One of Houston's most popular places for burgers is about to demonstrate why breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. Beginning Monday (June 26), Bernie’s Burger Bus will roll out an all-new breakfast menu.
Update 8/8: Bernie's has ceased offering breakfast. The restaurant issued a statement about the decision that reads in part: "Bernie's was born out of a drive to do things differently, and because of this passion for excellence, we remain dedicated to Bernie's core offering of burgers, fries, shakes and drinks as well as a monthly rotating menu of seasonal dishes that excite us and keep us on our toes. Breakfast at Bernie's is no longer a part of that menu, meaning we have more time to focus on what Bernie's does best - cooking the best burgers and fries in the world for the people of our great city."
Available at the restaurant's Bellaire location starting next week, the breakfast menu will also be unveiled at the Heights location when it opens (tentatively late July or early August). In keeping with the food truck-turned-restaurant’s style, the menu will consist of what chef-owner Justin Turner describes as “a lot of things in buns,” specifically, full and slider-sized breakfast sandwiches.
“We’re here prepping. We have all these ingredients in the house, and we make breakfast for ourselves all the time,” Turner tells CultureMap. “It’s, like, why not serve this? This is what gets kind of exciting for us.”
Turner, who won an episode of Chopped last year, considers the sliders to be the heart of the new offerings. Each one starts with a challah bun and cage-free eggs that are prepared in special pans and baked frittata style to give them a fluffy texture. Options include the Exchange Student (Pepperjack cheese, spicy guacamole, and pico de gallo), the Junior Varsity (choice of bacon or sausage, cheddar cheese, and chipotle aioli), and the Dean (roast beef, Swiss cheese, and chimichurri).
“We’re excited, because we feel like we’ve created an egg sandwich that’s unlike the McDonald’s and Burger Kings that crack an egg and let it cook,” Turner says. “We’ve lightened it up. They’re so good.”
Priced between $2.75 and $3.75 each, Turner says he sees major potential for the sliders to become a staple of morning meetings at offices across the city. Add in discounts on bulk orders and the ability to have them delivered via DoorDash, and the chef anticipates the offer will become pretty irresistible.
While the sliders are almost snackable, the full size breakfast sandwiches should appeal to those with heartier appetites. The Varsity is a scaled up version of the Junior Varsity slider, but the 1918, which is named for the year his grandfather Bernie (the restaurant’s namesake) was born, has a more personal component.
“It was his favorite breakfast sandwich that I was taught to make very early in my life,” Turner says. “It’s a basic bagel breakfast sandwich. Choice of meat, two eggs, cheese, and then he ate it with mayonnaise and mustard on an everything bagel.”
If that’s too intense for some people, the 1918 will also be available on a plain bagel. Both the plain and everything bagels are coming from New York Bagels, widely considered to be Houston’s best bagel shop.
While the breakfast sandwiches, as well as a breakfast bowl and a riff on chilaquiles called Spanish Club, will be the primary reason people dine at Bernie’s in the mornings, Turner has not overlooked the potato. Already one of Houston’s most reliable destinations for french fries, the Schoolyard Spuds take hash browns to the proverbial next level.
Inspired by French pommes paillasson, they’re tater tot-style potato cakes that are fried in bacon fat then a second time in canola oil before being seasoned with thyme.
“They’re fucking ridiculous,” Turner says emphatically. “They retain the flavor of bacon without pieces of bacon (in the potato).”
On the beverage side, Bernie’s will serve locally-roasted Katz coffee (hot or iced), freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice, and milk (whole or chocolate). Bellaire customers in search of espresso beverages like lattes can simply walk across the parking lot to Dandelion Cafe (Boomtown is located nearby for Heights residents).
The weekday menu is only the beginning. Weekends could specials like a riff on the signature detention burger made with French toast instead of grilled cheese sandwiches and Turner’s take on the Cajun classic grillades and grits.
But that’s in the future. Beginning Monday, those fluffy egg sliders and over the top potatoes will be calling. If Turner is as successful in the mornings as he has been with burgers, breakfast in Houston might never be the same.