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May 16, 2010 05:14 PM


Hi, Everyone:

I'm just starting to research a quick trip in the winter to Crystal River. We'll fly from Philly to Tampa. Just wondering is Bern's worth staying an extra night before going back home? It sounds like an interesting experience and we do love steak. Just wondering if it is something that shouldn't be missed. Thank you!

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  1. I consider Berns the best bang for the buck in the running of expensive steak houses. Their steaks are aged prime as are most of the steak houses but they give you sides with your steak. Their vegetables are often grown in their garden. You will hear pros and cons on Berns. Are they the best? Matter of opinion. Seeing as you have to drive to Tampa to fly out it would not be out of the way. Crystal River should be a relaxing vacation. Lazy rivers, canoe trips, snorkel, dive and fish. I'd be eating some fresh fish from a shallow water fishing trip. Venture off shore for some bigger species.

    3 Replies
    1. re: scubadoo97

      Any comment on quality of meat a Council Oaks as opposed to Bern's? Haven't been to Bern's yet, but the dry agred NY Strip at Council Oaks is one of the best steaks I have found in the area.

      BTW some upscale steak houses wet-age their steaks, I have come to the conclusion that dry ageing is by far the best way to go.

      1. re: herbert1

        i did council oak once and wasn't that impressed. It certainly wasn't bad, but it didn't blow me away. Their prices are quite high compared to Bern's--- or almost anywhere else. You can easily spend $40-$50 on a steak, a la carte. Vegetables start around $10.

        1. re: andy huse

          Went to Bern's for the first time last week, I agree with the other comments here, value wise it is very reasonable for the food, and the wine prices aren't skyhigh. Had a excellent meal overall with excellent service and a overall great experience.

          I wouldn;t say the steak was the best I've ever had, but it was above average, and again the overall experience was excellent.

    2. i agree that Bern's is a great value in terms of food cost. once you start to gild the lilly with alcohol and extras, the bill can climb quickly. Bern's is also an entertaining evening. Once you get dressed up, have cocktails, eat steak, take the kitchen and wine tour, get dessert and coffee upstairs and play with your tableside stereo, you've had a memorable evening. if this sounds fun to you, then go for the whole experience and make a night of it.

      there is an alternative. stop by the restaurant when it opens for the day at 5, get a seat at the bar, and do the experience at the bar with less fuss. get a steak sandwich for $10. not on the menu, but quite good. i once ordered dinner for 2 at the bar (1 salad, 2 steak sandwiches, 1 dessert, and two beers) that cost about $50 before tip and is the best meal i ever had there.

      1. It is indeed worth an extra day. One of the few restaurants in the US. I can say that about. I have eaten at all the major independent steakhouses in the eastern United States and all of the chains in multiple locations. I've been going to Bern's for more than 40 years. People do like to bash it from time to time, but of the dozens of meals I have had there, only one was not a "10"...(it may have been a 9)
        Scubadoo is right. Not only do they grow their vegetables organically, they dry age their own prime meat, roast their coffee, grow bean sprouts in a greenhouse, make their ice cream, and serve top shelf whiskey as their call brands.
        Don't waste time on the bar; go for dinner. The dinner includes soup, salad, potato and little sides of vegetables as well as fantastic onion rings. Don't over-order as the meat is closely trimmed and cooked over real charcoal. I would skip an app, get a 14 oz. NY strip or ribeye, garlic butter, onion soup, salad with blue cheese dressing, and ask for the sommelier.
        Their wine list is unequaled. There is a great wine by the glass menu, and it costs no more per ounce than had you ordered a whole bottle. It allows you to try,e.g. 3 different cabernets with the dinner.
        By all means, book a room upstairs in the Harry Waugh room for dessert and coffee. Try the King Midas (carrot cake with macadamia nut ice cream), coffee, and a good single malt Scotch. There is a modest tip (12% ?) added to the bill; I always leave more.
        You can tell that I go there as often as I can and drive many times for 5 hours from my house just to have dinner there. It is that good. Enjoy and I am jealous.

        4 Replies
        1. re: steakman55

          Thank you so much for telling me. It sounds very special and I'd like to share that experience with my husband. We live in Philly and Bern's is very reasonably priced compared to our "best" steakhouse which is Barclay Prime.

          1. re: DaisyM

            OOH Barclay Prime, you just brought back a good memory :) Barclay, Le Bec Fin, Suzanna Foo, Buddahkan... mmmm.... I wonder if I can find a cheep flight up to Philly...?

            Also I've dined at Bern's a dozen or so times, it's an impressive experience, and I second steakman's reco on not over-ordering. My wife and I typically split a caviar appetizer (they have an extensive caviar menu, with some moderately priced options too), a Chateaubriand cooked Pittsburgh (medium rare center, of course), and then a desert upstairs, and we are completely stuffed.

          2. re: steakman55

            "waste time on the bar"? I dare say that it is impossible to waste time at a bar--- unless you're not drinking.

            1. re: andy huse

              You have a point, and I have been in Bern's bar many times; I meant merely that I would not go there and not have dinner

          3. By all means, go to Bern's. It is the best steak restaurant I've ever been to and you won't be disappointed. I like the ribeye the best, but all the steaks are excellent. I recommend ordering a side sauce, all of which that I have had were excellent, although the steaks don't really need a side sauce.

            The other posters have really covered this restaurant well. (By the way, Andy Huse is our local food critic and an author of several books about Tampa history and dining.)

            I strongly recommend ordering the Bananas Foster. The showmanship of the tableside preparation is fun, but the real reason to have it is that it equals the superb quality of the Bananas Foster served at Brennan's in New Orleans. I understand that the dish was invented at Brennan's. Also, i should mention that you can only get the tableside preparation in the "old section" of the dessert room. The new section requires a step up which the cart that the waiters use cannot negotiate.

            Here, I've talked more about the dessert than the steaks, but the steaks are the absolute best thing!

            10 Replies
            1. re: gfr1111

              My husband absolutely loves Bananas Foster and has had it at Brennan's! It is so cool that all of you feel such love for this restaurant. Special thanks to Andy. Hope all of you can make it to Philly sometime and try some of our great restaurants.

              1. re: DaisyM

                One other thing about Bern's is that it has the largest wine collection of any Restaurant IN THE WORLD - approximately 500,000 bottles. There is a restaurant in Paris called "La Tour D'Argent" that is the only other one that's even close. Bern's is one of only about 85 restaurants in the world given Wine Spectator's Grand Award (Three Wine Glasses), and was part of the initial class in the early 80's. Their wine list looks like a phone book yet is priced very fairly.

                The last time I was there, I had a glass of Dominus for about $19.00. A bottle of that vintage went for about $130.00 at bargain retail, so I was being charged actually less than retail for a generous glass. Another thing about their list is it has not only so many different bottles, but so many vintages of each wine. Bern's is a chance to try some very well aged wines available nowhere else in Florida (or anywhere for that matter).

                Be aware, the restaurant is very loud and busy. Not generally a place for a quiet, romantic dinner. The dessert room, on the other hand has some individual "pods" where the door closes for a good amount of privacy - and this part of the meal can have the potential for romanticism.


                1. re: Robert R

                  I will emphasize that the MAIN reason to go to Bern's is the incredible wine list.
                  I was in Tampa for one night last Friday, by myslef for dinner.
                  I had a half bottle of a 1955 Bordeaux that was AMAZING, and did not break the bank either.
                  - side note - I was in Tampa to take possession of a car that I bought. I could have had it shipped (would have been cheaper), but decided to fly down and drive it back in part because I wanted to drink again from Bern's incredible cellar.

                  1. re: Markcron

                    All of you have convinced me...we're staying over in Tampa for 1 night just to go to Bern's. Thank you!

                      1. re: steakman55

                        The website says that they only take reservations 3 months in advance. I have it on my calendar to call then. Thank you!

                        1. re: DaisyM

                          We went last night, just walked in, no problem. Chateaubriand was awesome, filet was just OK. Truffled mushrooms good but too salty. Caviar always a treat.

                          1. re: askdrtodd

                            The steak sandwich at the bar is a deal. I will often go to the bar and have the golden tartare full order as dinner. Bring your wine smarts because the list has some great hidden gems. best classic cocktails in Tampa is is worth a stop in the bar just to enjoy having a competent bar tender make you an old fashioned or negroni. Tableside ceasar salad second to none

                            1. re: Lauracooks

                              yeah i gotta stop ordering steak there, it just never does it for me any more. steak is so inherently boring anyway, not sure why I ever order it (until I have that first sip of cab, of course)

              2. We're going Sunday, first time in about a year--I can't wait! Caviar, here I come! I don't even eat meat, so the relative quality of the steak doesn't matter to me. That they have a way with fish at Bern's, I know; throw in the organic veggies in their delicious sides, and I don't need anything else. I'll come back and tell ya'll how it went...

                1 Reply