Tylerites know the restaurant, Bernard Mediterranean, almost as an institution in town for fine dining, exquisite ambience, atmosphere and exceptional service.
Step inside Bernard Mediterranean Restaurant and you are transported into a European getaway, a cozy and continental escape from East Texas. Bernard Gautier, the effusive and heavily accented owner, opened the doors of his one of a kind eatery in 1995 and has been the welcoming host for over 20 years.
“I moved from Pau in the northern edge of the Pyrenees in France to come to school at TJC and UT Tyler,” explains Gautier. “With my restaurant I wanted to create an old world ambience, with a special flavor you can’t get anywhere else.”
The space is intimate and welcoming, with a grotto-like feel, each table topped with a wine bottle candelabra of its own. It is almost a mini-adventure, with the walls covered in frescoes and statues reminiscent of Tuscany, Rome or Provence.
The menu is extensive and elaborate, featuring pasta, chicken, veal and steak. But it is the preparation and presentation of these exquisite dishes that is most worth the wait. Start with mouthwatering appetizers like escargot, stuffed mushrooms, fresh calamari, Greek crab cakes or fried oysters. Your palate will be thanking you, but more decisions lie ahead. If you choose pasta, you will be overwhelmed by the options: Fettuccine Alfredo; Ravioli St. Tropez, a cheese ravioli in a sun dried tomato sauce with baby shrimp and crab meat; Tortellini Boscaiola, blended in a light cream sauce with fresh mushrooms and ham; Lasagna Bolognese; or Penne Au Saumon, penne pasta sauteed with salmon and green onions in a creamy vodka sauce and topped with caviar.
If chicken is your favorite, try one of their exotic offerings like Blanc De Poulet Campagnard, a breast stuffed with mushrooms, baked in a pastry puff, and served in a mushroom sauce. The Poulet Bordelaise is a similar preparation, but instead stuffed with spinach and mozzarella cheese served in a red wine demi glaze.
Meat eaters who crave veal or steak will be enraptured by the traditional offerings of Veal Piccata and Marsala, as well as the specialty preparations like Saltimbocca Romans, topped with prosciutto ham and sautéed in a light wine sauce or the Escalope De Veaux Nicoise, a veal scallopine stuffed with ham and cheese, drizzled with a creamy mushroom sauce. Steaks are seasoned to perfection; take your pick of rib eye, filet mignon, or New York strip.
Finish your food extravaganza with a Creme Brulee, Bread Pudding, or Bananas Foster.
Lunch is also a great time to fit in a taste of Europe. Open Tuesday-Friday, 11am-2pm, the menu offers great selections with great prices, ranging from Lasagna Bolognese for $7.95 to the Seafood Extravaganza for $13.95, as well as several chicken options, veal piccata, pasta dishes like spaghetti with meat sauce, and Salmon Florentine. All entrées are served with a house salad and garlic bread.
Sandra Hayley, who works nearby, dropped in to get a minestrone soup and salad, perfect she said for the chilly weather that day. She says, “The food is fabulous; I think much better than some of the pricey Dallas places.” She continues, “Bernard is a hands-on owner and greets every guest, and I think it’s the best restaurant in town.” Guests are welcome to walk in and place to-go orders, and to call in advance to hear the daily specials and soup of the day.
The entire restaurant seats just under 100 people, with the most striking room easily being the wine cellar, with sliding doors that reveal walls laden with wine bottles, strings of lights, and intimate corners. The restaurant is well-known for being the site for special occasions or special, romantic dinners.
As Dawn Rhodes, a guest for over 10 years describes, “Eating here is a little dramatic getaway when you can allow time in your day for great food. It is the perfect spot to bring clients or friends, and I’ve been coming back 2-4 times a month for the fantastic food and service.”
The restaurant has a beautifully stocked bar, which Gautier explains, “is not too rowdy, but more of a great social and meeting place.” Bernard’s boasts a great wine selection with seasonal favorites always available, and in the warmer months guests can enjoy their dinner and drinks on the outside patio.
Gautier is a very humble and grateful restaurateur who wants “people to relax and have a fine dining experience, but more importantly, to feel at home.” Don’t be surprised to have Gautier visit your table or greet you. “After all of these years here, we have a very loyal customer base,” explains Gautier. “We have people who dine with us every week, and businessmen who come in every time they are in town.”
The restaurant has an old-school charm and Gautier says, “I want guests to form their own opinions and preferences.” Gautier has two chefs in the kitchen, who he describes as “inventive and creative culinary greats.”
Dinner at Bernard’s is more than a meal, it is an experience, a feast for not only your taste buds but for all your senses.
Dinner is served Monday-Saturday from 5:30-10pm. Reservations are encouraged by calling (903)534-0265.
Bernard Mediterranean Restaurant is located in the Grande Boulevard Plaza at 212 Grande Blvd, Tyler.
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