Bernie’s is the Millenial Bennigan’s You Never Knew You Needed

Bernie's interior. Photo: Megan Penmann
Bernie’s interior. Photo: Megan Penmann

There are certain things that you can expect from a new restaurant opening in Brooklyn. Post-industrial details. Succulents. Edison bulbs. A rotating farm-to-table menu that features the farms by name. Craft cocktails. Instagrammable lighting. Instagrammable artwork. Instagrammable dishes.

And it works because it’s what we have come to expect. And because it seems that every single new restaurant is doing it, no one can cut corners. From the cocktail garnish to the bathroom wallpaper, the whole experience needs to be flawless and cohesive; one that we’ll post about, talk about, and revisit.

So what happens when a new place opens that audaciously rejects this new normal? When a spot opens on a very coveted block in the most up-and-comingest of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods with fake plants, no upstate farms credited on the menu, a wood-blinded rejection of natural light, and mozzarella sticks?

You go. You go because you’re curious. And because you’ve never been one who has to listen to an app or an influencer in order to eat. And because you’ve missed mozzarella sticks.

The wedge salad at Bernie's. Photo: Liz Norment
I’m not a food stylist. I’m someone who enjoys going out to eat. Bernie’s Wedge Salad, photo by Liz Norment

That’s the goal of Bernie’s (332 Driggs Ave), the new sit-down restaurant from the people who brought you Greenpoint staple Frankel’s (631 Manhattan Ave) (that recently was Bieber-anointed and therefore sparked a reaction by neighborhood winged soothsayer to reject the establishment). The brightly-lit deli counter featuring new-vintage decor and $16 egg sandwiches has won over all of our hearts and appetites, yet when they opened up Bernie’s around the corner, they went for a completely opposite approach.

The straight-forward restaurant serving up American fare, not new American, not American-fusion, not Ameri-nouveau, just American; was made to look like a place you’ve been before. Comfortable, familiar, simple. It looks like one of those restaurants you ate at with your whole soccer team at the end of the season when they’d hand out a trophy, to everyone; red and white checkered tablecloths covered in paper covered in crayon sketches, mismatched stained glass pendant lighting, red vinyl bucket barstools.

What Not To Miss

The Wedge Salad

Let’s all be honest. The wedge salad is our way of saying, “Yes I want a salad but not because I’m trying to be healthy.” This thick chunk of cool iceberg lettuce comes covered with an unhealthy portion of bleu cheese, a smattering of diced tomatoes, a polite dusting of chives, all draped with a thick cape of bacon that says “I don’t care if there’s a salad under here at all.” This salad is basically a fuck-off to the faux Instagram dynasties of our generation’s creative masters, titled things like @girlswhoeat and @bitcheswhobrunch. They wouldn’t dare put this on their feeds. And I will gladly feed myself with it, again and again.

The Mozzarella Sticks

Suffice to say that I never desired my mozzarella sticks to evolve from a hollow, stretchy, bad drunken food decision. There was no need. I left them in college, where I unintentionally and often left them out on the kitchen counter to pang my hangovers and color my shame in the morning, I let them die in their ill-fitting fried breadcrumb coffins. I haven’t thought of them. They haven’t thought of me. Until Bernie’s. They’ve taken this American (…Italian?) classic and made it the way it should be. With fresh cheese and fitted, spiced coatings and a marinara sauce that is pungent enough to cut through the bullshit you might have been expecting. Don’t skip these. Don’t feel bad about them. Don’t put them on Instagram.

The burger at Bernie's. Photo: Liz Norment
They’re not going for pretty. The Bernie’s burger — photo: Liz Norment

The Burger 

Living in this city we have learned that there is nothing that the burger cannot become. It has been topped with melted bone marrow, it has been pulled apart and reconstructed through the ancient art of Japanese gustation, it has been topped and covered and smothered and smashed and gripped in Instagram photos on city streets over and over again. And it has been lost. Bernie’s resurrects the classic burger and does it flawlessly. Two patties not cooked to temperature; leave it to them to decide how it should be. American cheese. Shredded lettuce. Caramelized onions. Toasted sesame seed bun. Burger sauce on the side. Shoestring fries. Fucking delicious.

Any Dessert

We weren’t always afraid of sweets. We didn’t always think that one cookie would shatter our delicate existence or that choosing half-and-half over skim should be our only earned indulgence for the day. And it’s time to submit to our sweet teeth. This isn’t fucking LA. We don’t need to outlaw ice cream trucks to recognize that we can comfortably modify our sweets intake. But why is it that we’ve embraced the donut and photogenic ice cream cones but have left behind the desserts of our childhood?

Bernie’s dessert menu brings back the utter glee that you felt when you saw a towering ice cream sundae topped with a bright cherry coming around the corner and heading toward you. There was no shame. There was no second guessing. There was only spoons and laughter. Go to Bernie’s. Get Dessert. Share spoons and laughter. #spoonsandlaughter

And Beer

Frosty mugs. Really fucking frosty. Frosty enough to etch your initials into it before you drink it. Frosty enough to make you second guess that it’s a Bell’s Two Hearted that you’re sipping on. Twice. Get a beer, any beer.

Bernie’s is here to remind us that we were once regular people before we all moved here and became “foodies”. That we used to not share food porn and drool over slow-motion egg yolks; we used to share real porn and talk about it in whispers at the lunch table when we ate whatever our moms packed us that day. We used to not require things to be so delicate, so photogenic, so packaged, so sterile, so casually calculated. We used to eat. Do it again, like it’s the first time, at Bernie’s.

Bernie’s | 332 Driggs Ave (corner of Lorimer)
Monday through Sunday: 5pm – 11pm
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About Liz Norment

Liz is a Richmond native who calls Greenpoint home. She is the writer and creative force behind Brooklyn, I’m Trying, an urban lifestyle and travel blog that refuses to let you sit still. www.brooklynimtrying.com

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