Bern's Steak House is a local favorite and has been around since 1956. I know you are probably thinking this is going to be a typical steakhouse restaurant review but let me reassure you that it is more than just a steakhouse. Even I had my doubts but was blown away by the meal and the entire experience. It was none like I've ever experienced before.
First off, don't be fooled by Bern's exterior. Once you step inside the restaurant, you feel like you're in an ancient mansion with tall red walls and various portraits hanging on the walls (similar to Disney's Haunted Mansion). There is a ton of history in this building and while we were waiting to be seated, the host gave us a brief history of Bern's Steak House.
Bern's steaks are U.S. Prime only and aged 5-8 weeks. They are trimmed and cut after you order, and broiled over real charcoal. These steaks are just as good (or even better) as similar high-end steakhouses like Ruth's Chris. However, unlike the other high-end chain steakhouses, you don't have to order à la carte. All entrees come with French Onion soup, onion rings, a choice of various salads, vegetables of the day, and a loaded baked potato.
The portions are plentiful and the steak was cooked beautifully. We really enjoyed the Caesar Salad prepared from scratch at our table (extra cost if you choose not to have the salad that comes with the entrees), which was the best caesar salad we've ever had. It was fresh and packed with flavor and had a touch of saltiness from the anchovies. It also paired nicely with the complimentary bread we received that was a bit crunchy like croutons.
If you're a fan of French Onion Soup, you will really enjoy this one. We also appreciated that they didn't present a huge bowl of the soup to fill us up before the steaks came out. The worst thing you can do is fill yourself up with all the appetizers before the main course. We ordered the crab cakes as an appetizer but wish we hadn't because we were a little full by the time the steaks came out. Plus, you HAVE to save room for dessert at Bern's.
For our main entree, we ordered the Delmonico steak which is the eye of the rib, also known as Ribeye. Their menu gives you various options for the steak such as the weight and thickness. They also suggest what temperature you should have the steak cooked for each option. If you are ordering 2-3 steaks, you should order one thick steak as it gives you much greater charcoal flavor. The waiter will cut and prepare the steak for you at the table as well.
Our steak was cooked perfectly and it was so juicy. There's actually not much flavor to it at first but once we added a touch of salt and pepper, all the flavors were there.
The Bern's Experience
The experience is what sets Bern's apart from any other restaurant we have been to. Not only is the food and service exceptional but after your meal, every guest is given a complimentary tour of the kitchen and wine cellar.
After our meal, we were kindly escorted to take a tour of the kitchen. It's always fun to see the behind-the-scenes and I was amazed at how huge the kitchen was. The steakhouse is sectioned off into different dining halls, so it's hard to get an idea of just how big this place is until you tour the kitchen. There were multiple steak stations and also a station for salads, dessert, and more. The kitchen really put into perspective just how big this place is.
Wine Cellar Tour
After the kitchen tour, we were taken to the second part of the tour in the Wine Cellar. Bern's houses one of the largest wine collections in the world and we got a glimpse of this earlier in the evening when we saw their extensive wine menu that was an actual book!
The cellar was gigantic, dark and very cold. The in-house cellar actually isn't able to house all of their wines, so they have a second storage unit off their premises down the street. The guide gave us a tour of their oldest to most expensive wines and some other interesting tidbits like how they keep a backup generator just in case the electricity goes out during hurricane season.
The Harry Waugh Dessert Room
The Harry Waugh Dessert Room room was by far my favorite part of Bern's Steakhouse. At first, I thought it was just going to be a room where I can pick a dessert to take home with me. It was the complete opposite of this.
The dessert room was a whole another experience of the restaurant with private booth style seating located upstairs. It almost felt like we had stepped back in time as there was a live piano player and our booth had an old school phone where we can phone-in piano requests. It's a very intimate dining experience and it doesn't stop there. We were given a large menu (basically a book) with nearly 50 dessert choices and more than 1,000 dessert wines and spirits to choose from.
We ordered the Macadamia Nut Sundae and Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle recommended by our waiter. The Macadamia Nut Sundae was actually created by food scientists which was an interesting tidbit. I don't think we've ever tried a dish that was curated by scientists! They were both divine but I think we all agreed the that the sundae was the winner. We also ordered some whiskey to pair with our dessert which was the perfect ending to our night.
If you plan on visiting on a weekend at prime time, make sure to reserve a table a month in advance. I called the restaurant almost three weeks in advance to make a reservation and the earliest available time they had was 9PM on a weekend. They informed me that in order to get a table at a decent time at their restaurant, I would have to book at least one month in advance.
The experience and food was truly something we have never encountered before. We later learned that their waiters train for one year working at almost every station in the restaurant. Then they train for another 8-12 weeks in the dining rooms before they become a full-service waiter on their own. It's incredible and we can definitely tell that the service from these waiters are far different from any other restaurant we've been to.
Be prepared to reserve 3-4 hours of your time for this dining experience if you are going to the dessert room (and a Bern's experience is not complete without ending the night in the dessert room). We had reservations at 9PM and did not leave Bern's until 1AM. Bern's Steak House takes their last reservation at 10PM on the weekdays and 11PM on the weekends but they will stay open until the very last customer has fully enjoyed the entire Bern's experience.
Usually when you dine late at a restaurant and closing hours are approaching, you get a sense that you have to rush out of there because the employees start their shutdown routine. Not at Bern's. They take your time with you, no matter what time it is, so that you can have the ultimate dining experience.
If you're in Tampa, this is definitely a reservation you'll want to make and don't skip the dessert room.
BERN'S STEAK HOUSE
ADDRESS: 1208 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, FL 33606
PHONE: (813) 251-2421