When my husband and I visited Tampa last month, across the street from The Epicurean Hotel where we stayed was Bern's Steakhouse. We were told that we simply must eat there, that it was the best restaurant we will ever eat at.
As we live in NYC, where some of the best restaurants in the world are located, we thought, oh how cute, these people here think their steakhouse can compete. We smiled politely and said we'd try it.
Well the only reservation we could get was for 5:30 on a Saturday night, so we took it. When we arrived, the restaurant was packed- at 5:30pm. We've never seen that. Walking in, the interior is very dark, lots of wood and many small dining rooms with a dozen or so tables in each room.
Our server Lisa was amazing. She welcomed us, explained how Bern's worked and told us that we would be well taken care of; and we were. We started with a Macadamia White Chocolate Martini that was one of the most delicious drinks I have ever had- and I don't like chocolate drinks.
Lisa brought us homemade crackers with cheese baked on top to eat with our drinks, and then we moved onto the extensive menu. It is the War and Peace of menus, 16 pages long, and containing 20 types of caviar, among many other interesting items.
Each meal comes with a house salad (I had a bright citrus vinaigrette dressing), French onion soup, baked potato, crispy thin onion rings and side vegetable.
The French onion soup came in a little crock and was simply perfect- the perfect size to start the meal, perfectly flavored and not overwhelmed by too many onions or too much cheese. They used fontina and asiago cheese on top, which was delicious and different.
|A little crock of French onion soup|
We had the surf and turf, and my husband said it was the best filet he has ever had, and he has had steaks in the best steakhouses. It was so tender and well seasoned. The lobster was out of its shell and topped with a light sweet coconut sauce.
|Surf and turf|
After dinner, you are taken on a tour of the kitchen, which as former restaurant owners, we appreciated on a another level. The kitchen has a level of organization that must be seen to be believed.
We also toured the wine cellar, called the largest privately owned wine cellar in the country, and they serve each bottle of wine by the glass as well, so you have glass of any bottle of wine they serve. That is unheard of, usually you get a choice of a few white, a few red, but at Bern's, you can have it all.
At the end of the tour, you are whisked upstairs to the Harry Waugh Dessert Room. They halve huge wine barrels vertically and place a small table and booth seats inside. We got to sit next to the piano player who takes requests.
Again, there are several small dessert areas, and each of these tables had a phone where you could call in a request to the piano player. We laughed when we heard the phone ring and a young boy requested a song, it was too cute.
|The request phone at the dessert table|
I had the Macadamia Nut Sundae, which had delicious macadamia nut ice cream served in an orange scented waffle dish with hot fudge, whipped cream and macadamia nuts. It may be the best dessert I ever had and I ate almost all of it, not letting my husband have much more than a spoonful.
|Hands off my Macadamia Nut Sundae!|
Eating at Bern's Steakhouse is not to be missed. Even us jaded, snobby New Yorkers were impressed and had to eat our words (although there wasn't much room, we had so much fantastic food!). It might be the best culinary experience we have ever had, and we didn't want to leave three hours later. (Yes, you need to plan on three hours for this dinner.)
If you find yourself planning a trip to Tampa, the first thing you have to do is make a reservation for Bern's Steakhouse. If you can't get a reservation, change your travel plans until you can. Their website is here.