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Bag a quick dinner at Bernie’s

Home-cooked food steams up the serving line at Bernie’s Place, where your dinner is packed as fast as you can decide what you want.

By J. NEALY-BROWN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 27, 2001


After a day marked by late-breaking events -- a meeting with an editor, a call from my husband about his stalled truck -- I quickly scrapped plans to cook dinner. My tummy was willing, but the rest of me was not.

Still, I wanted to serve a hot meal that tasted home-cooked. I found it at Bernie's Place.

The food is displayed behind a glass case just a few steps from the front door. The steam rising from the trays was a sign of relief, like the American Red Cross symbol is for a disaster victim.

The serving line setup makes for quick takeout. You wait only as long as it takes to decide what you want: oxtails soaked in gravy ($7) or smothered pork chops ($5.75) waiting to be heaped onto some fluffy yellow rice.

My husband and I ordered both. Our side dishes were yellow rice, corn, white rice and lima beans. My share of the corn bread didn't make it home, so I can attest that it is a powerful defense against hunger. The lemonade ($1) didn't make it home either. Brent, who repaired the truck, had worked up a mighty thirst.

Still, there was plenty of food to share with our 9-year-old girl, who eats like a teenager. I could tell by the number of times we told her to stop smacking that everything she tasted was good. I think I had to catch myself too, especially when I got to the pork chops.

The closer I got to the bone, I put down my fork. It was too good to let any of the smotherings get wasted on a utensil. These chops just begged to be eaten by hand.

The rice, corn and lima beans were tasty complements to the meat. There was nothing fancy about these, just plain ol' good.

Oxtails, a longtime personal favorite, were nice. I like mine thick, like the flavorful ones my dad makes. These were thinner. Still, Bernie's version is one of its most popular dishes, along with the pork chops and the chicken.

The menu at Bernie's changes daily. Dinners feature items such as baked turkey wings ($5.75), chitterlings (pronounced chit-linz; $7.50), chicken ($5.75) and beef stew ($6.25). Side dishes come a la carte at 99 cents each but are served in pairs, along with corn bread, with each dinner. They include lima beans, corn, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes and yellow or white rice.

"Everything is homemade," said Catherine Bryant, the restaurant manager. The sweet treats come in peach cobbler (99 cents), fruit salad ($1.25) and layer cakes ($1.50).

Possibly next month, Bernie's also will sell seafood to go. Renovations at the restaurant have temporarily interrupted its phone service, but it will be back online when the project is done.

If the seafood is as good as the Southern cooking, customers soon will add to Bernie's most popular dishes.

Pinellas to go

Bernie's Place
3135 18th Ave. S, St. Petersburg

Phone: No phone service during renovation; Check directory assistance next month

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

Consumers: Two adults and one child

What we got: Smothered pork chops, oxtails, yellow rice, white rice, lima beans, corn and lemonade

What it cost: $14.71

Time it took: Less than 5 minutes

Pay with: Cash

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