34th and Sansom is an iconic block for University City foodies. Bernie’s, a restaurant/bar/lounge with outposts in Glenside and Haverford, has just recently joined the club. I went one Sunday at noon to see if the freshly opened spot could hold its own against its wildly popular neighbors.
Bernie’s University City is so new, it doesn’t even have a website page yet and I couldn’t find an online menu on their Facebook page to check out before my visit. The maître d, server, and manager walked over to let us know that they had only been open a week and were open to any suggestions.
It’s a massive, beautiful, and open place. A rustic, yet elegant bar with leather stools lines the entire wall of the first floor. I snuck a peak at their drink menu, which included an extensive beer list. There’s also an upstairs lounge–area with a pool table and an outdoor terrace.
However, I was disappointed to discover that there was no brunch menu, only lunch. My friend and I ordered the baby greens salad to start. The salad was nothing extraordinary, just a simple spinach (they ran out of baby greens) base with sliced almonds and dried cranberries. The salmon, while well–seasoned, was very rare, bordering on undercooked.
Next up was Bernie’s vegetarian answer to the cheesesteak: the Zappa sandwich. It was definitely large enough for two, and the kitchen was kind enough to split the portion onto two separate plates for us. The “steak,” made out of sweet, tangy seitan, was served on a toasted baguette with provolone cheese. The cheese to “steak” ratio was perfect, but I could definitely tell I was eating the vegetarian version.
When we got the check, my friend and I were taken aback by two things. First: the price tag. $17 for a salad less creative than my Sweetgreen order. Second: the note. “Trust the process,” was scribbled across the top of our bill.
I think Bernie’s was trying to tell us to be patient, and give them some time to work out their kinks. I’ll probably wait a little while longer before going back. You can join me there next year when I’m 21 and can check out that drink menu.
TL;DR: Bernie’s is less than a month old, and still figuring itself out.
Location: 34th and Sansom
Monday–Friday: 11:30 am–2 a.m.
Saturday–Sunday: 10 am–2 a.m.