Earl Donaldson, who has worked in the restaurant business for the last 37 years, opened Bernie’s Fish and Chips at 500 E. 187th Street in the Fordham community in March 2006.
In the past three years, word of mouth has spread throughout the area and beyond about the quality baby back ribs, Cajun catfish, chicken breast with cornbread stuffing, and homemade bread and banana puddings.
“It is a small place, but sometimes we are so packed that you can’t get in,” Donaldson noted. “It gives people the opportunity to have something different because there aren’t any restaurants serving southern style cooking in the immediate vicinity.”
The restaurant has seating at a counter, and is either eat in or take out. Donaldson added soul food to the menu because his customers demanded it.
“This has taken off more than I originally expected,” Donaldson said. “Business is good, and I haven’t had to advertise.”
Those regulars who come to the eatery often when they want home cooking expressed their gratitude, and the place is really a family affair. The restaurant is named after Donaldson’s wife.
“My favorite thing about Bernie’s is the service and the people,” said patron Jared Heron. “A lot of people in our church up the street come here after services to get food.”
Donaldson said his years of experience in the business helped him become a success in his enterprise.
“I find owning my own business exciting and challenging,” Donaldson explained. “If I hadn’t been in restaurants, I don’t know if I would have made it. Three similar soul food restaurants that opened in the area around the time I did already closed.”
Bernie’s Fish and Chips delivers within a five-block-radius of its location, and accepts major credit cards.
“I like the Cajun catfish and whatever else I order,” Charles Miller, a loyal customer, explained. “When I come home from work, and I don’t feel like cooking, I come here. It is the closest to home cooking you can get.”
Donaldson feels that even among fish and chips and soul-food places, his cooking process and systems are unique. His restaurant also serves West Indian food like oxtail and curry chicken.
“I was inspired by the fish and chips idea,” Donaldson stated. “For me, it was the hand of God.”