Mexican made simple
Toby Lewis is a freelance writer with 30 years experience in the restaurant industry. Look to each month’s Dining View for his thoughts, insights and opinions about dining in and around Granite Bay. Follow him on Twitter, @TobLewis.
Bernardo’s Mexican Restaurant
What: Traditional Mexican food
Where: 8779 Auburn Folsom Road, Granite Bay
Info: (916) 791-2940
One of my new favorite sayings is, “It is what it is.”
How can you argue with that? The saying is especially apropos when it comes to hole-in-the-wall restaurants, most of which are underrated, in my opinion.
After a recent dinner at Bernardo’s Mexican Restaurant in Granite Bay, I couldn’t help but leave thinking, “It is what it is.”
Bernardo’s is everything you would expect from a typical hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint — traditional comfort food, very reasonable prices, fast and friendly service.
There is nothing fancy about it, both outside and in. And according to owner Bernardo Ramirez, his many returning and loyal customers like it that way.
Growing up as a ranch hand in his home state of Durango, Mexico, Ramirez immigrated to California in 1969 and immediately took up a job washing dishes in a family restaurant.
Ramirez quickly learned the mechanisms of the restaurant business and eventually worked his way up to manager at his uncle’s restaurant, Café Delicias, in Granite Bay.
When Café Delicias closed in the early 1990s, Ramirez focused his attention on opening up his own restaurant bearing his name in downtown Roseville in 1992.
He has since expanded, taking over the former Granite Bay Café Delicias space in March 2008.
Bernardo’s is not unlike most family-oriented restaurants — serving family recipes that have been handed down through generations in a no-frills, non-pretentious environment.
Every dish we tried on my recent visit had the familiar flavors one might expect from traditional Mexican cuisine in California, whether it be a taqueria or sit-down, full-service restaurant.
Bernardo’s happens to be a sit-down, full-service restaurant, and as a first-time visitor, I’d say the food pretty much speaks for itself.
Bernardo’s certainly does not pride itself on its décor, and, dare I say, it shouldn’t.
The space is defined by two dining rooms — a main dining room and another used for larger parties and banquets, each separated by arched windows lined with aged brick.
The booths, while obviously quite antiquated, were surprisingly spacious and comfortable.
The restaurant is well-lit and adorned with banners displaying Mexican beer and authentic Mexican décor.
Everything – from the “seat yourself” concept to the wooden salad bowls to paying at the cash register in the front when you are done with your meal – reminded me of the restaurants my parents would take me out to when I was a kid.
Thousand Island dressing? Yes, please.
On our recent visit, my wife and I sat ourselves in one of the booths and were immediately greeted by our server, Indira, who was very friendly and did an excellent job describing the menu to us.
She explained that everything was made fresh, in house, including the delicious red hot sauce, which is served in a squeeze bottle along with the chips and salsa.
Bernardo’s only serves beer and wine, but Indira explained that she can make a margarita using agave wine instead of tequila. We ordered two — on the rocks, no salt.
We never had a “winerita” before and we found it to be very sweet and a bit syrupy. But it still satisfied my margarita craving.
For snacks, we tried the chips and guacamole. Indira was also very attentive in replacing our chips and salsa, but did not bring water to the table until we asked for it.
She explained that the chili verde and shrimp entrees were quite “popular,” and so, as is often the case, we ordered off of our server’s recommendation.
My wife ordered the camerones rancheros (shrimp sautéed in a ranchero sauce with peppers and onions) and I ordered the chili verde. Indira also suggested I order a duo of chili verde (marinated pork) and chili Colorado (beef tenderloin cubes), which I did.
Each entrée came with a choice of chicken tortilla soup or a house salad. We opted for salad, house-made Italian dres-sing for her and (why not?) Thousand Island for me.
Each entrée also came with rice, beans and tortillas.
We were surprised at the speed with which the food arrived at our table, which led me to suspect that the entrees were likely prepared earlier that day and sitting on a hot line waiting to get scooped on a plate.
I find nothing wrong with fast service however, and, in fact, the extra time the chili verde had to sit on the hot line actually made it more tender. The chili verde was quite delicious.
My wife’s camarones rancheros dish contained a generous helping of shrimp but lacked a certain sense of creativity.
In all actuality, each dish we were presented seemed to lack a certain sense of creativity.
That being said, I find no fault with Bernardo’s simply being what it is. Nothing fancy. Great service. Cold beer. Adequate food with all the right flavors.