If you’re at all interested in the Tampa food scene, you’ve likely read a review of Bern’s Steak House. It’s not news that if you want a truly spectacular dining experience, you head down to the South Tampa institution. And, if you know any of my food blogging friends, you probably have sufficient evidence that Bern’s is the place to take someone you particularly enjoy, and don’t mind spending a pretty shiny penny on. I decided that my parents liked my boyfriend and I that much, so during a recent visit, we made Bern’s our home for the better part of the evening (to our lament, we can’t actually live there…I asked).
|photo via Facebook|
Entering the threshold, the stark white building takes on a completely different persona. The red lights conjure up slightly frightening images (or possibly exciting images, especially if you read Fifty Shades of Grey), but hey, if hell tastes this good, I might just have to break a few more rules. We were led to an ornate dining room, where amongst statues and paintings that would fit in perfectly on the set of a Jane Austen movie, we began our meal. The task is simple. Choose your cut, thickness, and temperature, and then they work their magic; that is, if the glass of wine from their record-breaking cellar isn’t already putting its own little spell on you.
While they cook your steak, drink down glorious spoonfuls of French onion soup, covered in melting Gruyere…
…and munch on delicious greens and tossed with their signature Dijon-Maple dressing.
Prepare to be impressed with their bare bones, high-quality filets and sirloins, which can bring any man to his knees, and woman for that matter. I may not eat red meat often, but I know a good steak when I taste one, and this 8 oz. filet was no exception.
While the plates pairings of green beans, carrots, and crunchy onions were happily welcomed into my stomach, the real winner of my heart was the white truffle macaroni and cheese we ordered with our meal; it was love at first bite. The noodles were perfectly chewy and al dente, and the flavor of the white truffle was out of this world in their cheese sauce. Sprinkled with chive for color and a little freshness, I would come back everyday for this Mac n’ Cheese if my jeans could handle it (oh, muffin top, how you betray me).
After a spectacular dinner, we were given a tour of the busy kitchen where all the magic of this beautiful meal comes together. Then it was off to the wine cellar, where I learned that there is a bottle of wine that can put all the Duggar children through college at Harvard. Nice.
If the night was already saving its place as one of my favorite dining experiences, we were then led to a private, wine barrel shaped room for dessert. The Harry Waugh dessert room is honestly worth a trip in itself. If not for the absolutely mouth-watering sweet dishes, for the experience of sitting in your own private little world, serenaded by music of your choice, comforted by the dim lighting. I can think of nothing more perfect than a night here with my significant other, drinking wine, eating chocolate, staring lovingly across the table… at your parents. Your parents are here, Blaire.
Nonetheless, if anything reads like Fifty Shades of Grey to me, it’s the dessert menu at Bern’s. I found myself seduced by every description, each promising a hefty spike in my insulin level… so bad, yet so good. I would be lying to you if I said the choice was easy, but luckily I recalled an episode of “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” where Chef Sunny Anderson left my heart racing with a description of the Chocolate Peanut Butter truffle: creamy peanut butter cream, a rich milk chocolate mousse, and crunchy peanut praline, all layered on top of a decadent brownie crust. Foodgasm, to say the least.
Derren ordered the recommended Macadamia Nut Sundae, a recipe perfected after over 100 attempts. Well, the labor of love was well worth it. This is the best sundae I have ever had: an orange scented cone filled with a perfect, creamy macadamia nut ice cream, whipped creamed, and roasted macadamia nuts, served with a plentiful dish of hot fudge, a feast for your eyes as your pour it slowly over your latest conquest (honestly, what have you done to me, E.L. James).
My mom ordered the Vintage Chocolate Lush Sundae: a dense, flourless chocolate cake, served with a yummy vanilla bean ice cream, freshly whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and that same chocolate fudge I tempted you with above. Clearly, the apple does not fall far from the tree. O’Neal women love their chocolate.
My dad, who usually ends up annihilating everyone else at the tables dessert before he finishes his own (its extremely common to see his spoon come across the table towards your plate, accompanied by the Jaws theme song) ordered the Strawberry Key Lime Tart: buttery graham cracker crust, key lime crème, fresh strawberries, and graham cracker ice cream. He was so distracted with his own dessert masterpiece, I actually got to eat the majority of mine! Victory, at last!
Finally, what better way to finish a meal, than with a wonderful “Café Con Leche” Bern, a play on the Ybor city café made with espresso coffee and hot milk (modeled below by my dapper father).
I hope I’ve made it pretty clear that if you haven’t been to Bern’s Steak House, you should seriously consider it for your next special evening (or if you have an expendable income, dinner). I can’t think of a better way to have shown the culinary prowess of my beloved Tampa Bay home to my parents. Thank you, Bern's.