HOUSTON—Bernie’s Burger Bus has hit food truck gold. The school-themed bus has graduated to a brick-and-mortar restaurant, set to open in a few months in Bellaire.
Chef and owner Justin Turner set out to build a burger that could not be copied, and he credits his originality for the success of his business. The former personal chef was determined to make everything he served from scratch. That means grinding chuck-and-brisket patties daily, curing the pickles, and even making the condiments.
“We use onion, and garlic and good Worcestershire, not the fake stuff,” Turner explains of the black pepper mayonnaise.
Bernie’s homemade mayo and ketchup is now available for purchase at Kroger, and coming soon to Whole Foods and Central Market stores.
Turner named his rolling restaurant after his grandfather, a Chicago businessman who was influential in his young life.
“I want his legacy to live on,” Turner explained. The business’s old-school strategy and school-bus theme came about almost by accident.
“Bernie’s Burger Truck just didn’t sound that great, so I said ‘Bernie’s Burger Bus’ and it just stuck,” he said.
After finding a big yellow bus, Justin did his homework and gave his burgers catchy names. “The Principal” is your basic burger, and the best-seller. Others include The Cheerleader, The Homeroom, and The Detention. A staff favorite is The Substitute, – a virtual steakhouse dinner on a bun. The beef patty is topped with bacon, bleu cheese, burgundy mushrooms, and “tipsy onions,” which have been sautéed in Jack Daniels whiskey.
“I probably eat one about three, four, five times a week—always testing for quality,” jokes manager Josh Tucker.
In addition to the Bellaire location, Bernie’s Burger Bus also has its sights set on opening locations in Katy and The Woodlands.
“To park our bus right across from the restaurant that we are going to open in the next couple of months, words can’t describe it,” Turner said.