Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bernie's Southern Bistro

2904 NE Alberta Street
Happy Hour: Tuesday - Sunday, 4 - 6 PM

After having spent the last year or so blogging about happy hour deals in the Portland area, I've had a few people come to me (as the "expert") to see where I suggest they take out-of-towners, big groups, etc. There are two places that top my list and Bernie's is one of them. For the majority of the year, it's a tie for first. (Both of them serve southern food, interestingly enough.) During the summer months, Bernie's is definitely in the lead as they have the BEST patio in all of Portland, in my opinion.

I'm not sure why it's taken so long to write a review of Bernie's Southern Bistro. It's been the place to go for years now. We often go as an entire family and it's been the birthday restaurant-of-choice for parties large and small at least three times, if not four. You're welcome to keep reading, of course...but you might as well know now that everything I write from here on out is going to be extremely positive (and this is based on more than one visit...which makes it even more accurate).

Bernie's closes the main part of their restaurant during the summer months so that they can better serve customers on the patio out back. The patio is enclosed, covered with comfortable seating and umbrellas to provide shade on the hot days, and is equipped with a full bar. And, it's huge, which means you'll rarely have a hard time getting a seat during happy hour. And, no worries for those staying for a late dinner as there are heat lamps out there to keep you warm when needed. (Portland summers can be pretty unpredictable...especially this year.)

I knew exactly what I wanted to order when I first sat down (that's just how many times I've been to Bernie's) but decided I'd better explore the happy hour menu a bit (just to keep things authentic, you know). The happy hour menu is pretty complete with plenty of food items--even dessert--and drink specials, too. With all of us, we probably ordered just about everything on that menu (minus the fried pickles--which I've had before).

I started with a plate of the spinach cakes. No, they are not on the happy hour menu. But, I love love love them. They are on the appetizer menu and a good price for the size. Plus, they are creamy and delicious. Creamy is not an adjective I hear a lot when reading about spinach cakes (creamed spinach, sure, but not the cakes) but these really are. And, they are coated with a panko crust (or something similar to that) giving them a perfect combination of textures.

After finishing the spinach cakes, I decided to order a salad from the happy hour menu to complete my meal. This salad is more than just lettuce and dressing (but, their salad dressings are house-made and pretty fantastic). You can choose to have your salad topped with a piece of fried chicken or a stack of fried green tomatoes. I, of course, went with the tomatoes. It makes for a pretty substantial salad and probably could have been enough to make a meal without the spinach cakes.

We also ordered a plate of fried okra to share as a table. They were topped with a whole lot of paprika (causing me to be in need of a few extra napkins) and served with a remoulade. I also seem to remember taking a bite of someone's mac and cheese and a few of their sweet potato fries, too. All of these were super tasty and make me want to return REALLY soon so I can order everything that I didn't have today.

To help wash down all of these good flavors, I first ordered a Key West Martini. It's a mix of vanilla vodka, fresh lime juice and a little Tuaca and made for a very refreshing lime treat. As a martini, it comes served in the traditional martini glass with an additional tiny carafe waiting on ice for when you are ready. Ordered on the rocks, though, made it even more refreshing on this hot summer day. After the martini (and a whole lot of conversation) I ordered a Carolina Lemon Cooler. It is, by far, my favorite drink on the menu. Also a mix of vanilla vodka and citrus...this is one of those drinks that I try to replicate at home because it's that good.

Service at Bernie's is always pretty excellent. Most of the people working there--including my favorite bartender--have been there for years. They seem to all genuinely enjoy what they do and work hard to make the meal (and the whole experience) completely enjoyable for their customers, too.

Food: Exceeds
Drinks: Exceeds
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Exceeds


Bernie's Southern Bistro


  1. I am excited to try this restaurant after reading your review. The fried tomato salad is calling my name.

  2. Makes me want to GO THERE NOW!! All I need is some sunshine and warmth so that I can fully enjoy the patio!