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Bern's Steakhouse / Sideberns

Always lots of chat on this board re: Tampa Bay dining and yet Bern's doesn't get mentioned all that frequently. Is Bern's just a given or has it lost its luster?

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  1. I went to Bern's for my first special occasion after moving to Florida from NY. I must admit I was a tad disappointed. The place was so dark, it was hard to adjust our eyes after coming in from twilight. Lots of dark heavy wood and burgundy, I wasn't impressed with the look of the place at all.

    The service, though, was exceptional. I really disliked my appetizer, lobster something-or-other. The steak was ok, must admit I've had better. The tour of the kitchen was fun, especially liked the wine storage area, dim and romantic! The best part of the dinner was upstairs for dessert; I must admit it was the most incredibly delicious cup of cappuccino I've ever had in my entire life. It made the whole evening!

    All in all, I'd go back for the dessert room only.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Manderley

      I think the 19th century brothel decor is part of the charm of the place, along with the army-style dishes and 40-pound dessert menus that they got rid of a few years ago.

      I went last year sometime and I thought the food was still pretty good, but I do not eat steak so I can't comment on that front.

    2. Went to Bern's last year, and it was a huge disappointment. Service was pretencious & food was average. they actually tried to serve the wrong cut of beef to a member of our party, and lie about it--pretty funny since he is a chef, and they thought he wouldn't know any better. Nothing was impressive, and they have you so crammed in there.

      3 Replies
      1. re: yellekscorp

        My husband and I went to the dessert room on a whim last night. I've never eaten dinner there and thought the look of the place was pretty kitchy and not very appealing, but the dessert room was lots of fun. The desserts were great (though expensive, even in context) and the wine list was of course out of this world and a blast to look through and pick from (around 15 single-spaced pages just of by the glass dessert wines, brandies, etc.) The kitchen and wine-cellar tour were fun. We will definitely go back to the dessert room but the visit didn't inspire in me a desire to go there for dinner.

        The practically mandatory and completely unnecessary $5+gratuities valet parking ticked me off.

        1. re: rebecca.kukla

          "The practically mandatory and completely unnecessary $5+gratuities valet parking ticked me off."

          They have a massive parking lot directly across Howard Avenue. Just sayin'.

          1. re: matt21sz

            Fair enough. It looked like it belonged to something else. Anyhow, as we turned into the lot to see what was up they were already practically grabbing the car away - that's all I meant by 'practically mandatory'. There's clearly plenty of parking in the neighborhood, which was the point of my saying 'completely unnecessary'.

      2. Do I remember what I get for every $300 check I write? No. Do I remember the pleasure I shared recently with two out of state house guests as we dined at Berns, the chateaubriand for 3, mac-n-cheese w/ fontina & truffle oil, and the dessert room? Yes. Is the decor tacky? Delightfully. Wait staff were real pros. $5 parking is tacky; quis fecum dat. A genuinely good time.

        1. The original comment has been removed
          1. Our Filet Mignons ordered medium rare came out just seared on the top and the bottom, the sides however were completely raw and had not been exposed to any heat.
            ________________________________________________________

            That was exactly my experience as well. We were a group of eight and whether it was the steaks or Chateaubriand ordered, all the meat was seriously undercooked in my opinion. I personally had the Chateaubriand and it looked grey and uninviting. You can put me in the camp of the confused and believes this restaurant receives admiration it does not deserve from a steak served perspective. However, all the other elements from a business standpoint are impressive and I believe that's why it is so successful and loved. They obviously have a winning formula and business plan......so I would have to disagree with (hospitalitypro) on his his closing comments.

            FWIW, I have literally been in hundreds of kitchens in the past 40 years. From small private sector restaurants to large ones in catering halls, hotels and national chains...I can tell you I thoroughly enjoyed their tour of the kitchen and wine cellar....and to me it was worth the price of dinner just to gain that experience, knowledge and insight even if it was a just a short glimpse of their operation.

            1. re: fourunder

              this response was made in response to (hospitalitypro)'s comments, deleted here, but which can be seen on another thread.

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/590703

          2. It's amazing that therre can be this disparity of opinion. Bern's is one of the best restaurants at which I have ever eaten. The food--consistently--is superb. The restaurant takes such scrupulous care with everything they serve. It is certainly the most tender and juicy beef I have ever had--not once, but every time I go.

            The two best Bananas Foster which I have ever had have been at Brennan's in New Orleans, where the dish was invented, and at Bern's. I don't think that you can tell the two dishes apart, which is quite a compliment, since most places muck it up.

            The tour of the kitchen, the tour of the wine cellar, and the dessert room are all enjoyable extras, but go for the beef, aged on the premises, the organic vegetables grown in Bern's own farm (although I understand that they have now contracted with an additional organic farm to supply vegetables, as well), the fish held fresh in their own fish tanks, all salad dressings and sauces made from scratch. I sound like a walking advertisement, but this place really is exceptional . . .

            So, to answer your question, it's a given . . .

            5 Replies
            1. re: gfr1111

              As far as the fish in the tank, everytime I took the tour, there was only one fish in the tank. It was a sheephead. They don't offer sheephead on the menu.

              I hired a young man who once cooked at Bern's. He told me they never served a fish out of the tank. It was just a gimmick for the tour.

              I seem to recall they have removed the tank in the last year or so.

              Their claim of raising all of their own vegetables was also greatly exaggerated. That said, the vegetables there are satisfactory. It's not something that especially matters to most patrons in a steakhouse.

              1. re: sarge

                As far as vegetables from what I understand they now work in conjunction with Sweetwater. I have seem the plots they have. As far as what makes it to the diners plate, I don't know.

                1. re: rhnault

                  They in fact own some property north east of the airport for some vegetable gardening. I don't believe they are raising Idaho potatoes or Asparagus though

                2. re: sarge

                  They don't claim to raise all their own vegetables. It's just not possible to do in the Florida climate and if you talk to your server, s/he'll usually tell you where the restaurant gets their vegetables the rest of the year. I think in the summer, all the farm will grow is scallions.

                3. re: gfr1111

                  Amen, Amen and Amen to gfr1111. I have gone to Bern's for 40 years, many meals, and it is great. Lots of people like to criticize an institution, so just stay away and it will be easier for me to get a reservation.