Bernard’s owners sell Ridgefield restaurant after nearly 22 years


Bernard’s, and its bucolic Ridgefield property known for its outdoor garden seating, are officially on the market. But it will be business as usual for Bernard and Sarah Bouissou’s upscale French restaurant, until the right buyers show up.

The couple’s timeline is on track, said Sarah Bouissou. When they bought the property and opened the restaurant in March 2000, they had always planned to operate it for 20 to 25 years.

“Everyone’s like, ‘You’re so busy, why do you want to sell?’†She said. “It’s our plan. We’ve always wanted to be the best. If we wait too long, it will be too late to start something new.”

“People are like, ‘I know, I understand. You’re tired,’” she said. “But no, no, we’re not tired. We’ve got a lot more energy, but we just want to start putting it on something else.”

As the restaurant nears its 22nd year, the couple are ready for the next chapter. When they bought the property, where they also live, they were looking for an idyllic town setting with a good school system for their four daughters, then aged three, four, seven and eight. Now that they’re adults, they’ve all moved and “we don’t need the six bedroom house that Bernard and I are in,†Sarah said.

The estate at 20 West Lane, comprising the restaurant building and the Bouissou house on 1.93 acres of land, is listed with Necklaces to $ 3 million.

The Bouissous met as chefs in New York City in the 1980s, working together on The circus. They were married on Bastille Day in France in 1990, and moved to Norwalk in 1992, continuing their culinary careers in the city: Bernard at Tavern on the Green and Sarah ran her own restaurant business. Bernard also later served as executive chef at La Panetiere in Rye, NY

“We were looking to buy our own accommodation and we would say in a perfect world we would find a restaurant with a house on the property with a good school system and a great city,†Sarah said.

One day Sarah and her food and beverage manager walked past the property in Ridgefield and the manager pointed it out to her. “Six months later, we owned it,†she said.

Only a few months after the opening of Bernard, the Bouissous won a four-star review in the New York Times, in which critic Patricia Brooks raves about the trio of foie gras (“an exquisite trio!â€) which remains one of the most popular dishes on the menu. The restaurant has also won numerous Wine Spectator awards for its wine list.

As the country faced an economic downturn in 2008, the couple feared people were not spending money on fine dining. They decided to present Sarah’s Wine Bar, with a cheaper and more casual menu and vibe in the upstairs seating area of ​​the restaurant.

The new concept was so successful that guests encouraged them to turn the entire restaurant into Sarah’s, but the Bouissous stuck with the return of fine dining – and it was, Sarah said, with the rebound of Bernard about two years later.

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t even particularly slow them down, she said. While other fine dining restaurants have turned to more casual take-out and family-friendly meals, Bernard’s has kept its basic menu available, taking care to prepare dishes like the trio of foie gras and rack of lamb. as neatly as possible in on-the-go containers.

“We decided we wanted to stay who we were, and people really liked it. We didn’t really switch to a different formula,†Sarah said. “We’ve always been a place for special occasions. We tried to make it special, even if you weren’t there.â€

As Bernard’s once again welcomed guests for indoor dining, they decided to merge the menus, offering “the best of Sarah and Bernard” in both spaces. Guests looking for a more formal experience sit in the Bernard’s dining room, and those looking for a more casual evening will choose Sarah’s upstairs seating.

For their next step, the Bouissous said they were looking to open a delicatessen with ready meals, and potentially continue catering, “but not a restaurant,” Sarah said. “We would like to close the door at 6.30, 7 [p.m.] and have some nightlife. “

They don’t have a specific location in mind for this new project because they don’t know how long the sale can take. The restaurant will operate normally until it is sold, with plans coming up for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve dinners.

“We are both convinced that the universe is going to present us with the right place,†Sarah said. “We’re not really looking, because we’re just waiting to see… we could be here for another year, or two years. We’re releasing it out into the universe.”

Sarah said some of her favorite memories of the restaurant include alfresco Bastille Day wine dinners in Bernard’s Gardens and birthday parties for his daughters, where Bernard would bring their friends into the kitchen and cook. cakes with them. The four daughters have worked in restaurants or in the catering industry in several roles, as hostesses, bartenders and sous chefs.

“We’ve always wanted to be part of the community … I hope whoever takes over will have that same mindset,” she said. “There is something special about this building. It was built in 1875. It’s been a restaurant since 1946. And there have only been three owners. It’s an amazing race for a restaurant, and it So there is good energy in these walls for the next [owner.]”

“It won’t be the same,” she said. “But there are a lot of really talented chefs who have a vision, and who have ideas and dreams … I know that person or people are there.”


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