Bernie's Bistro PDX--Bad trip, bad luck?
My husband and I finally got to Bernie's Southern Bistro, and I have not been that disappointed in a lauded restaurant in a long time. I am hoping this was an anomoly, or perhaps a result of our son's presence, but here's our tale:
We arrived to dine early, were greeted promptly, and found the deck/patio is stunning and inviting. However, the look of disdain and shock aimed at us for daring to bring our 15 mo. old was unpleasant. We ordered, the service was perfunctory and not entirely hateful. The hushpuppy appetizer was ok, nothing special, nicely crispy, etc. The orange marmelade/jalapeno sauce had promise, but didn't deliver much beyond a little moisture to the somewhat dry little pups. I had the much lauded fried chicken, and while I am more than happy to try a new twist on an old favorite, this prep didn't do much for chicken. The skinless, boneless part is convenient, but the breast was I think a little overcooked, and there was no satisfying crunch to the breading. The flavor was good, however, and there was nothing overtly *bad* per se about it. It just wasn't very good. The sides, however, which are my favorite part of the southern meal, were horrendous. The greens were cold and overcooked, the garlic mashed potatoes cold and bland, and while the gravy was hot, it congealed quickly on the cold taters. My husband had the blackened catfish, found it very oily and not spicy, but did enjoy the sweet potatoes. We both found the cornbread dry and starchy--too dense, not fluffy, etc. Some of these complaints are a matter of taste, I know, and I don't want to initiate a round of what is and isn't southern cooking, but I was shocked at the things that were wrong according to any definition. I'm hoping we went on an off night, as I really wanted to like it--and I know, believe me, that the entrance of a toddler in a decent restaurant always makes the waitstaff twitch, so we'd be sure to get childcare if we return. We tried to go early to avoid bothering the bulk of the diners, and we left long before the squidlet made an impact on anyone else's experience (and cleaned his area, for the sake of the crew!). My question is--after this experience, should we bother to do so?
No, that's pretty typical. I had the same reaction to the fried chicken. I tried it a couple times normal and once in the bar and really have felt no desire to return. I'd probably go back for the bar prices. It's not BAD just not good enough. I'll go to one of the good Cajun/Creole places (Roux, Acadia, Lagniappe) for those flavors and to Ken's Place for chicken and mashed potatoes when I'm in the mood. I still want to explore the North Portland soul food/BBQ places for their soul food. I've had BBQ at most of them and it was only okay. But the little bits of home cookin I've had have been much better.