Despite Bernie’s motto — Come Try My Chicken! — I might never have tried Bernie’s chicken had it not been recommended by Philip Bardin as one of his favorite fried chicken places in South Carolina. When I get a recommendation from Philip, the chef who created the legendary Old Post Office Restaurant out on Edisto Island and who is now consultant for the Island’s hot Ella & Ollie’s restaurant, I pay attention!
Bernie’s looks like a fast food joint. It is a fast food joint: disposable dishware, low prices, speedy service, minimal menu. Nothing surprising, right? But when teeth crunch through crust, revelation dawns. This is broasted chicken (deep fried under pressure), so it is virtually grease-free while the meat inside is dripping moist. Each piece is contained inside a crisp gold crust that is salty-spicy and a perfect complement for the meat.
Bernie’s is popular enough that the chicken served at mealtime is absolutely fresh from the fryer. Whatever parts you like can be bought in whatever quantity you need, but a large number of regular customers come for the 3-piece special, which includes crinkle-cut fries (decent), roll (blah), and sparkling cole slaw with pickle punch and pepper zing. A big tea is included, too. At under $7, it’s an outstanding bargain meal.
Since Bernie’s is all about efficiency, you don’t expect syrupy-sweet service from the staff, but I have found them to be polite, good-natured, and genuinely helpful (like when I had a hand in a cast and the woman behind the counter offered to carry my tray to a table). Lunch attracts a large crowd of working folks from the neighborhood; and any day the Gamecocks are playing just up Bluff Road in Williams-Brice Stadium, the place is packed.