"I can't change Big Oaks Lodge. I can only enhance it."
Dee White is fond of saying that — at least since she bought Big Oaks two months ago.
Built in 1926 (*needs verification), Big Oaks Lodge has been a popular gathering place for miners, campers, and valley folk for over half a century. The Lodge started out as an eight-stool beer bar located on what was then the only route from Antelope Valley to Los Angeles.
Big Oaks expanded in the thirties, adding a 100-person restaurant and dance floor. The bar needed more stool space after the lodge received a liquor license in 1938, though it kept its original black slate floor and tree bark "wallpaper."
Located 11 miles from Bouquet Junction (near K-Mart), up Bouquet Canyon Road, the lodge draws customers from all over the valley and from as far away as San Diego and Santa Barbara.
Big Oaks is a rustic old lodge that appears not to have changed since the thirties. A five-point buck elk still guards the dance floor from his perch on the huge stone fireplace, as it has for as long as most people can remember.
Tuesday and Wednesday nights the lodge features "family style" dinners. "We serve fresh vegetables and just the one entree," Ms. White says. "It might be beef burgundy, or chicken, or whatever I feel like serving that day."
Ms. White's son, John White, runs the cook shack, a small building on the patio where steaks, brochette of beef, and shish kebobs are cooked over charcoal. Big Oaks also serves fish in season and this week added lobster to its menu.
Quiet and serene in the morning hours, the lodge changes complexion at 3 p.m. when it opens to the public. By the time Friday night rolls around, "all hell breaks loose," Ms. White says.
Reservations on Fridays and Saturdays are not accepted because of the large crowd. On these nights Big Oaks brings in a live country and western band, usually Johnny Oaks and the Only Other Band. "On the weekends things stay pretty lively until 2 in the morning," Ms. White says.
Big Oaks Lodge is open from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Sunday the lodge opens at 11 a.m., serving breakfast rolls and coffee. The Lodge is closed Mondays.
News story courtesy of Lauren Parker.