Bernie Beigne is Montreal's new destination for guilty pleasure

Patrons can indulge their cravings with old-fashioned, handmade doughnuts made in front of a street-level window.

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“My doctor tells me,” George Giannopoulos laughs, “it’s the perfect combination: You’re diabetic, and you’re opening a doughnut shop.”

That’s just the kind of candour the owner-operators have for the Mile End’s new doughnut shop, Bernie Beigne. Modelled after the old-fashioned bakeries of Giannopoulos’ childhood in the city, Montrealers won’t be able to miss it while they’re walking down Bernard St: It’s where they’ll see freshly fried rings hanging in the window being glazed à la minute.

“I remember when I was young, my father and grandparents would bring me these huge doughnuts. All the Jewish and Greek bakeries would make them,” Giannopoulos explains. “I’ve been thinking a long time about reviving this (kind of concept).”

A lifelong restaurateur of the city and a son of a founder of the Au Vieux Duluth restaurant franchise, Giannopoulos reached out to the shop’s chef, Dean Giannarakis, and his father, John, to create the business with the goal of becoming a neighbourhood hangout from the ground up — that’s why they gave out an estimated 2,500 donuts to visitors a week ago, just to say hi.

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“When you walk in, we want it to feel like it’s always been here,” Giannopoulos says. “We all grew up in this neighbourhood, and we felt this was missing; a feel-good concept, not high-end, but a simple and guilty pleasure.”

Dean Giannarakis turns doughnuts in the fryer at Bernie Beigne.
Dean Giannarakis turns doughnuts in the fryer at Bernie Beigne. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

Named for both the street they’re located on — and, coincidentally, the first name of their building’s first owner, now deceased — Bernie Beigne is modest at first glance, but comes out swinging with a sizeable selection of airy-on-the-inside-cripsy-on-the-outside yeast doughnuts alongside dense and moist cake doughnuts in about 20 flavours. That’s just to start, according to Dean Giannarakis.

“Having experience with culinary school and the pastry industry, I could do the chef-driven and trendy doughnut, but at the end of day? Like anything good, it’s simple,” Giannarakis said. “We really want to accentuate the classics — with a few twists here and there — but bring back the old shapes like the bowties, cinnamon ties and apple fritters, all made by hand.”

Dean Giannarakis glazes doughnuts by the window at Bernie Beigne.
Dean Giannarakis glazes doughnuts by the window at Bernie Beigne. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

Giannarakis is the guy visitors will likely see, either in back mixing dough, working the fryers, or at the helm of the shop’s street-facing glazing station. As for where they got the idea for a performative aspect to the shop? While it harkens back to old-school bakeries, “the idea comes from small pizza parlours,” Giannopoulos explains. “Think of Pendeli’s, Van Horne; they’d mix all those pizzas in the window, so we said, let’s show people how it used to be done.”

Bernie Beigne is doing its soft opening this weekend, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 pm., with a grand opening on May 14. Follow them on Instagram for updates.

jpkarwacki@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jpkarwacki

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