If you only have one night in this city on the bay, Tampa Bay, book it for Bern’s Steakhouse. Save your pennies to splurge on this well worth the money treat and come hungry… very, very hungry. And I’m serious about having the reservation, probably at least a month out, mine was 3+ months out.
You will think that I’ve led you astray, but fear not. You are in for a probably once in a lifetime food & wine experience. Entering the restaurant gives you two sensations, neither really connected to a prelude to fine dining. The first is that this might be a re-purposed funeral home from up North, it’s not. The second is that you might have been transported to old Vegas, you haven’t been. What you will find is a gaudily decorated, labyrinth of growth and expansion that delivers eclectic dining nooks and crannies that somehow make you feel right at home and in the twilight zone all at the same time. It could have something to do with the copious amounts of wine that you will likely consume.
There are two dinner seatings, a 5:30 and a 7:30. My rookie mistake was going for the 7:30 – this was a four-hour dinner experience. Next time I’m going for the early seating to keep it to under two hours.
The food & wine menus will absolutely overwhelm you. My advice is to study the extensive menus before you get there to get the most out of your visit and to stay on budget! There is a lot of food being served so unless you can take extras home with you, plan accordingly. I tried the steak sampler but it was still too much food. I like that your steak comes with soup, salad, and vegetables – there are plenty of a la carte options to add to your meal but, again this is a lot of food to consume.
Be prepared for great food, great wine, and depending on who comes with you… hopefully great conversation. But wait, after your meal, you’re not done yet! All guests have the option of touring the kitchens and wine cellar. Don’t miss this tour!
This Nebraska girl was thrilled to learn that all of the steaks comes from, you guessed it, Nebraska. I often tell people that I don’t generally order steak if I’m outside of my hometown. I’m glad I made this exception!
Bern’s is a study in execution. Everything here is self-contained, from the equipment design and build to the laundry, it’s all done in-house. There is staff working around the clock to feed this machine that feeds 700-800 sittings a night. Yep, you heard that right!
The wine tour was amazing, this is one of the world’s largest private wine collections and we only glimpsed a thumbnail of its size. Row after row of wine with a library of science wine Dewey decimal system to find it all. All in there are over 500,000 bottles of wine!
Steak from Nebraska, wines from the world. What could be better? You guessed it, dessert!
After your tour, head upstairs to your own, private, enclosed dessert room built from reclaimed wine casks. Again, study the menu carefully to select from dessert wines, drinks, coffees, and sugar extravaganzas. I had a single scoop of perfected in-house, Macadamia nut ice cream. I know I wimped out given all of the other options but I love Macadamia nuts and I was sooooo full.
So, now it’s late and all you want is sleep. Well, directly across the street, and somehow affiliated with Bern’s, is the wonderful Epicurean hotel, part of Marriott’s Autograph collection. It is a lovely hotel that I wish I had more time to make home base for exploring more of Tampa.
So, that’s my one night in Tampa story, but on my growing list of things to do in Tampa are:
- Spending a day exploring the historic Hyde Park district.
- Walking end-to-end on the world’s longest, continuous, sidewalk known as Bayshore Boulevard (6 miles one way).
- Attending the annual Gasparilla parade, usually held in early February, it’s a made-up pirate invasion which in plain English means it is a party flotilla led by one pirate ship into the bay, followed by a huge parade and all day/night party. It is now a bigger party than Mardi Gras, I know, right.
- Catching a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game.
- Watching a New York Yankees spring training game.
Put Tampa and Bern’s on your must-visit list.