Friday, January 17, 2014

What We Did On Our Winter Vacation: Florida, Part Four: Bern's Steakhouse

I realized that I never finished this series of posts, and this is the last one.  The only scheduled activity we had was dinner at Bern's Steak House in Tampa.  Again, I didn't take my camera, so I snitched these from the Internet.  This is a legendary restaurant, said to have formerly been a bordello.  The entrance and most of the dining rooms sure look like it. Berns-dining

On entering, you walk into a red wallpapered foyer with way too many ornaments and a huge gold staircase, which is not used.  On the right hand, one of the dining rooms.  Each dining room is fairly small and decorated differently.  And has a different name: "The Rhine Room," "The Florentine Room," and "The Bronze Room."  The latter is the largest, decorated with bronzes from the owner's collection.  Our room was tiny, and we sat in the corner.

Berns Bronze Room

The menu is extraordinary.  Of course the big attraction is every cut and variety of steak you can imagine.  Much of the menu is a guide to steak.  Even so, we needed a waitperson (in suit and tie; the busboys dress in short white jackets) to help guide us to what we wanted.  We intended to order a Delmonico steak after reading a few reviews, but after carefully explaining to the waitperson what we each liked in a steak, she advised us to order a Chateaubriand, 17 ounches (7 for me, 10 for Jeff), on the rare side.  When she brought it to the table, she brought a platter that cooked Jeff's steak some more.

From previous experience, I knew not to order appetizers, eat from the bread basket, or the French onion soup.  I did all that the first time we went there and couldn't eat more than a few bites of steak.  A $50 steak does NOT taste as good out of a motel room fridge the next day! 

The meal was incredible.  The steak was more than incredible.  Soft, tender, crisp crust...gah...We were surrounded by large raucous groups of businessmen and some couples.  Bern's has a dress code: jackets and ties for men, dressy dress for the women.  Nonetheless, there were a number of people in beach-casual gear. Upstairs they have the Harry Waugh dessert room, in which dozens of small booths are built like wine casks.


The desserts aren't impressive.  My opinion is that the majority are designed for tourists, because they're so overly artsy.  Or enormous (the bread pudding was downright scary).  But we were having such a good time it didn't matter.  One large room lined with booths has a miserable piano player in the center.  Last time it was empty except for us.  This time it was completely empty.  The piano player looked just as miserable.  Every musician we saw in Florida had a "I hate my life" expression.  There were cognacs that cost $1200 a glass.

That's pretty much it for Florida.  We flew back to cold, raw New York and real life.  It was a fantastic vacation in every way.   Fletcher was hysterically glad to see us.  The cats, as usual, lifted their heads and looked at us as if to say, "Oh, you're back?  Do you want us to show you where the catsitter left the can opener?"

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