A Tampa institution - long established and respected old-school steakhouse.

Bern's is an institution. Not just in Tampa, but it's known nationwide and makes "Best Steakhouses in America" lists such as this one and this one. So I was very excited to bring my family and enjoy a meal here for the first time.

The initial impression does not disappoint! The valets meet you with excitement and professionalism and immediately make you think "Whoa. This place is going to be terrific!" The building itself is an impressive old-school steakhouse. Red velvet, an enormous Christmas tree, gold stair rails. And it was packed. People everywhere. 

Our waiter was perfect for the environment. A middle-aged gentleman who had been doing this so long, it was in his nature. Smooth, easy, friendly. We loved him immediately. 

Dinners here come with a ton of food - their French onion soup, salad, green beans, fried onions. "It's a lot of food" we were advised. Too bad, because the appetizers looked fantastic.

The onion soup was truly spectacular. It lived up to the sky-high expectations the water gave us. Unfortunately, that's where it ended. The steaks were...fine. Good quality but way underseasoned. I wondered whether they were seasoned at all. There were 4 of us, we ordered 3 different types of steaks and all were underseasoned. We asked for salt. How does that happen at a steakhouse of this quality? It was a huge disappointment.

In addition, the "bone in 14oz grass fed" strip steaks arrived...with no bone? How can that be? The cook on the strips were also strange. I've included a photo of it. It was well done around the edge and properly medium rare in the middle. If you've ever eaten a steak like this, it's not enjoyable. Your mouth continually wonders whether the next bite will be juicy and unctuous or chewy and dry as a bone.

Following dinner, you move upstairs to the dessert room. Everyone who ever visits Bern's talks about the tour of their 500,000 bottle wine cellar (you read that right) - which are no longer available due to COVID - and the dessert room. It lives up.

It's a terrific environment, the dessert and post-dinner drink lists are impressively large and every single one we saw being delivered (and those we had ourselves) were beautiful. Other than their signature banana cheese(?) pie which was bland and banal, the other desserts were as generous as they were delicious.

I'm disappointed to say I won't rush back. I was hoping this might be a staple for me. But I can grill (and season) a better steak at home. No need to travel here and drop the coin. I'll look to Tampa's other steakhouses to fill the bill. 

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