Keith and a complete review in the same sentence - don't hold your breath TomOriginally Posted by catrancher, post: 270092
He'll be on his way home soon wish the weather was a bit nicer to welcome him home
Yeah. I just thought that since it's a restaurant, his enthusiasm might have gotten the better of him.Originally Posted by Wendy, post: 270097
Tom (... not holding my breath...)
The still pretty brief Bern's Steakhouse Review (part of the "cows everywhere be afraid, VERY afraid tour")
Being a huge fan of good dining, I've long known of the infamous Bern's Steakhouse. Even a quick look at their website will show that Bern's is not your run of the mill steak place. Extensive online menus invite you to think seriously about the thickness of steak you would like as well as the cut. Looking through the novel-a-like discussions on each menu item, I can't help wondering if it can be worth so much trouble! So with a mix of curiosity and apprehension, we set off on the seventy minute or so drive from Disney to Tampa.
It turns out to be a very easy drive most of the way to Bern's from Disney. I4W for 60 miles and you hit Tampa. The last file miles or so were of course, a bit of a nightmare of road works and tiny streets. Our GPS finally delivered us to a very lacklustre almost run down part of down and as we were about to give up and ask for directions we see a sign for Bern's on the side of the road. Can this be right? It's a very inauspicious looking building, nothing like what one would expect given the elegance of the menu.
A brief valet park ($5) later, we're shown inside and the true nature of Bern's is revealed. The lobby could not be more of a contrast with the outside. Outfitted in plush red, blacks and golds with a staircase wandering off to upstairs (more about upstairs later!). Our reservation is quickly and politely checked and we're whisked through a warren of corridors with elegant dining rooms flying by on either side as we arrive at our assigned table in the Bronze room.
Bern Laxer and his wife Gert started Bern's in 1956 but as neighbouring businesses closed, they bought up their space and added dining rooms. So the interior could not be more different from the uniform calculated open space of a chain restaurant. Dining rooms are all decorated differently, yet opulently and are all different shapes and sizes. I definitely have a plan to try them all!
Son David took over after his father was injured in an auto accident and lost his memory. We asked our server about what changes she'd seen in her thirty years of working at Bern's, after all, a change of ownership even within the family can bring many differences. She looked at us with a mixture of shock and confusion, "oh dear me no changes, I'm too old now to be bothered with any of THAT type of nonesense, that's why I love working at Bern's".
Well some things have changed for sure. Dining rooms are regularly updated and refurbished, there are now iphone/android menu apps and so on but at its core, what hasn't changed is Bern's attitude to ingredients, wine and perfection in everything they do. So much so that Bern's have their own farm, a 40-acre tract of land just of the Suncoast Parkway on which they grow everything they possible can for the restaurant to their own specifications.
Karen our wonderful guide/server to Berns explained the menu and encouraged us to say what we liked and didn't like. Rather than the expected pretentious demand for steak thickness to the 1/8th degree, she patiently listened to our preferences and then suggested a cut and size all the while explaining how they aged the beef meaning it would need less cooking time.
Every entrée came with onion soup, salad, baked potato, onion rings and we quickly realised that this wasn't a place which was out to charge an extra here and there.
Regular readers will know I'm not one for salad or onion soup either ;-) so I sat trying to get a look across the room at what the steaks would look like. Diners actually have plenty of space at Berns so your neighbouring tables aren't on your lap as in some places these days. When the onion soup arrived, Karen explained how it was topped with a mix of three cheeses and having earlier sized me up as a picky eater, told me I should try it because you never know. Indeed, I didn't know! It was delicious! The cheeses formed a wonderful topping to the delicate almost consommé style onion soup but yet the taste was strong enough to deliver its message to my taste buds and keep me going back for more.
A wonderful salad arrived next, sadly I just can't bring myself to "do" salad so I took on the next challenge, the 182 page wine list! This is one of those were to start moments since the selection truly is just too extensive to narrow down at the time unless you know your favourite but even then, what about trying something new and wonderful! In short, it's a no win situation table side and next time I'll plan to read the list offline and do some research because Bern's is the place to go for that wonderful wine you've heard about and long to try. We ordered a fairly pedestrian bottle which arrived quickly and was, unsurprisingly, perfect.
All the time little extras kept appearing. A wonderful bread with this course, a fantastic home made cracker with hot cheese with the wine I ordered and so on.
By the time the main course arrived I was already feeling a little more full than I would have liked. One quick note to us Europeans here, the entreés did arrive as we were still finishing the salads as is often the case in American restaurants. I'm very sure they would arrange for the customary European pause in between courses if asked.
The main course for me was a Delmonico (ribeye) medium well with au poivre sauce. It was done perfectly and melted in the mouth with a wonderfully juicy taste. I couldn't think how to better it and no size obsession was needed, Karen had specified it perfectly. DW's lamb chops were similarly perfect and served with a fabulously robust red wine sauce which was so flavoursome, it rivalled the au poivre sauce. Yet when dribbled sparingly on the lamb added to, rather than obscured, the underlying flavours of the meet.
All to soon the main course was over and the wine was no more. We settled up downstairs because we'd asked to take dessert in the special Harry Waugh Dessert Room upstairs. The next, pleasant, shock was the price. My steak was around $40 and the lamb around $35. Given the soup and sides had been included in that price, the total came to LESS than we were used to paying at Charleys and Ruth's Chris. Given the service was Victoria&Albert style, this was rather surprising! 12% service is added to every check which was more than fine with us and we topped it off to a more respectable gratuity level with pleasure.
Our wonderful server Karen then took us for a full tour of the expansive kitchen and wine cellars. It was very clear that Bern's wants control over everything. Everything they could build or grow themselves was done there. Everything was as spotlessly clean as you would hope and there was an evident air of pride emanating from the kitchen staff as they explained their areas.
Of course the highlight is the wine cellar. Thousands of different bottles sit there all lovingly tended. In the centre, padlocked, is the rare bottles vault which range in price from $200 to $30,000 and are packaged in plastic bags to ensure that even the labels are kept as perfectly as possible. We were regaled by stories of people flying in specially to take a rare bottle of wine and enjoying it with just steak sandwiches.
From there it was upstairs to the Harry Waugh Dessert Room. Everything up there is made from a wine cask or barrel and so you see a lot of curvey doors. Every party has its own cask like room along with a music selector and a call button for a server. The menu is, thankfully, not as extensive as downstairs but nevertheless has all sorts of cakes and coffees. We choose a delicious chocolate moose to share and some wonderful coffees. The atmosphere up there is hard to explain. Relaxing, personal, private all apply yet it's very much an experience and somewhere I would be a regular visitor if I lived in Tampa. They say that people come just for the dessert room and I can completely believe that!
Around 11:30pm the car valet arrived to say they were going home and could they leave our keys with us. Judging by the number of keys on his tray, we weren't the only ones that were finding it hard to leave.
Later on we finally, reluctantly, left and whilst getting into our car the wonderful Karen, on her way home, came over to thank us for coming and ask us how we enjoyed it. Again, pride was evident, this was someone who was done for the day but still cared passionately that everyone loved Bern's as much as she obviously did.
I said this was a brief review and though it may not seem like it, it really is. I've missed out so much detail, so many little touches which made the experience so great. I'll happily give Bern's and the staff there a full five stars and if I could give more I would! Thoroughly recommended to foodies (and drinkies) everywhere!
(yep Mr Tom! you were completely right with this remarkable recommendation )
Delighted you enjoyed it so Keith! Excellent review by the way. It's really quite odd but you have to remember that I was a lad of 16 when I last went to Bern's. That'll give you some idea of how long ago it was. There's some experiences that just stick in your memory forever. Like my dad's comment regarding the wine cellar on the tour we took back then:Originally Posted by Keith, post: 270103
I felt an overwhelming desire to hide.What a place for sophisticated drunks!
Wendy, I'd certainly say it is. In fact, now that the subject has surfaced again and is at the top of my memory stack, I think the next time my DW and I are down there, we may pop over to Tampa for a meal also.Originally Posted by Wendy, post: 270106
Tom (... medium rare please!)
Hey! Don't knock the neighborhood. I used to live just a few block south of Bern's. Although my wife at that time had an uncle who was a Tampa cop and he used to look out for us!Originally Posted by Slowhand, post: 270123
Don't understand why the neighbors would hide when he came to visit.
Actually if you follow Howard Avenue south for just a few more blocks, it dead ends on Bayshore Boulevard right on Hillsborough bay. There's quite a few beautiful homes lining Bayshore and overlooking the bay.
Tom (... but this was years ago!)
Holy Cow (Pardon the Pun) but what a review. Thanks for this Keith.
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