Some things don’t make sense: the Bermuda Triangle, who framed Roger Rabbit, algebra. It’s all perplexing and hard to explain. On paper, the explanation for the concept of Bernie’s Lunch and Supper makes no sense.
Take these facts: Bernie’s dubs itself as a modern Mediterranean restaurant, a description that’s fitting for some menu items but not others. The waitstaff wears name tags with fake names like “Ethel” and “Leonard,” which, taken with the name Bernie’s, make it sound like the local diner your grandparents eat every meal. But this is no diner, because the space is modern and trendy on the quieter west side of River North, with wood floors, bright blue booths, and an open bar and kitchen that make everything look cool.
Sounds suspect. But in reality, it’s Bernie’s own explanation of what they are that makes no sense. If you ignore the weird name tags and ignore the premonition of what Bernie’s is supposed to be, you have a very normal, very good restaurant, albeit with awkward service at times. The lamb hashwi, which is definitely Mediterranean, is the best thing on the menu. And pork confit with naan, raita, and harissa is great too, even if first grade geography class taught you India is in Asia. Rather than try and make sense of these things, accept the fact it’s all great food. Don’t argue, just eat.
The atmosphere is also good for a number of occasions: weekend dinner with friends, date night during the week, and even a solo session at the bar for a burger and beer. (Are burgers Mediterranean? Who cares?) The lively atmosphere is fun while still letting you carry on a conversation, and the space attracts a good looking but not obnoxious crowd. Bernie’s also has good lunch and brunch menus, plus a rooftop that will be more popular than the Fountain of Youth when it’s nice outside.
Ignore the explanation of what Bernie’s is meant to be, and experience it for yourself. Don’t accept the fake name tags though, those make no sense.
Delicious lamb comes in the middle of a plateful of hummus with a bit of olive oil, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds. The pita bread brings it all together, although it’s really more of a pita-paratha hybrid.
Good meatballs, good pomodoro sauce, good whipped ricotta cheese. Can’t ask for much more.
Roasted oysters topped with chorizo butter and shoestring potatoes. These are kind of like a meat-centric version of oysters rockefeller, with a strong chorizo flavor instead of spinach. We’re big fans.
If you’re going to get a salad, go with the beets and burrata. Although, to be honest, you could skip them altogether, so don’t feel compelled to get one for health reasons.
Pea falafel with feta yogurt, red cabbage, tahini, and pita. Pro tip: order this with the lamb hashwi and eat the two together.
Served in a warm pita with some greens and Sriracha. Turkey burgers are often dry, but not this one. Putting it in pita is a nice touch.
In the mood for a burger? Don’t be shy. This is an excellent, simple burger, with aioli, onions, and dill pickle. Add bacon or an egg if you want, but it’s not necessary. The bun pulls it all together.
A lot of juicy chicken with patatas bravas and aioli. Not our first choice as far as bigger dishes good for sharing, but if you or the people you’re with like to keep things simple, the chicken is a good idea.
Saffron rice with prawns and chorizo. If you’re generally a paella fan, you’ll be a fan of this.
If you’re sharing with friends, this is a great large order. A giant plate of different cuts of pork comes out on a wood board with naan, kimchi pickles, harissa (a chile paste for heat), and raita (a yogurt sauce to cool the heat). Grab some naan, get some pork in it, and top it with the rest of the goods.