The Lunch Meet crew visited one of Columbia's most beloved fried chicken restaurants, Bernie’s Chicken.
Bernie’s Chicken has been serving up some of the best fried chicken in the Midlands since January 10th, 1980. Bernie’s owner and namesake Bernie Shealy shared the recipe for his success with us.
“Well first it’s the taste of the chicken, obviously, that drives the popularity,” Shealy said. “The chicken is good.”
And what makes his chicken so good is the dedication to freshness that he and his staff pay to each piece.
“The secret is we cut it ourselves, we marinate it, we lightly bread it, we refrigerate it for a few hours, pressure cook it, and serve it quickly,” Shealy said. “One of the keys to fried food is serving it quickly.”
All it takes is one bite into a piece of Bernie’s Chicken to see why it’s so popular.
“That’s so good,” Clint said. “Golden fried, just the right amount of crisp, and oh so tasty.”
“Mmm this is good,” Jared said after taking a big bite. “This is delicious. Make sure you give it a try!”
Bernie is also quick to mention the other key to his restaurant’s success: his employees.
“I’ve got a loyal employee base, I’ve got a very friendly staff,” Shealy said. “I’ve got a girl that’s worked for me for 38 and a half of the 39 years (Bernie’s has been open).”
Equally as loyal as Bernie’s employees are his customers. They flock again and again to Bernie’s unique location on Bluff Road in Columbia’s industrial district. Bernie’s location has also endeared him to fans of a different kind of chicken, who happen to play right down the street on Saturday’s in the fall.
“You know I’ve had a pretty good rapport with South Carolina pretty much since Sparky Woods was here when they got in the SEC,” Shealy said. “Joe Morrison used to come in. He was one of my good customers.”
Bernie’s Chicken is open on each of the University of South Carolina’s home football games specifically to cater to hungry football fans.
“We don’t open on Saturday or Sunday the rest of the year, gamedays are special,” Shealy said. “Gamedays are fun days because everybody is in a good mood because we close at game time. The outcome has not been established so everybody is still in a good mood.”
So whether you’re looking for a quick, tasty lunch, or if you want to make your next tailgate taste great, stop in and give Bernie’s Chicken a try at 1311 Bluff Road in Columbia.