I was overdue a visit to my folks in Bowral, so I picked up M at 7:30am on Sat and by 9:15am we pulled up to a rock-star parking spot in front of Bernie's Diner Moss Vale (gotta love parking in country towns!).
The bright red and white light bulbs made it easy to spot at the start of the Southern Highlands tourist drive.
Bernie's was mostly empty when we arrived - so we had our choice of benches. I was tempted to sit nearer the stove in the corner . . .
But instead chose to sit in the picture windows at the front and watch Moss Vale pass by, in all its winter glory.
By 9:45am almost all the booths were full - word about Bernie's Diner has certainly started to spread.
Deciding what to eat was easy - the pastrami and corned beef are made in house and served with coleslaw with russian dressing, gherkin and fries. Had it been a bit later in the day I would have gone for one of the amazing looking burgers or hot dogs (yep - it's a real diner all right!).
M went for a chocolate milkshake that had a fantastic cocoa after taste and added a new dimension to what could have been a standard shake. I had a coffee.
I was lucky enough to have a chat with Ioannis Benados, and fell in love the back story of this place. Bernie's has been in Ioanni's family for decades. His grandpa Emmanuel Benardos opened Bernie's in 1925. Locals had trouble with pronouncing Benardos, so his nickname was Bernie. There's a constellation of greek-owned diners up and down the east coast of Australia - with names like: Olympia or Paragon. Bernie paved the way for his grandson Ioanni to continue innovating decades later.
There's a brilliant photo on the wall - showing the Bernie's of old. Shelves stacked to the ceiling with groceries, a small boy wearing overalls is in the foreground - the little boy is Ioanni's uncle and is now 77 years old.
Until recently Bernie's Diner was a takeaway shop and the booths in which we ate our breakfast were hiding behind wooden hoardings. Ioanni knew the shop was still in the family, saw an opportunity and joined forces with Guiliano Colosimo to do a top quality fit out and to offer something quite different, and very welcome in the Southern Highlands.
You can read a bit more about Bernie's Diner in this SMH article.
Even better, head to the highlands in spring for the tulip festival and you'll find Bernie's Diner is the pot of gold at the start of the Southern Highlands.