Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bern’s Steak House – Tampa, FL

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to celebrate my birthday at Bern’s Steak House the past several years.  It’s such a fun experience to get all dressed up and enjoy the phenomenal food.  
Bern’s has been recognized as one of the top 10 steakhouses in the country, and they boast the largest wine cellar in the whole world!

It looks pretty unassuming from the outside, and honestly the interior looks pretty dated to me.  But the quality of the food they serve is so fantastic – if I had to choose one place to eat for the rest of my life, this would be it.  

There are 8 ornate dining rooms, but no matter what day of the week you go, it is always busy (make sure you make reservations).  We were seated and given some time to look through the extensive wine list – the enormous book at the tables is actually the abridged version!  

We chose the 2008 Feudi Di San Gregorio Primitivo – a red from the Campania region of Southern Italy.  Our waiter poured it into a decanter and made sure our glasses were full throughout the meal.  It paired perfectly with our steaks – online it’s described as having a tart cherry and currant flavor with a bit of mocha and cloves, and pepper.  I’m hoping I can pick some up at Total Wine since it’s probably my new favorite.  

Despite Bern’s being pricier than we’re used to spending, it’s actually a really great deal compared to most high-end steakhouses.  Every entrée is served with soup, salad, a baked potato, onion rings, and fresh vegetables.  Many other restaurants charge for your steak then make you add each side a la carte.  I always end up with two meals when I eat at Bern’s, even if I get the smallest size steak.  

I ordered the 8 ounce Filet Mignon and Lance had the 14 ounce Chateaubriand.  Before our soups were served, we were brought cheese toasts to snack on (I actually wasn’t as impressed with these as the rest of our meal).  

Their homemade French Onion Soup Au Gratin is so delicious.  It is served nice and hot with garlic and spelt toasts.  

Next comes the Steak House Salad – which this time seemed even larger than normal.  They have their own farm in Tampa where some of the vegetables are grown.  You can choose from 10 of their house-made dressings – their  bleu-cheese is delicious.  The greens were topped with celery, avocado, sprouts, egg, carrots, onions, cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, red peppers and hearts of palm.  It tastes so fresh! 

On a normal day, I would have been full after the soup and salad.  But then they came out with the main course! I knew I wanted to save room for dessert, so I saved more than half for leftovers the next day.  The dry-aged steaks are so juicy and flavorful.  And their onion rings are the best you’ll ever have – thin and crispy, not at all greasy. 

We took a tour after our dinner – we’ve done it before, but we needed a few minutes break before heading to dessert!  We still had some wine left, so they let us bring our glasses with us.  You walk through the kitchen to see behind-the-scenes as dishes are prepared.   

Then they lead you through the gigantic wine cellar to see their vast collection.  It’s arranged like a library with numbered shelves.  Some of the bottles are the last on Earth – and some are valued in the tens of thousands of dollars! 

After our tour, we headed to the Harry Waugh Dessert Room upstairs.  When you make dinner reservations, they automatically make you reservations for dessert as well.  The booths, which look like oversized wine barrels, are made from California redwood wine holding tanks.  Each table is equipped with a sound system that lets you pick your station – the best is the live pianist!  You can request a song to play by picking up the phone.  

There are about 50 dessert options, so it’s a difficult decision to make.  In the past, we’ve loved the Bananas Foster, which is prepared for two and flambéed tableside.  This time, I picked the Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle and Lance had the Trio of Liquid Center Cakes.  

Mine was super rich and decadent – I brought half home to enjoy later.  Lance’s was very tasty, but we actually didn’t notice a liquid center in any of the three cakes, and despite being different flavors, they all tasted about the same.   

Our waitress brought out a little pastry cup of whipped cream with a candle to celebrate my birthday! 

I thought it was funny that the to-go bag had a little poem: “Since my meal has been replete, I’ll conserve what I couldn’t eat, to serve myself another time, or feed that dog or cat of mine.”  I don’t know what kind of crazy person wastes their Bern’s leftovers on their pets, but we had another equally wonderful meal at home the next night! 

Bern’s Steak House is located at 1208 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, FL 33606 and is open Sunday – Thursday 5pm – 10pm and Friday – Saturday 5pm – 11pm.  

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