I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked, “Where can I get a good steak in this town?”
Usually I ramble off a few places: F. McLintocks, Tanner Jack’s and a few fine-dining restaurants that carry a steak or two on their menus.
But I now have a better answer: Bernick’s in Paso Robles.
The contemporary restaurant opened its doors in downtown Paso Robles last month with a big city-style steakhouse menu.
Steaks are prime grade and dry-aged to enrich the flavor. Side dishes are offered a la carte rather than with the steak.
For example, if you want creamed spinach with your steak, it’s an additional $6. The a la carte concept is popular at nationally renowned steak houses such as Morton’s or Ruth’s Chris, but is still new to the Central Coast.
A la carte items quickly add up on a bill, but they also offer freedom and a chance to share the dishes because they are large enough for two.
Bernick’s is a block north of downtown City Park in a long and narrow building that formerly housed a retail store.
The design is classic for a steakhouse, with its wall of aged bricks, deep cherry wood tables, black leather chairs, high ceilings and a 30-foot-long bar.
The ambience was alluring, but it wasn’t quite the relaxing, dimly lit atmosphere I hoped for. It was bustling with customers dining at the bar or at the bistro-style tables throughout the restaurant.
The menu at Bernick’s is straightforward and simple. Enticing appetizers include beef carpaccio, waffle fries with Gorgonzola cream sauce and Provoleta a la Plancha, a
cast-iron skillet filled with melted provolone cheese and crusty grilled slices of french bread. The Provoleta ($9) came out simmering and was a delicious — albeit filling — start to our dinner.
For salads, there are four choices: classic Caesar, the house (mixed greens), an iceberg wedge and blue cheese, or a tomato and onion salad. I chose the wedge ($8) and was delighted by its artful display of lettuce halves, tangle of balsamic-glazed onions, chopped tomatoes and sliced carrots.
The blue cheese dressing was dense and pungent, one of the most delicious I’ve tried.
Beef is king
Bernick’s serves more than steaks, but why order other choices at a steakhouse? (There is a half-roasted chicken and a daily fresh catch.) Carnivores to the core, my husband, Seth, and I ordered the bone-in rib-eye ($35) and the baseball-cut sirloin ($25).
The presentation is all about the steak — our plump and simmering steaks were starkly served on white plates with no garnish. Our plates were also simmering, a nice touch to keep the steak hot throughout the meal.
Steaks are served with a choice of three sauces: chimichurri, béarnaise and a house sauce (similar to a homemade A1 sauce).
Seth pronounced the rib-eye one of the best he’s ever tasted. It’s certainly one of the best he’s eaten on the Central Coast, where he’s lived for 13 years. Served medium-rare (this means steakhouse medium-rare or bright pink), the rib-eye was cooked exactly as he wanted it.
My baseball-cut sirloin was tall and round, also a perfect medium-rare. Although not quite as tasty as the rib-eye cut, it was delicious, juicy and flavorful for such a lean cut of beef.
The sides of creamed spinach and asparagus were nearly as appealing. The creamed spinach was a sort of California version — rather than the usual chopped spinach drenched in cream, baby spinach was sautéed and lightly drizzled with a creamy butter sauce.
The delicate asparagus spears were perfectly grilled and sprinkled with orange zest, salt and pepper.
Because this was a meal of indulgence, making dessert a necessity, we chose the chocolate mousse cake — a rich, dense slice of chocolate heaven.
Bernick’s wine list is extensive and thoughtfully created, offering an array of strong reds from the Central Coast, France and Italy to pair with the delectable steaks.