If you’ve lived on the Coast for a decade or two, it’s easy to let restaurants slip your mind, especially if they’re not likely to serve small plates dotted with truffle oil or microgreen salads.
I let that happen with Bernie’s in Biloxi. Bernie’s had already been around years before I moved to the Coast in 1994 (it was established in 1978), and during my first several years at the Sun Herald, it was a go-to place after work for the night-shift (aka, the dark side) newsroom folks. Back then, it was at Edgewater Mall to the back of J.C. Penney, sort of near where the parking garage now stands. Today, it’s in a freestanding building on Rue Petit Bois, just off Eisenhower Drive. Technically, the address is 220 Eisenhower Drive, but look behind Iron Works gym on Eisenhower, and you’ll see the sign.
There’s nothing pretentious here. The bar area is to the left, and the dining room is to your right as you enter. There are also some outdoor tables. It has a timeless feel, from the familiar wooden captain’s and mate’s chairs to the late-’70s graphic on the front of the menu. It also has a decidedly comfortable feel. You don’t have to dress up for Bernie’s, but nobody’s going to shame you if you do.
Bernie’s specializes in food for hanging out with friends and family. The appetizers seem tailor-made to accompany your favorite adult beverage, the burgers are handmade fresh daily, salads offer a lighter alternative and fried baskets of favorites join ribeye steaks and barbecued ribs as evening alternatives. It’s one of those restaurants that doesn’t close at 2 to reopen for dinner. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven nights a week, with happy hour weekdays from 2 to 7 p.m.
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Bernie’s recently came under new ownership, hence my visit. The menu is a bit more streamlined now, offering mostly the old Bernie’s greatest hits but also a few new things. Yes, the Smoked Tuna Dip ($9.95) is still under the appetizers. Yes, you can still get the Bernie’s Steak Sandwich ($10.95), which comes dressed with cheese, lettuce, tomato and garlic mayonnaise. You can even get half of the popular steak sandwich with a cup of gumbo or red beans and rice for the same price. The Chicken Salad Croissant ($8.95) comes stuffed with homemade chicken salad.
For Eats purposes, I ordered something I hadn’t had before, the Chicken Melt sandwich ($6.95), served open faced on an English muffin with cheese, bacon and tomato. All sandwiches, burgers, meals and baskets come with your choice of side: macaroni and cheese, potato salad, steak fries, coleslaw, baked potato or sweet potato fries. I opted for the coleslaw. All was washed down with sweet tea with lemon. By the way, I thoroughly recommend the steak sandwich and the tuna dip, both of which are best sellers.
The sweet tea at Bernie’s is good and sweet, and you can be assured your glass will never get empty.
As for my sandwich, it was the perfect choice for a wet, slightly depressing day. The melted cheese covered a whole, flattened yet juicy chicken breast with tomato and bacon, all atop the English muffin. A substantial steak knife comes with the sandwich for cutting ease. The coleslaw was creamy, slightly sweet and just a bit chunky. None of that pulverized cabbage puree some places serve.
You likely won’t have room for it if you order lunch, but Bernie’s does offer two desserts, Mississippi Mud Cake or Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce (each $3.95).
Virginia and Jarl Andersen have been owners of Bernie’s for about three months. She is a self-described military brat from Savannah, Georgia, and he is a native of Oslo, Norway. They moved to the Coast from Miami and are “feeling out” what customers will want.
“It’s a work in progress,” Virginia Andersen said. They’re frequently offering specials to get a handle on that. For example, Wienerschnitzel Wednesday was a recent big hit.
Bernie’s offers a frequent-customer card (buy five lunches and get the sixth free) as well as 15 percent discount for active military, police officers and firefighters.
And if there’s an old Bernie’s favorite that didn’t make it to the pared-down menu?
“If we have the ingredients on hand, we’ll be happy to make it for them,” Virginia Andersen said.
Where: 220 Eisenhower Drive, Biloxi (behind Iron Works gym, on Rue Petit Bois).
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
Specialties: Steak sandwiches; smoked tuna dip; bread pudding; chicken, shrimp or catfish baskets; burgers; chicken salad; ribeye steak.