Chicago >Food & Dining > Cafe Bernard
2100 N Halsted, Chicago, IL | Directions 6061441.920125 -87.648927
Neighborhoods: North Side, Lincoln Park
Best French Food Ever – I had the distinctive pleasure of dining at your restaurant last Wednesday for a friend?s birthday. Although she has eaten at your restaurant for years, I had never been to Cafe Bernard before. The atmosphere was relaxing and the music was at a perfect volume. The waitress that served us was engaging and not intrusive. My partner ordered the filet and I had the red snapper. Both entrees were cooked to perfection and our desserts were the perfect ending to an amazing meal. We will be frequent patrons of this incredible restaurant.
Old school bistro – If you expect Trotter or similar in the kitchen, fahgeddaboudit. If you like 60s rock and roll and black and white movies, yould like Cafe Bernard. Nothing pretentious. Service has always been efficient and friendly. The food well prepared, hearty and fairly priced; same with the wine list. It is truly a French cafe or bistro, not a one star Michelin restaurant. For example they serve cassoulet -- I would love to see that on the menu at Tru. Portions are usually large enough to share -- come hungry.
slightly rude service, cold overcooked food – We ate here on a Thursday night for my mom's birthday. The waitress was unaccomodating and borderline rude, which normally doesnt bother me too much if the food is good. But it was not.
The salmon was bland, cold and overcooked. The steak was tough and salty. The pomme frites soggy. If it was located in a rural town somewhere, it would be a good restaurant... but when you compare it to all of the other wonderful options in the area that are in that price range, its below average.
Fair fare! Wonderful atmosphere! – Came to celebrate my birthday with my siblings. We had a variety of dishes. Best were the hors d'oeuvres. Calamari was surprisingly fresh, grilled (don't like them fried) with a tasty vinaigrette sauce which complemented the bitterness of the grilled calamari well. Tried my brother's baked brie which was fairly good as well. That's what I will order next time. My sister ordered escargot which, again, were surprisingly fresh. Not too garlicky but the "croute" over the escargots was nothing to rave about.
Then the rest of the meal was more of a disappointment after such a good start. We had ordered a "canard a l'orange" - this came without orange, rather some sort of berry sauce accompanied by the driest piece of duck I've had in a long time. My brother had the filet mignon. Nothing extraordinary. It was cooked the way we usually like them, rare, but the legume accompaniment was plain boring.
As for my main dish, I ordered the Bouillabaisse. Well, aside from the freshness of the fish, it was missing important ingredients, like the potatoes and the tomatoes. What to say? Maybe I'm wrong about the recipe but I've had Bouillabaisse in Marseille before and this was not it.
Desserts: Some sort of cake that tasted like the berry sauce that came w/ my sister's duck. Bad!
My brother's creme brulee was actually good. I'm specific about the hardness of the crust and I felt it was hard enough. Best dessert out of the 3 was the white chocolate w/ fruit, except it didn't taste like chocolate but rather a sweet cream. Good nonetheless.
Friendly staff. We were seated promptly. Next time, I have to order the Cassoulet!
Extra credit for the black board and chalk in the men's bathroom. Fun!
An old friend--best kind – One of the things that makes me sad about Chicago is that it is rare to be able to go to a restaurant that isn't a chain, or managed by one of two or three formulaic organizations who bestow their chow shops with some kind of truly dopey name. And or which folds two years after opening, once you've fallen in love with it.(Though this happens everywhere unfortunately.)
Exception, Cafe Bernard, which I have been going to since 1972, evolving my then-novice tastes through a ten year stint doing food PR and recipe development, decades of restaurant dining in my years living in New York ,Boston and Toronto, (among numerous other cities in my travels) and upon returning to Chicago, also returning to Bernard. Throughout those 35 years, it has been consistent, charming and a magnet like True North when I want reliable French food and an unprepossessing environment, joyfully bereft of 20- and 30-somethings, self -important cell phones and look-at-me behavior. Bernard is what a bistro is: a neighborhood home away from home. Expect nothing more: no bling, no hype. The real deal. A place to sit back and talk to friends over a memorable meal.
My favorite selection is the cassoulet, which is every bit as good as Julia's recipe, but you save three days' prep; the escargot are extraordinary if quite decadent, come covered with a buttery crust, and yes, the bread is very good by Chicago restaurant standards, especially to dip into the generous, garlicky escargot butter. I also recall a fine osso bucco that appears from time to time. I have never been disappointed; quite the opposite: every meal reminds me to return.
No need to worry about parking if you aren't walking there; they have valet service which is worth every penny in that neighborhood.
As for the detractors who wrote reviews here, I've got to wonder, really. But then, self selection can be a wonderful thing.
Good Food Better Wine – I have loved this restaurant for 25 years. The food is generally excellant, but yes there can be a disappointment now and then. But given the value, I have no complaints. The wine really is one of their strong points. They are able to find French wines that few others carry and they serve them by the glass at reasonable prices.
Get cozy with someone special at this relaxed, romantic French spot in Lincoln Park. – The Scene
Low-lit with a copper-topped bar and wood-plank walls, Cafe Bernard offers an intimate respite from the Halsted strip's noisy, hipster-filled hangouts. Modestly decorated with French posters on the walls and dried flowers on the tables, it's roomy enough for groups, but custom-made for cozy dates.
Nothing too fancy, just classic French dishes, simply presented. Steamed mussels are simple and scrumptious, bathing in a big bowl with a sauce of shallots, cream and white wine; more decadent starters include bubbling-hot escargots and sauteed foie gras. Entrees include stellar grilled salmon with subtly sweet cabernet sauce; vegetarian pasta with seasonal vegetables; and signature bouillabaisse in lobster-saffron broth. For a sweet finish, choose from creme brulee, white-chocolate mousse with berries or sinful cappuccino cheesecake.
Can't go wrong – Excellent. Enticing menu which doesn't disappoint. Signature grilled salmon was superb. My dining partners ordered veal and pork dishes. They were equally impressed with their choices. Creme broulet was the perfect way to end a delicious dining experience. Excellent service by all - very helpful server guided us through choices. Quietly chic and charming. Subtle background music added romance to a wonderful evening. Go early and enjoy
better french in Chicago – Read all the great reviews on Cafe Bernard so we were excited to try it. Sunday pm- only 3 small tables being served. Fish and steak were completely overdone. Duck was tough- poor quality with very little meat (thank goodness for the heap of mashed potatoes). One at our table had the lamb, which was good. Staff was friendly and helpful with the nice selection of French wine. Overall, we (including my French mother) were very underimpressed. I agree with the previous review- Bernard does not hold a candle to Le Bouchon or Cafe Matou for French Bistro in Chicago.
go somewhere else – want french food that is actually tasty in chicago 'hoods - go to matou or bouchon. bernard has good wine. but the steak was overcooked. bread was decent. overall: average & NOT worth the hype or price of the meal. next door red rooster is cheaper & has the same food.
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