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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Out of the Ashes: Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club Begins Rebuilding Process

At Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club, it was supposed to be a Christmas day to celebrate. The year-old restaurant, located at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, had dinner reservations for 170 people on the books.

However, on the morning of Dec. 25, while a couple of employees began preparing in the kitchen for the busy night, something went terribly wrong: An electrical fire began in the ceiling over the dining room.

Within a couple hours, the restaurant had burned to the ground. Bernie’s owners Rand Howell and Geoff McIntosh, while in shock, scrambled to find new reservations for their customers, and new jobs for their employees.

The only saving grace: The two employees made it out of the building unharmed.

“Initially, it was very devastating,” McIntosh said.

One month later, the feelings of devastation have largely faded, McIntosh said, and the owners are now working on the rebuilding process. There’s also another silver lining in the dark cloud.

“Everybody who wanted a job was able to find one within two to three weeks,” McIntosh said, praising his fellow local restaurateurs who stepped in to help his staffers.

At first, McIntosh and Howell looked into reopening Bernie’s in an existing building at another location. However, those plans fell through.

“We just couldn’t put it together,” he said.

McIntosh and Howell are now planning on rebuilding Bernie’s in the same location, which they own, he said. There’s another, smaller building on their property that they may demolish to build a new Bernie’s that’s bigger and better than ever.

“We had outgrown our space by the second month we were open,” McIntosh laughed.

McIntosh said the current plan is to expand both the lounge and dining areas just a bit. The biggest changes, though, will involve improving the traffic flow by widening aisles and fixing the fact that in the old building, there was only one, hard-to-access door in and out of the kitchen—which led to constant traffic jams.

When can customers expect the new Bernie’s to rise from the ashes? McIntosh said that optimistic estimates say the new building’s doors could open within seven or eight months, but he thinks a year is more realistic.

“All the layers of government approval we’ll need will take two to three months, probably, by themselves,” he said.

McIntosh praised the restaurant’s insurance company, Farmers Insurance, for moving quickly thus far. In fact, the business-interruption insurance is paying key management employees to stay on while the restaurant is rebuilt, McIntosh said.

Keep your fingers crossed for the good people at Bernie’s. Follow the rebuilding progress, and get updates on former Bernie’s employees, at www.facebook.com/Berniesfans.

In Brief

Bontá Restaurant and Bar is now open and serving modern European and Latin fare at 68510 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Cathedral City, in the spot formerly occupied by Picanha Churrascaria. More info at bontarestaurant.com. … Loco Charlie’s Mexican Grill opened in January at 1751 N. Sunrise Way, near World Gym in Palm Springs. The restaurant’s website promises “one of a kind, authentic Mexican cuisine” that is “made with the freshest ingredients possible.” Visit that website, mylococharlies.com, for more info. … King’s Highway, the diner at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, launched all-new, expanded menus in mid-January. The restaurant is following in the footsteps of the Ace Hotel L.A., which recently revamped its restaurant with the help of the folks behind Five Leaves in Brooklyn, N.Y.—meaning Five Leaves influences can be found on the Palm Springs menus, too. Highlights include the avocado toast for breakfast, and the Five Leaves burger (including grilled pineapple, pickled beets and a sunny-side-up egg) for lunch and dinner. … Want to get out of the house to enjoy the Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 22? Trio Restaurant, at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is hosting its annual “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” party, to benefit the AIDS Assistance Program. Get tickets, starting at $125, at aidsassistance.org. If you’re closer to Indian Wells, consider the Red Carpet Oscar Party at Vicky’s of Santa Fe, at 45100 Club Drive. Tickets are $85, and the event benefits Variety—The Children's Charity of the Desert. Call 760-345-9770 to reserve. … Congrats to Shanghai Reds, the popular back-area bar and restaurant at Palm Springs’ Fisherman’s Market and Grill, located at 235 S. Indian Canyon Drive, for completing an expansion of the patio. There’s now more seating and a better music stage. ... If you haven’t heard already: The Asian-cuisine scene of the Coachella Valley is now worse off due to the apparent closing of Jiao, the Foundation 10-owned restaurant that was located at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

What: The ramen with pork belly

Where: Jiao, 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, No. B-10, Palm Springs

How much: A downright reasonable $10

Contact info: 321-1424; www.jiaops.com

Why: The flavors are a perfect mix.

It was an in-season Friday night, and we were wandering around the north part of downtown Palm Springs. We had no reservations anywhere—and as hunger started to set in, that lack of reservations became a problem.

There was an hour wait at Jake's. Double that at Birba. So we crossed Palm Canyon Drive and decided to check out Jiao. We're very happy that we did.

Jiao has not quite been around for a year yet; it was opened last spring by the same folks who own Cheeky's and the aforementioned Birba. While it does not draw the freaking-insane-sized crowds that its sister restaurants do, Jiao seems to do a nice business, and we were happy to immediately get seats at the counter. Like I said, we were hungry.

We sampled dishes from all over the reasonably priced pan-Asian menu (which changes every week, if the Jiao Facebook page to be believed), but one stood out: the ramen with pork belly.

Here's how good the pork ramen was: Despite some flaws, the dish was still amazing. Ramen noodles in a delicious broth were topped with perfectly prepared pork belly, greens and a sliced-in-half hard-boiled egg. Simple, but splendid. Every bite in which I could get all of the ingredients was pure heaven.

That leads to the aforementioned flaws: It was almost impossible to get all of those ingredients together in one bite. There is not enough of the earthy, salty (in a good way) broth—it goes fast—and the large pork-belly slices get devoured too quickly unless one cuts them up with a knife. 

But those bites where everything does come together? Perfection.

The next time I am at Jiao, I will order this dish with extra broth and a steak knife (that is, if the dish is on the ever-changing menu that week). I recommend you do the same.

Published in The Indy Endorsement