Saturday morning was a long one. Wake up 45 minutes earlier than I do on a weekday to ready myself for a harrowing drive 35 miles through 12″ of fresh powder and blowing snow layered on top of slick and poorly cared for roads to drive my wife to her first 5K–one she could have done in Burnsville if she had only known to look. After getting dressed and packing the car I opened the garage door to find an impassible driveway due to plowing. Ten minutes of shoveling later and the car was in the driveway getting warm and we were about ready to head out the door just as the clock rolled over 6:00.
We slowly made our way out to I-35 and headed south towards Faribault. While the roads were plowed they were slick, the blowing snow made it even more difficult to see and the number of cars whizzing by only to later end up in the ditch was making the white knuckle ride from hell that much worse. The first thing I wanted to do when I arrived in Faribault was sit down and relax with a warm cup of decaf and after a quick stop to register The Wife for her 5K we did just that.
I hopped on the web and looked for restaurants in Faribault nearby. Ignoring Perkins, I found a listing for Bernie’s Grill located a few blocks from the Community Center where we were parked and made my way towards it. Downtown Faribault, unlike many of the communities to the north, continues to keep up its original downtown and seems to be doing it well without any empty storefronts and plenty of people making their way in to Bernie’s Cafe to beat the cold and snowy day which had just dawned as we walked through the door.
Bernie’s is a cute and well kept little diner with ample seating at a variety of tables and a very small counter at the front. Tables were adorned with a variety of holiday mugs which came in a multitude of colors, designs, and sizes ranging from large to very large. While the coffee wasn’t very good, I almost felt at home eating at Bernie’s and based on those who were eating there with us that morning it seems like many of the regular patrons who knew each other well felt exactly the same way.
I must admit that I spent very little time even looking over what I was about to eat as it was absolutely wonderful watching the snowy world go by through the large windows facing the downtown street. While few others even bothered to look outside at the scene they are wholly accustomed to, I spent my time remembering all the great places I ate as a kid or while traveling the small towns of the Midwest and wished that I could enjoy the same sight from a similar diner right near home. Even though I had never before stepped foot inside Bernie’s, I felt oddly at home holding my stout little coffee mug with a large Christmas tree on it which I swear was the exact image which was slapped on each and every one of my mother’s Christmas china.
They have a lengthy menu (this is slightly out of date price-wise but you’ll get the idea) with the usual fare for breakfast and lunch. While I was a bit confused on how to get what I wanted (two eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, and toast), the server was more than accommodating and took my order without hesitation and it later appeared on my bill for a couple of dollars. My wife ordered “Bernie’s Fabulous Blueberry Cheese Pancakes” listed on the menu as, “three secret recipe blueberry pancakes with powdered sugar,” for $6. We went with a #3 off the menu intended for seniors and children which was, “one slice of French toast or one blueberry pancake with two sausage or bacon with one egg and fruit,” for $4.75 to feed The Rooster. I ordered a decaf, which once filled never even approached the bottom before being refilled to the brim, and my wife ordered an orange juice.
Our orders were up quickly and while I don’t have any photos of the food, suffice to say that no person (and possibly not two or three) would go hungry from a single plate at Bernie’s in Faribault. My eggs, while slightly overdone on the bottoms were tasty and large. The bacon was perfect and the hashbrowns didn’t come from Sysco. The orange slices adorning the edge of my plate were a pleasant and refreshing surprise. My wife’s pancakes were huge and thick, hanging precariously over the sides of her plate, and came served with a tiny container of whipped cream. The Rooster’s plate could have fed a hungry teenager after football practice which led The Wife to remark that it was no wonder the place was teeming with seniors even on a morning where the weather was less than ideal for those over the age of 75.
Overall the food was good–not great or mind blowing–but just plain old down home diner cooking for inexpensive prices. I left full and extremely happy that we had eaten three great meals for less than we would have paid for two meals just a few miles further north. While I am not going to go so far as to suggest that you drop everything and run to Faribault to try to recreate our enjoyable morning at Bernie’s Cafe the next time it snows 12″ overnight, I will say that next time you’re in Faribault (or any small town really) stop in to the little corner cafe and watch the world go by outside. I think you’ll enjoy yourself more than you’ll ever know.
Have you ever eaten at Bernie’s Cafe in Faribault? If so what did you think? Do you have any similar memories of eating at a particular diner or cafe that comes back to you and gives you the warm and fuzzies? What do you like to do on snowy, cold days in the dead of winter? Whatever you have to say go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
129 Central Ave N
Faribault, MN 55021-5210
Tuesday to Sunday: 6 AM – 2 PM