You never know what you’ll spy on the tarmac at Stinson Municipal Airport. At noon on a recent day there was a lineup of small, Air Force-emblazoned single-engine planes painted with toothy shark grins. They looked like nothing so much as a phalanx of wannabe-wicked Chihuahuas.
Inside Bernard’s Creole Kitchen, recently relocated to Stinson from a tiny two-room building on Palo Alto Road and now boasting a view of the runway’s comings and goings, the fare is not without surprises of its own. A breakfast serving of shrimp and grits, “a Fat Tuesday Classic!” was a far cry from the gummy ground hominy and over-cooked crustaceans often served by less-practiced chefs. These grits were practically pillowy. The tender, sautéed shrimp mantled in cheesy-creamy sauce with tomato and bell pepper had been hit with a hint of Paul Prudhomme’s famous blackening spice, and the bowl brimmed with the promise of a good day to come. As good as it was, a split and butter-grilled biscuit was almost superfluous. For its part, the chicory-spiked Community coffee seemed a tad polite — not that I really like chicory, but when going for the full experience, I’d rather it be real.
Bernard’s does several breakfast croissants, among them one with crawfish, egg and cheese. I suspect that I might prefer it to the crawfish in po-boy form — and this has everything to do with the bread. Puffy, faux-French doesn’t float my pirogue, but the crunchy, fried crawfish themselves are fine, the tartar-like sauce does its job well, and the pickle accent works, too. There is one $5.99 lunch special daily and a selection of $7.99 specials with two sides and cornbread every day. Ms. Creola’s Creole succotash is one of the latter, and it’s a kitchen-sink affair, a mish-mash of every common kind of vegetable with chicken, shrimp, and sausage in a tomato-tinged matrix thickened with roux. The dish is something like a tricked-out maquechou, and — after the addition of Tabasco — it came to seem like the essence of unaffected comfort food. I was sorry when it was gone.
The dirty rice was perky with ground chicken liver and gizzards; the addition of chicken wing tips and sausage almost gave the simple side the importance of a main. As for the cornbread, it’s sweet, dense, moist, and needs not even a whisper of butter.
During dinner Thursday-Saturday, Bernard’s stage pulses with blues and bands like much-loved Small World. From 5-9, $11.99 dinner choices include Tchoupitoulas crawfish étouffée, Mississippi River seafood pasta, Vieux Carré chicken Orleans with fresh seafood sauce, and Louisiana blackened and grilled pork chops. And if the desserts look as down-home-good as the lemon cupcake I sampled one day, I’ll just close my eyes and point.
Bernard’s Creole Kitchen
8535 Mission Rd (Inside the Stinson Municipal Airport Building),
Best Bets Shrimp and grits, crawfish étouffée, Creole succotash
Hours Mon-Wed 7 am-3 pm, Thu-Sat 7 am-9 pm
The Skinny Downhome Cajun-Creole on the flank of a runway, serving everything expected.