On December 3, Houston-based Treadsack will debut its sixth concept, Bernadine’s, a “love letter to the Gulf Coast” and Southern-inspired restaurant, led by Executive Chef Graham Laborde and located in the Houston Heights neighborhood. Bernadine’s will be open for dinner Monday to Sunday and brunch on Saturday and Sunday, with lunch service scheduled to begin in January 2016.
Inspired by Laborde’s rural Louisiana upbringing and frequent visits to oyster houses and fish shacks along the Gulf Coast, Bernadine’s cuisine celebrates Southern culinary traditions, featuring a full raw bar, contemporary touches on classic “comfort food” items, and a bevy of dishes featuring locally sourced Gulf fish. Fostering a “catch of the day” philosophy, Laborde works closely with CHOAM, Treadsack’s Gulf seafood distribution company, to deliver the freshest seasonal seafood and bycatch, and serve an ever-changing selection of daily specials.
“The menu at Bernadine’s is a hybrid of many different culinary experiences throughout my life, with the focus on providing guests with a true sense of Southern hospitality, which in many ways embodies my own journey as a chef,” Chef Laborde says. “I’ve lived, worked, and dined all over the South, which has greatly influenced my approach to cooking and service—the food at Bernadine’s really embodies that simple, approachable cuisine to which I’ve added my own refined twist.”
Chef Laborde, who previously worked at Commander’s Palace, Stella, and Boucherie in New Orleans, as well as the acclaimed Conception in Houston before joining the Treadsack team, gained an early love for food and cooking from his family and upbringing in Lafayette, Louisiana. The restaurant’s name is a loving tribute to Chef Laborde’s grandmother, family matriarch Bernadine “Bird,” a master cook who not only fed the entire Laborde brood, but also countless extra guests who happened by her home. “Growing up, there was always room at our family table for everyone and anyone, and we want to celebrate that genuine spirit of hospitality here at Bernadine’s,” Chef Laborde says.
The dinner menu takes guests on a Southern culinary journey with plates inspired by the local cuisine of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. At the raw bar, diners can get a taste of the coast with a rotating selection of freshly caught seafood including Raw Gulf Oysters on the half shell; Marinated Blue Crab Claws; and a Daily Ceviche. Snacks include Chargrilled Oysters and Sweet Corn and Pimento Croquettes with Benton’s bacon, followed by small plates such as Smoked Ribs with sorghum popcorn and pickled Satsuma; New Orleans-Style BBQ Shrimp Toast; and Gumbo Ya-Ya.
Laborde’s main courses provide a taste for all palates with seafood plates like Grilled Pompano topped with pickled shrimp, roasted carrots, and fumet and Fried Wild Catfish with braised greens, mirliton slaw, and buttermilk dressing. Barbecue-inspired items include the Cochon de Lait Au Presse, a dish influenced by Chef Laborde’s background as a butcher featuring three different preparations of a whole pig, served with dirty farro, chipped turnips, Swiss chard salad, and Creole mustard vinaigrette, and vegetarians won’t miss the meat in the Oyster Mushroom Rockefeller Fettuccine.
On weekends, Bernadine’s invites locals and visitors to enjoy brunch Southern style. Diners can opt for breakfast dishes like Potato Skin Hash with BBQ pork, Andouille sausage, smoked cheddar and yard egg; Head Cheese Hot Brown, served on Texas toast with mornay sauce, bacon, and roasted tomato; and Buttermilk Biscuits made with black pepper and served with spiced honey butter butter. Lunch-focused dishes include two takes on the classic po’boy sandwich—the Peacemaker Po-Boy with fried oysters and shrimp, shredded cabbage, and bacon, and the Fried Green Tomato Po-Boy with jicama slaw, ravigote, sunflower seeds, and sprouts.
The restaurant’s dessert menu is a sweet collaboration between Chef Laborde and Pastry Chef Julia Doran, paying homage to both traditional French desserts and classic Junior League cookbook dishes with Oeufs a la Neige with bourbon cherries, smoked almond brittle, and candied thyme; Black Bottom Pecan Pie, topped with coffee ice cream and cocoa nib tuile; and Calas, Creole fried rice dumplings served with strawberry Lambic jam and buttercream.
Head Sommelier Michael Peltier’s wine program complements Laborde’s cuisine with a generous selection of domestic white and red varietals. Treadsack Bar Director Leslie Ross’s cocktail menu presents her spins on Southern classic cocktails and patio drinks with selections including a Frozen Hurricane made with Denizen white rum, spiced rum, passion fruit, lime, hibiscus syrup, and a Demerara rum floater and Oyster Shell Martini with Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Oyster Shell Noilly Prat dry vermouth, housemade ocean water tincture, and orange bitters.
Bernadine’s is designed by Michael Hsu, whose recent works include Austin’s Uchi, and Opporto Fooding House in Houston, as well as neighboring Hunky Dory, Treadsack’s chef-driven European steakhouse. Hsu’s design provides an inviting atmosphere, which emulates the homes and seafood shacks found along the Gulf Coast. The industrial yet rustic design features interior elements like exposed steel, slatted wood ceilings, whitewashed walls, and touches of rusty red and warm colors throughout the restaurant. The 4,200-square-foot indoor space offers 80 seats and 40 spots the raw bar, with an additional 80 seats on the oak-tree shaded 1,100 square foot outdoor patio, which is primed to become a Houston favorite for enjoying great food and drinks al fresco. Also available to guests is a private dining room, which connects Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory, and can accommodate up to 40 people for parties, intimate group dinners, and wine tastings.