CitrineDC

Tampa, FL

50 posts in this topic

For anyone dining in the Tampa region, I would recommend Bern's Steak House. Opened in 1956, it's quite an institution. The beef is well-aged, and while there are lots of appetizers and starters to choose from, my dining companions and I selected the regular menu. You order an entree and it comes with a side salad, baked potato, delicate onion rings and a vegetable. Our vegetable choice was sweet and gingery shredded carrots, which even my carnivore boyfriend wolfed down. All the vegetables are organically grown on Bern's own farm. I've posted some pictures below.

If you go, request a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar after your meal. And definitely make reservations in the upstairs dessert room.

Here's a picture of my Chateaubriand....

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Here's Bern's wine cellar, with one of the largest collections of wine in the U.S.

More big wine....

Bern's fish tank in the kitchen...

Yummy desserts in the upstairs room. The desert room is divided into little individual rooms, so it's very private. Quite romantic, even though I was there with a group.

More desserts...

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I second Berns. This is a wonderful steakhouse, and even better when you are dinning on someone else's expense account. We used to make-up reasons to go see clients in Tampa just for their steak. I particularly enjoyed the steak tartare that is dotted with pieces of fresh black truffle, the best French onion soup I have ever tasted, rich and flavorful Delmonico, and those onion rings.

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I haven't been since 1988 but I really enjoyed it the handful of times I went when I was down there in 1987-1988.

Gosh... I'm feeling old now...

Jennifer

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Thank you Sthitch! I can't believe I forgot about the onion soup. It comes with the meal. While the entrees are expensive (most starting at $32), it is a very good value if you consider all the sides you get. I also ordered a carafe of the house wine, based on the recommendation of a chef friend who told me Bern's house wine tends to be a cab or merlot blend of typically very expensive wines that were opened to purchase by the glass. I would have liked to sample something else, what with the many choices, but since I was being treated, I didn't want to run up the bill too much.

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My wife and I came very close to moving to Clearwater Beach, one of my favorite places on the face of the earth. Having a fried grouper sandwich at Frenchy's on the Beach-behind a white sand dune perhaps 50 yards from the lapping clear water (!) on the white sands of the Gulf of Mexico at sunset is a memory that can last until retirement.

The Beach Bistro at Holmes Beach , on Anna Maria Island, a barrier island outside of Bradenton, is considered by many to be one of the very best of Florida's restaurants. It is also one of it's most romantic. Perhaps one of the world's most romantic. With its softly lit location literally on the beach, after sunset it is a special place, more than worth the one hour drive out from Tampa. This is their website:

http://www.beachbistro.com/

Closer to Tampa, the Lobster Pot at Reddington Shores has long been considered to be one of the state's best seafood restaurants. This is their website: http://www.lobsterpotrestaurant.com/ An outstanding bouillibasse along with several exemplery grouper and red snapper presentations this is a difficult reservation but worth the effort. Also an excellent effort with escargot and, for those who have never had snails, about as good as you will find. At least a half dozen times over the past ten years I have driven out from Tampa for dinner and every time it was more than worth the drive.

Tampa's Cuban restaurants are interesting. The Columbia is the most famous. I'm not so sure that they are really any better than the old Omega but their menus are much more varied. A traditional visit for anyone travelling to Tampa.

Many consider Tampa's overall best restaurant to be Mise en Place. Zagat is among them. This is their website: http://www.miseonline.com/dinner.html

This lacks the charm, personality and national reputation of Bern's; but for locals it is the hardest reservation in the city. This is probably as close as one can come to a serious meal in the Tampa Bay area.

For myself Tampa and the surrounding area are more about sunsets, intracoastal waterways and fresh grouper; even "grouper and friends" which is now off the menu at Nick's in Tarpon Springs. B 21 is a great (and cheap) wine/liquor store on highway 19 that has the best prices in America on Reidel (I'm serious about this and, yes, they advertise on the internet.) I don't really remember a great meal in the Tampa Bay area-but I do remember a number of great experiences of which dining was only a small part.

Edited by Joe H

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I know Rocks will move this but I wanted to get it into circulation. Having just returned from a brief three day chaotic mission to see in laws in Sanford NC(Johnston Bros. BBQ next to Johnston Bros produce on route 1, awesome) my brother in law and his family have recently relocated to Tampa and cannot find a good meal anywhere. They are huge fans of chinese/korean/thai/ vietnamese, but any restaurants with something to offer would be great, I'll be forwarding the thread to them in a couple of days or so. Any help would be greatly appreciated..

-Brendan

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I know Rocks will move this but I wanted to get it into circulation. Having just returned from a brief three day chaotic mission to see in laws in Sanford NC(Johnston Bros. BBQ next to Johnston Bros produce on route 1, awesome) my brother in law and his family have recently relocated to Tampa and cannot find a good meal anywhere. They are huge fans of chinese/korean/thai/ vietnamese, but any restaurants with something to offer would be great, I'll be forwarding the thread to them in a couple of days or so. Any help would be greatly appreciated..

-Brendan

[i can't move it if I haven't yet seen it

he says, while looking the other way for a few hours...]

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Not the flavors you mention but I had a very nice meal at Mise En Place in Tampa about 2 years ago. And isn't there a Roy's in Tampa? Yeah, yeah, a chain. But one of the better ones.

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I never said I was going to take you to Florida, I said I was going to Tampa with ya.

Getting into the holiday cheer a little early this morning? :)

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Going down to Tampa to visit family soon. Based upon the reviews here and input from friends, we've already booked Bern's. Any other suggestions from persons who have been to Tampa in the last year or so?

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Psst. Call ahead to Bern's and see if they have any 1993 Georges Roumier Chambolle-Musigny left in stock. If it's offsite, tell them to bring it in. And drink as much of it as you can. Yum. And less than $70 on the list, I believe.

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Thanks for the advice. The first post mentions kitchen and wine cellar tours. Does anybody know if you call or ahead or just request one upon arrival?

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cjsadler reminded me that i had not posted any pictures from our dinner at Bern's in April. It wasn't the best steak that we had ever eaten but the experience was great, and I love the separate dessert room.
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After dinner, we toured the kitchen and the wine cellar. Sprouts for the salads are grown at the restaurant.
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The wine cellar is incredible.
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For dessert, cjsadler had the Banana Cheese Pie ("The Classic. A banana-cream cheese mousse in an almond praline crust with sliced fresh bananas, whipped cream and banana coulis.")
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I had the King Midas ("A signature recipe of rich and moist carrot cake, with macadamia nut ice cream and warm Valrhona chocolate sauce. A Bern's original.")
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I go to Tampa every March to see the Yankees play three or four spring training games. In general, I don't love the Tampa area, at least the places we have been, but we always seen to enjoy the baseball and the food, so that is not all that bad.

We always go to Bern's one night, it is never even a question. I will agree with what someone said above, it is not the best steak that I have ever had, but it is the best steakhouse experience that I have had. The wine list is ridiculous, the tours of the kitchen and wine cellar are great, and the desserts are wonderful.

Other than Bern's, we checked out a tapas place called Ceviche, right on Bayshore Blvd, that we loved. I really loved the food there and the sangria, but the vibe in there is the best, very young, very fun. We have also had good experiences in the past at Restaurant BT, Mise en Place and Six Tables. We didn't like Armani's as much, it was nice, but the price hurt a lot, which is saying a lot for me.

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Since this thread was just bumped, I figured I'd share that I had an utterly fantastic few days in Tampa a few months back. I can't say I'm a big fan of the city itself, but there's no denying day two was one of the best eating days I've had in a long time. I don't know that a total rehash of my blogging for that few days is appropriate, but here are a few highlights:

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Cuban Sandwich at La Teresita

Straight-up Cuban counter diner fare near the airport, accompanied by a porky garbanzo soup (not pictured). A good Cuban is one of those things that's greater than the sum of its parts. Though I haven't sampled a Miami-style Cuban in its native environs, I think I'm a fan of the Tampa variant. The bread is generally lighter, crispier -- less heavy and lardy. Anyway, if you're looking for some good, simple Cuban (and you should be, if you're visiting Tampa), this is a great spot.

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Devil Crab at Florida Bakery

Acquired about a block down the street from La Teresita, devil crabs are native to Tampa. Composed of the leftovers of two local industries, the filling is made of crab, onions, tomatoes, garlic and a wackyload of vinegar, while the crumbly crust is made from leftover sandwich bread. It's a really enjoyable little snack with a lot of kick, both of the tart and spicy variety.

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Peel and Eat Shrimp at Rusty Bellies

Really, anything from Rusty Bellies (in Tarpon Springs) is fantastic. The folks who run the place have their own dayboats (which they built by hand!), so just about everything you eat there was swimming earlier in the day. But even setting aside the astounding freshness, they treat everything perfectly, which is to say minimally. These shrimp and the fried grouper sandwich were standouts.

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Beef Martini Sandwich at Wright's Gourmet House

Nothing fancy here, just freaking good. Their specialties are the kind that make me think they have a team of grandmothers in the back. They're the kind of sandwiches I'd never make -- white bread, butter, pickles, etc. -- but they're awesome. I tried the Beef Martini shown here, with roast beef, bacon and mushrooms that had been sauteed in butter, herbs and wine, and I also really dug the Golden Gate (not pictured), with roast pork, bacon, swiss, german dill pickles, mustard sauce and an awesome, fresh, chunky peach chutney.

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Smoked Mullet at Ted Peters

But if I had one meal in Tampa / St. Pete's, this is the one I'd do. Kick ass smoked mullet on the side of a four lane highway. Admittedly, my experience with smoked fish is limited, but I can't imagine it gets much (if any) better than this. Nothing fancy. Just a whole mullet that's been infused with about seven trees' worth of smoke. I gave it a little shot of lemon, and that was all it needed. They also make a really mean fish salad with the same mullet.

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Other than Bern's, we checked out a tapas place called Ceviche, right on Bayshore Blvd, that we loved. I really loved the food there and the sangria, but the vibe in there is the best, very young, very fun.
Seems that 'Ceviche' is in the news for more than just their food for the opening of their new outpost in Orlando :blink:

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......irreplaceable Bern's Steak House, long-listed for the Beard national Outstanding Restaurant award last year, it boasts the world’s largest privately held wine cellar, .....if anyone wants to see a copy of their wine list of old, I have one from the late 1980s and it is just massive, literally the size of a phone book, fully bound in hardcover,

Mine is from April 1984. Pretty much as you describe. Quaint, actually, in that they were printing it off on a dot matrix printer in those days.

Some samples from the 1984 list, for service in the restaurant

Lynch Bages 1961 $82.65

d'Yquem 1935 $120.50

BV GLPR 1977 $35.00

Robert Mondavi CS 1977 $24.20

Davis Bynum PN 1977 $15.95

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Anyone been recently? Heading down there next week for a few days and looking for some recs, and I'm staying in downtown Tampa but have a car. I know about Bern's, and probably going to go to Frenchy's. Looking for a couple good places for dinner (need to celebrate wifey's 30th there) and any seafood shacks/super casual places near the beach (Clearwater and maybe further south).

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Spending 3 nights in Tampa, from Thanksgiving Thursday to Saturday. We're staying near the Tampa airport and we'll be there after taking a cruise to the Cayman Islands and Cozumel. The reason we're staying is to hang out with my father in law who lives in Clearwater. Need good food in Tampa or Clearwater but I don't want to dress up. Looked at Bern's but ultimately decided that's not where I really want to go. Any other recs for restaurants or dishes to try?

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Spending 3 nights in Tampa, from Thanksgiving Thursday to Saturday. We're staying near the Tampa airport and we'll be there after taking a cruise to the Cayman Islands and Cozumel. The reason we're staying is to hang out with my father in law who lives in Clearwater. Need good food in Tampa or Clearwater but I don't want to dress up. Looked at Bern's but ultimately decided that's not where I really want to go. Any other recs for restaurants or dishes to try?

Spent 2 nights in Tampa about 3 weeks ago and I'm afraid I wont be of much help to you, except to strongly warn you NOT to go to Sidebern's. One of the worst meals at this price point that we've had in years, more to do with the chef's "innovative" combinations of too many ingredients that didnt work together at all. Nice looking place, nice bar area, good drinks, friendly (but not informed) service but the food... Unless, of course, you're in the mood for a good piece of fish, coated with a nice spice rub, sitting on horseradish mashed potatoes in a strongly flavored pork jus. Just as described on the menu (dont ask what I was thinking in ordering this).

Bern's, on the other hand, was a great surprise. Four of us ordered a 36 oz filet to share and it was right up there with other very good steakhouses (dry aged). Cant compare it to my hometown (Brooklyn) Peter Lugers since I didnt get porterhouse, but I'd be eating at Berns if it were in NYC or anywhere I visit. And remember that all the extras (soup, salad and a lovely large baked potato w/the works are all thrown in gratis). By the way, the wine list is tricky. They've apparently stuck to their concept of adding a % to the price they paid for the wine so the best bargains (and they are incredible bargains) are the older vintages that they bought years ago at low prices and have stored (perfectly) in their cellars. Of course, this requires real knowledge of which old stuff will open and which will be useless but our, luckily, our friends have their own cellar and knowledge and found 2 bottles at dirt cheap prices from the '80s that were incredible. It's a major schtick place but, in my opinion, worth the visit if a)you're a rabid carnevore & b)you dont mind or enjoy a show for the tourists.

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Spending 3 nights in Tampa, from Thanksgiving Thursday to Saturday. We're staying near the Tampa airport and we'll be there after taking a cruise to the Cayman Islands and Cozumel. The reason we're staying is to hang out with my father in law who lives in Clearwater. Need good food in Tampa or Clearwater but I don't want to dress up. Looked at Bern's but ultimately decided that's not where I really want to go. Any other recs for restaurants or dishes to try?

I suggest Peter Taylor's pizzeria-Wood Fired Pizzeria and Wine Bar..very casual, good pizza, and Peter is pretty cool. + his oven was designed by a NASA guy or something. Anyway, good pizza.

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I suggest Peter Taylor's pizzeria-Wood Fired Pizzeria and Wine Bar..very casual, good pizza, and Peter is pretty cool. + his oven was designed by a NASA guy or something. Anyway, good pizza.

It's worth going to Bern's for the amazing dessert room (although I'm not sure if you can go just for that).

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