Bernie Charlie’s epicurean delight

I had my first meal at Columbiana’s newest dining establishment this week and let me tell you, it was more than just a dining experience.

It was a social, political and cultural experience. It was Mayberry recreated!

For all practical purposes, Aunt Bee herself could’ve been cooking in the kitchen.

Not only did I have some of the best home cooking I’ve had in quite a while, I saw people I had been playing phone tag with for days. I think half of Columbiana was there.

I was greeted at the door by Shelby County’s newest member of the Board of Education, Peg Hill (a local staple in Columbiana,) two judges, the District Attorney, half his staff, two sheriff’s deputies, a member of the Board of Registrars, the director of Shelby County’s Senior Services, friends I had not seen in weeks and the Mayor himself, Allan Lowe.

Hats off to Mayor Lowe for helping establish Columbiana’s flagship restaurant, by the way.

If that wasn’t enough, the whole restaurant got the privilege of seeing Columbiana’s House of Representative’s two beautiful grandchildren, who thank goodness, act and look more like Carol Hill than Mike.

(HA!)

The restaurant with its entire ambiance is quaint and cute with a realistic appeal.

It’s aged but modern and roomy enough for all of Columbiana plus a few visitors, too.

It has a down-home appeal, with a get-a-way feeling that is comfortable and relaxing.

It’s not the quietest place in town, but that’s because of the fellowship and fun a small-town diner brings and the characters that frequent it.

It’s a small price to pay for good food and good times.

Enough for the atmosphere and decor, what about the food?

Well, for someone who considers herself an epicurean and eats out a great deal more she eats in; Bernie and Charlie’s is a wonderful discovery.

It has a buffet and a menu with various choices and it’s one of the few places where you can make any choice without making a bad choice.

Fried chicken, country-fried steak, mashed potatoes, turnip greens, macaroni and cheese, fried okra and banana pudding (that’s to die for) were all on the menu the day I visited.

The food tasted as though all the grandmothers of the world had convened, conspired, cooked up and served their own best dishes.

The service was good, but more important, friendly, and the staff already has a flare for dealing with the &uot;regulars&uot; who are sure to be faithful for years to come.

No, I’m not a professional food critic, but I’ve been overweight long enough to know what good cooking is all about and proprietors Bernie Tamburello and Charlie Vacarella obviously know good cooking as well.

When it comes to Bernie and Charlie’s, there’s only one thing wrong, it’s 35 miles from my backdoor steps.

However, serving up the kind of food, fun and atmosphere they serve, I’m sure I, like most of Shelby County, am soon to become a &uot;regular&uot; too.

It’s well worth the drive and a delightful edition to the streets of Columbiana and the taste buds of all those who visit.

Beth Chapman is a guest columnist for the Reporter. She lives in North Shelby County with her husband, James, and two children, Taylor and Thatcher