted in my mouth and was not fatty at all. It was juicy, tender, messy, and oh so smoky. Honestly, you can’t find better.

The pulled pork was lightly covered in a sweet BBQ sauce, but not so sweet that it overpowered the great smoky flavor of the meat. The balance of smoke and sweet BBQ sauce was perfect. Why would you want to mask the taste of the meat with too much sauce, anyway?

Adding the simple coleslaw on top of the pulled pork was a must. It added a crunchy texture to the soft pulled pork and pretzel bun. What I liked about the crunchy coleslaw was that it was not doused in mayonnaise and had a great bite from vinegar.

Last but not least, I was a big fan of the pretzel bun. The lightly toasted bun was thick, soft, and sweet and held in all the juicy pulled pork well. I seriously wish I had asked Copper Top BBQ where they got their pretzel buns from. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made them in-house.

Service at Copper Top BBQ

I didn’t interact much with the workers of Copper Top BBQ other than when I was ordering and picking up my food.

Hank, the man in the cowboy hat tending to the BBQ and smoker, was friendly, allowed me to take photos of the grills and smokers, and often stopped to answer questions. It was great to watch him do his magic.


Whenever I read that a restaurant has been labeled “the best restaurant in the county,” I usually doubt it. Copper Top BBQ did not let me down. I love these small places off the beaten path that serve delicious homemade food.

To me, BBQ should be simple. You only need meat, smoke, heat, spices, and sauces. The pulled pork sandwich at Copper Top BBQ was simple yet delicious.

Is this the best BBQ restaurant in America? That’s for you to decide. But whenever I travel up Highway 395, I will stop by Copper Top BBQ.


  • Meat was cooked outdoors in front of the restaurant
  • Pulled pork was smoky and juicy
  • Cool location in tiny town surrounded by beautiful mountains


  • Limited outdoor seating
  • No indoor seating
  • Closed Monday and Tuesday
  • There is often a line to order food
  • Open until food runs out


Thursday - Monday: 11:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Tuesday - Wednesday: Closed


442 N Main St, Big Pine, CA 93513
GPS Coordinates: 37.16968,-118.28933



Last Updated on April 17, 2024

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My name is Anthony and I am addicted to traveling all around the world experiencing new people, cultures, and foods. These are some of my stories.