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Bern's in tampa

I was wonderingif this place is worth the drive for a great steak. were coming next week for the superbowl and i have reservations on thursday. i just wanted to know if this place is the best place for steaks in town or am i missing someplace?

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  1. It is indeed an institution and if you have reservations, well worth going to. Wine list is unequalled. Meat is prime, dry aged, and cooked over charcoal. All side dishes made fresh and in house, as is bread, roast and grind own coffee, etc. You are a lucky guy

    2 Replies
    1. re: steakman55

      Try to tour the wine cellar and go upstairs for dessert.

      1. re: redzinner

        Berns also has 2 other buildings that they use for a wine cellar

    2. Dont mind the tacky decor, the food is top notch.

      You MUST go upstairs for dessert!

      5 Replies
      1. re: FrankC

        LOL, Sooooooo right. The decor looks like ... I'm not sure how to describe it. But know some of the history behind it. Mirrors, red velvet tacky to the tops. However ... the food is phenominal and well worth the drive. Make a reservation now and by all means when you arrive make sure to schedule the desert room upstairs and the wine cellar and kitchen. It is a dining experience!!

        An absolute must .. just ignore and never hire their decorator ... seriously!

        1. re: kchurchill5

          I think that the decor is best described as "Seventies Bordello Chic."

            1. re: cavandre

              Tacky whether 1970's or 1870's. I think it is a toss up, but hell who cares. The food is great!

              1. re: cavandre

                Could the 1870s have been that tacky? Nobody was wearing polyester back then. On the other hand, a powder blue leisure suit would fit right in at Berns.

                Decor aside, I have eaten great beef and fish at Berns

        2. It is worth the experience. Steaks are not al la carte like most of the chain steakhouses. Your meal comes with soup, salad, potato, etc. I recommend getting the caesar that is made table side (it is a bit of an upgrade). The wine list will make your head spin, so you may want to have an idea of what you're looking for before you get there (I typically bring a short list of wines that I'm interested in). You can tour the wine cellar and kitchen after your meal on the way upstairs for dessert. Bananas foster is a gem.

          6 Replies
          1. re: MDub

            Forgot to say that they sell some dynamite wines by the glass. The big surprise is that the per ounce price is the same as if you purchased a bottle. I have had dinner there before and had 4 glasses arrayed in front of my plate. You are in for a treat.
            BTW, they add a tip but I always add more.

            1. re: MDub

              Best value in the high end steak restaurants IMO

              1. re: MDub

                get the Caesar. best I ever had. I recommend the macadamia sundae.

                1. re: andy huse

                  Berns Macadamia Sundae = My Favorite All-Time Dessert.

                  1. re: FrankC

                    Macadamia Sundae = mmmmmmmm
                    Tacky decor but great food, wine and experience.
                    It will be an experience to remember

                    1. re: fdobbs1

                      I think you refer to the King Midas. Macadamia nut ice cream on carrot cake. I also have some hot fudge sauce. Once, I had two. Great, and then some.

              2. It's all about the wine... steaks are excellent too. One of the great spots on the planet.

                2 Replies
                1. re: WineAG

                  I like Bern's alot. In the dessert room, try Cafe con Leche Bern.
                  there is also a charcoal grilled shrimp appetizer that is great.
                  I recommend the mustard papaya salad dressing on the standard house salad. Caeser is great too. King Midas dessert is fabulous also the macadamia nut ice cream sundae, and the Bern's Cheese pie, a light cheesecake wedge with sliced bannas covering the top.
                  Sadly on my last visit when touring the kitchen, they removed the fish tanks, and now truck in their fresh fish.

                  1. re: WineAG

                    don't ignore or outrule some of the seafood selections at Bern's.

                  2. Bern's is quite an experience and not to be missed. The steaks are the best which I have ever had. I agree with the poster above that you should not miss the Bananas Foster. The two best Bananas Foster which I have ever had were the ones at Brennan's in New Orleans, the restaurant which invented the dish, and Bern's. Frankly, I could not tell you which one was better.

                    Usually, on these boards, there are some naysayers regarding Bern's. But the general opinion is overwhelmingly positive.

                    1. Bern's is an incredible value IMHO. The same caliber of food, service and reputation would cost several times as much in a bigger city, and be stuffier, and have a stricter dress code. Enjoy your meal there!

                      1. Even though the entrees include soup, salad, and potato, consider getting one side order of Mac & cheese for all to share. Big portion made with asiago and fontina cheeses (they have a cheese cave off the kitchen) plus truffle oil. $17 but worth it.
                        If there are 2 or 3 in your party, consider a large chataeubriand.
                        In the dessert room you can get an individual size apple pie, with macadamia ice cream. Killer. It would have gone well with a petite glass of the 1862 Madeira, but I had to pass on it at about $140.

                        1. Visited Bern's for the first time last Wednesday (1/21). Bern's is the Mecca of meat. Had an amazing 4 1/2 hour meal. If you know wine have some idea of what direction you want to go before hand otherwise study the wine menu before you go. It encompasses 6,800 selections and weighs 12 pounds. Steaks come with soup, salad potato and a side. Upgrade as I did to lobster bisque, beet salad & hash browns. We did a side of cream spinach also but it's not like the cream spinach you'd expect at most steakhouses. Be sure and make a reservation upstairs in the dessert room when you first sit down. Get a tour of the kitchens and wine cellar between the meal proper and dessert so you can stretch your legs and let your food digest a bit. I saw a comment somewhere that the place looks like a New Orleans whorehouse and it may be true but Bern's certainly has it's own charm. The only thing missing is being able to enjoy a cigar with an after dinner drink. The smoke Nazis have put an end to our enjoyment of that. Otherwise I might just move in and spend the rest of my life peeling potatoes.

                          P.S. My wife and I split a 14oz. Chateaubriand and with everything else I wouldn't want any larger.

                          19 Replies
                          1. re: Iowaboy3

                            I have been to Bern's 4 or 5 times. There is another thread about restaurants in South Florida where you always get a bad meal. I don't consider Bern's to be in South Florida, but if I did, it I would post on that thread. It is overpriced. mediocre quality food. The service is always very good, but the rest is an affront to fine dining.

                            1. re: sarge

                              Berns is a mecca of WINE... it has one of the most amazing restaurant cellars in the country (the world for that matter)... the wine is what makes it an institution.

                              As Im into vino for me it's the highlight of any trip to Tampa. It's fair to say that if wine is not important to you then there are areas you can poke holes. I've had great steaks there but wouldn't think its worth a special trip when you remove the wine component.

                              If you're into wine, at Berns you feel like a kid in a candy shop!

                              1. re: WineAG

                                The wine list is quite impressive. I really question whether they have all of it. If they even have half of it, it's still one hell of a list

                                1. re: sarge

                                  l always order as unusual and esoteric as it comes and they have not failed me yet. Great steaks and grweat wine list and very reasonable for the quality. Never have been able to order dessert yet, too full.

                                  1. re: sarge

                                    Sarge, I'll answer that question for you. They actually have MORE than what they have on the list. There's so much that they can't even list it all. Ya gotta love it!

                                    1. re: WineAG

                                      The row after row of wine you see during the cellar tour on the premises is just their "working stock". They have off-site climate controlled warehouses as well. It is fun that you can buy a wine once owned by Thomas Jefferson that he and Sally Hennings didn't get a chance to drink.

                                2. re: sarge

                                  "overpriced, mediocre quality, and an affront to fine dining" obviously didn't "affront" you from dining there "4 or 5" times.

                                  1. re: cucuzza

                                    That's a damned if you do and damned if you don't argument. I went once to berns, was underwhelmend with the steak and never went back. The dessert restaurant was awesome though.

                                    I read somewhere they actually have somewhere around a million bottles of wine...

                                    1. re: tpigeon

                                      I'll disagree. My steak, salad, appetizer and sides were amazing!! I've eaten at many 4 and even a couple of 5 star restaurants. I think it is great food and service. Maybe just a bad night.

                                    2. re: cucuzza

                                      I don't want to misjudge on just a couple of experiences. i feel I have given them a fair shot now. I am able to see through the hype and call it as I see it. I would be perfectly delerious to have a true world class steak house in my home town. Sadly, I don't believe I do

                                      1. re: sarge

                                        Sarge: If you would please, enlighten us on what you WOULD consider a world class steakhouse. If you know of one better I would love to visit it. I love a great steak.

                                        1. re: Iowaboy3

                                          I'm sure everyone has their favorite. I went to a 5 star in Wisconsin, Maybe it was the decor, but excellent food. Not sure if it was any better but maybe the decor or atmosphere makes or breaks it for some. It still think Berns is tops. But that is just my opinion. I'm sure there are many others out there.

                                    3. re: sarge

                                      I have been dozens of times (I don't live in Tampa) since the mid 70's, and to every major steakhouse east of the Mississippi. I have NEVER had a bad meal at Bern's. It is priced under all major steakhouses, as it comes with all sides. The meat is prime dry aged, and not many restaurants serve that anymore. Sides are decent. Wine list is fantastic. It does not claim to be fine dining, but a steakhouse. If you want fru fru stacked food with little trails of mystery sauce dotted around the edge of the plate. don't go to Bern's. If, on the other hand, you want a great dry aged prime steak at a reasonable price, good professional service and an unequalled wine list, then head on over to South Howard Ave. in Tampa.

                                      1. re: steakman55

                                        Thank you for the laugh ... fru fru stacked food with little trails of mysters sauce dotted around the plate.

                                        I love you for that ... and yes you are soo right!

                                        1. re: steakman55

                                          Great synopsis, steakman55. Yes, it's a bit tacky starting with the $5 parking charge, and the interior is as tawdry as a shoot-em-up- whorehouse. BUT, it is home to the best wine cellar in America, and great beef.
                                          If your thing is feng shui, take you compass elsewhere, and go follow the sun.

                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            LOL on the decor descrip. The kitchen tour and wine cellar is fun and educational. Besides, GREAT wine and deserts!!

                                            1. re: Veggo

                                              I've always described the decor as "early American bordello."

                                              1. re: BeaN

                                                That is about it. Tacky, but there is a history behind it. The first time I walked in I was with my ex husband. 3 weeks in advance and the only time open was 5 of 9:30 on a Sat night. We took five. First in the place, got there a bit early, had a drink at the bar and went to our table. All I could say was OMG at the decor. But I was warned. Well, by the time we left for our wine cellar and kitchen tour every table was filled, the lobby was totally packed beyond belief and the desert room every booth was filled.

                                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                                  Perhaps you have not yet been to a Strip House. Bordello decor on steroids, purposefully.

                                                  http://www.striphouse.com/

                                                  They are in a few cities: Naples, NYC, Key West, Las Vegas

                                                  nude photos from the previous turn of the century Vienna line the walls, lots of nudes, and exotic poses.

                                                  Food is very good, not great. Black truffled spinach was stupid and a waste of truffles. Steaks were very good, but why would someone expect more.

                                                  All I remember from Berns was the amazing wine list. Stupidly large, more to show off than to inform.

                                      2. I think we all mostly agree ... horrible decor even tampa insider agrees with that but great food

                                        1. I think I first dined at Bern's in 1969, and my most recent visit was a couple months ago.

                                          Over that period of time, I have never had a bad, or even so-so, meal. Nor have I ever experienced poor service.

                                          Bern's may not be everyone's favorite restaurant, but by no stretch of the imagination could it be accurately described as an "affront to fine dining."

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: floridan

                                            Amen, brother. I started there in early 70's and completely agree

                                            1. re: steakman55

                                              The most tacky decor, but food has always been 1st class, service as well and to die for deserts. And I love visiting the wine cellar and kitchen even though I have done it more than once, it still is fun.

                                              Been there 6 or 7 times since living in FL and would go back in a heart beat. Last time I went for a friends 40th. We had a blast. We as hospital below also mentioned had kids next to us. Now I would of made sure to get a sitter, but understand when it doesn't work out and maybe they were with grandparents and they were buying dinner for the family. You don't know. But it doesn't bother me. In fact we were so enjoying kids trying all the new tastes with their oohs and ahhs.

                                              Also hospital ... grated carrots they serve often as they grown their own veggies. Mine have always been great.

                                              I would never discourage anyone. I have always had an excellent prepared dinner as many of my friends I have gone with. I won't say it the absolute best I have eaten at, but extremely worth going to.

                                          2. Celebrating our anniversary in Tampa we decided to check out what supposedly some Tampans insist is the #1 restaurant in town. Now people; just because a place is not cheap, claims to have a 3 months waiting list and is quite cocky about how it takes its reservations, it doesn't mean it's the best restaurant or in this case even a good one. There is apparently enough people around (including visitors and tourists) that keep falling for this type of hype, keeping the place full and the restaurant not needing to pull up it's socks and improve. There are so many other new restaurants in town that you would enjoy much more.

                                            For starters we were sat in, what we were told is, one of the most sought after and requested rooms in the restaurant. Even though the restaurant knew we were celebrating our anniversary and probably would prefer a secluded private table, we were sat in this room beside a table with little kids. As most of the time, no matter how well behaved, eventually kids become restless and so they started leaving their seats hopping around near our table even singing. Sorry, this is not what we expect when trying to enjoy a great meal on our anniversary. We've paid a baby-sitter, to not have our kids around for this special occasion and now we're stuck with other people's kids instead. Simply a bad choice, on behalf of the restaurant's staff in charge of seating, to seat couples by tables with kids.

                                            Our pleasant and otherwise very polite server explained us the concept, with one hand in his pocket! This is not a chat in the office at the water-cooler, in my opinion a server should not have his hand in his pocket, it's rude and disrespectful. Keeping a hand in your pocket when conversing with guests either means he or she's nervous, (which would be granted if new on the post, but we got the impression our server was a seasoned Bern's member) or it means we're not worth your while to get both hands out.

                                            We received our sparkling water and our selected wine.

                                            My Scallops appetizer was good, the scallops were cooked perfectly and the sauce was good spicy, for my liking it could have used another pinch of salt. My wife's escargot dish was odd. The escargots themselves were tender and not chewy or rubbery, but underneath was a sludge of grey-green substance that we assumed was pureed over cooked spinach (?) with a texture of starchy shiny baby-food. Our onion soup was bland, greyish, cloudy and very salty. Yes, if all you taste is salt it's still bland, as salt enhances flavors. Unfortunately no flavors were there to enhance and a flavorless salty dish remains bland. The salads were just okay, something one can expect, like the soup, when it's been built into the entree price. I rather pay for it, if I want it and get it edible.

                                            Prior to receiving our entrees we observed the table next to us receiving theirs along with the baked potatoes. To our disgust we watched as their server held the potato with his bare hands and fingers to cut it and push it open. No server should ever touch your food with his bare hands. The potatoes were not in tin-foil. Yes, cooks and chefs touch our food, I'm okay with that. Servers touch, unwashed serving trays, dirty dishes and cutlery when clearing, sometimes the edges of glasses and touch used napkins that have been in other peoples mouths. Disgusting!

                                            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. My wife's was rare with a cold center, while mine was in fact medium rare with a warm center as ordered. By now having severely lowered our expectations we did not ask my wife's steak to be cooked more, as we would expect it to come back medium well. My wife did not consume the steak. Mine was tender and tasty and I shared it with my wife. Our potatoes were not finished beside our table, so were are unsure if ours got the custom fondling, but just the thought made us not be able to enjoy it. The steaks were accompanied by the typical boring uncreative cheap deep-fried onion heap, but also a pile of over-salted sauteed kale or Swiss chard(?). Believe it or not there was an additional item on the steak plate, a scoop of grated carrots; luke-warm raw carrot shreds. In 30 years of dining around the world I have never seen grated carrots as a vegetable. As per our server they were also prepare with Grand Marnier, which of course had long evaporated. The now just tasted like luke-warm raw carrot shreds.

                                            Soon after receiving our entrees our server tried to make good for the earlier disturbances by the next table's kids with two additional glasses of wine. Thank you, but we only ordered by-the-glass since we were driving and had plans for a after dinner drink (now for sure) at another place. Unfortunately our otherwise professional server, NEVER asked how our meals were, not during or after ANY course.

                                            My wife and I decided to cut our losses and wasted time and asked for the bill. Why should we stay for dessert, what could possible be such a change from the previous, that would want us to even risk it. And the the tour we looked forward to before we even arrived. No matter what we would see trough out the restaurant, the food doesn't live up and we will never be back. In fact we would discourage anyone from going. It's simply not worth your time or money.

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: hospitalitypro

                                              My observations posted on another thread....

                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/534592#
                                              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                              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: hospitalitypro

                                                Baked potatoes are not supposed to be in "tin foil" elsewise they would be steamed.
                                                I have gone to Bern's for 40 years....many times....and have also eaten in great steakhouses across the US, both chains and independents, and I will say that Bern's is absolutely one of the top steakhouses in the US. They have an absolute dedication to perfection...from the prime dry aged steak to the coffee beans they roast and grind.
                                                The vegetables are outstanding. It cannot be topped as a steakhouse dining destination.

                                                1. re: steakman55

                                                  Thank you for that and very well said. Haven't gone there as much as you would love too, but I have always had a quality dinner, crisp fresh veggies, fantastic coffee fresh ground, great steaks, tacky decor, but you just got to accept the history and not let it worry you. Never had a bad meal and always outstanding. as you mentioned.

                                                  1. re: steakman55

                                                    s55,

                                                    It's been a number of years since I went to Bern's, but when I toured the back house, I do not recall them showing the meat locker or any cutting room. I recall the fish tanks and the Port Wine from the 1700's clearly......and I recall a worker in the kitchen pulling up filleted whole tenderloins from a refrigerator (reaching down into the unit from his work station) and portioning out the Chateaubriand and Steak Cut to size. Are the whole tenderloins filleted off the short loin in bulk first, in house?

                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      Don't know...I have toured the meat locker several times,(years ago) but don't think they offer that tour anymore. At any rate, it is my understanding that the filet is not usually aged like the strips and ribeyes, unless it is part of a porterhouse

                                                      1. re: steakman55

                                                        Thanks for the response. With all the talk over time about the whether steaks are dry or wet aged (whatever that means), I clearly remember the tenderloins having a wet sheen look, so I never believed the Filet Mignon or Chateaubriand were dry aged...

                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                          I am not a butcher by any stretch of the imagination, but under stand the difference as this: wet aged is a side of beef or primal cut stored in Cryovac at about 34-38 degrees for a couple of weeks. The meat does become more tender, but also mushy to some. It steeps in its own juices.
                                                          Dry aging is done in a humidity controlled cold storage room, where the air circulates around the meat. It breaks down the fibers and makes it tender. Dry aged beef is not bloody. The flavor intensifies, and to some becomes slightly "nutty" or mineral-like in taste. For many it is an acquired taste. I love it. There is some loss to shrinkage and trimming, making it more expensive than wet aged. If you are interested in a more scholarly explanation, I would Google of "Bing" the term dry aged beef.

                                                  2. re: hospitalitypro

                                                    Are you sure that a place with a bordello decor was the best choice for an anniversary dinner in the first place?

                                                  3. Love love love Berns. Especially Upstairs for desert. My personal favorite is to go to Sideberns for lighter fare for dinner (still super expensive tho) and then walk down to Berns for desert, to drink fantastic Port, sit in a huge wine cask and listen to the guy at the piano cracking jokes. Great memories.

                                                    1. The experience is still very much worth it. We returned recently after about 7 years away, and it was still an excellent experience - yes, you could get a bad waiter, etc. (ours was excellent). The $4 mandatory valet charge is a real turnoff, but if you're there at a very non-crowded time, they have a surface lot across the street which is free, but fills up quickly.
                                                      And the markup on the wines is less than at other good restaurants. Maybe expensive, but not for what you're getting.
                                                      Where else do they make traditional Caesar salad at the table, give tours of the wine cellar, etc.?

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: jerryk

                                                        i've never used the valet parking. always managed to park myself.

                                                        1. re: jerryk

                                                          Thought it was $7 plus tip last time in.