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Mention a "big night out" steak place to any native Tampan who is a traditionalist and one name and only one name will surface.  Bern's Steakhouse.

You'd Never Guess This Was A Palace For Steak!

Having traveled around the nation and world looking for the best of the best, Bern's Steakhouse has got to be up near the top.

When you approach the restaurant you're a little put off by its outward appearance.  It looks more like a manufacturing building than a restaurant.  And once inside in the lobby, it resembles a bordello with gaudy red colors and odd lights. 

Bordello?  No - Beef! This Is The Lobby At Bern's

But you come to this place for the steak.  Bern's serves aged meat although if you request it, you can get "fresh" meat here.  And this is the kind of place that you hit on big ocassions because it is quite expensive.  A meal for four with wine downstairs and dessert upstairs in the dessert room with tip can easily top $450 to $500!

There is a minimum order for steaks in terms of ounces and you can "build" from there and get your slab as big as you like.  The porterhouse is always a favorite and so is the strip and filet mignon.  And they always come exactly as you ask them to be prepared.

If you're in the mood for fresh fish, this is also an outstanding choice.  They have fish tanks in the kitchen with live grouper, sea trout, pompano, snapper, permit, etc., depending on what's available.  A giant circular net at the bottom of the tank is raised to the surface and the "victim" is selected.

They have one of the largest wine cellars in the world with a wine list in a metal binder that is about the size of a big city Yellow Pages phone book.

Bern's grows their own vegetables on a special farm.  And the charcoal that your steak is roasted over comes from a special supplier.  As I recall it comes from a provider in Georgia.  It's "real" charcoal and not the pre-molded  "briquette" stuff we get out of those 20 pound bags for home use.

As the waiter brings you your menu, be sure early in the meal to ask him or her to make a reservation upstairs in the dessert room.  After you pay your meal bill, you then head up the stairs (or take the elevator) to the dessert room.  It's a really neat room with tables inside old wine barrels.  There you can order an after dinner drink, be tempted with sinfully rich desserts, and toke away on a fine cigar.  There's even a closed circuit t.v. screen that shows the piano player downstairs.  For years a guy named "Lanny" tickled the keys.  He was an older gent and we'd always call him and ask him to play "Stairway to Heaven" figuring he would get flustered.  But he always played it and played it well!

Want to have some fun? Ask your waiter if it might be possible to tour the kitchen and wine cellar.  More often than not the answer will be "yes" and it's an interesting experience.

Back to the wine list (which is offered at dinner and again upstairs in the dessert room), it's nothing short of incredible.  You're liable to find a rare cognac that is going for more than $700 an ounce along with the more run of the mill spirits.  They have featured wines from the 1800s with price tags in excess of $10,000 a bottle!   So if you love steak and fine wine, Bern's is the place for you.

Bern's Steakhouse is located at 1208 S. Howard Avenue in Tampa.
Their web site is here.  (And don't be fooled by the brief steak description on the web site.  You can order 'em as big as you like 'em!)


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