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I'm writing this for my mom, who enjoyed listening to Mel Tillis (among many other country-music singers). From what little I knew of him, he seemed like a really nice person. "Longtime Country Singer, Songwriter Mel Tillis Dies" on abcnews.go.com
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....
Location and Rates for Tonight - Website The Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay is just a few miles from the airport, but it's also right on Tampa Bay, overlooking the Courtney Campbell Causeway going to Clearwater. This hotel is seemingly part of a larger complex - the grounds are enormous - but I'm still not quite sure of what all is on the property. Regardless, hotel guests have access to everything. Rates were relatively low, so I sprung for a Grand Club Room on the Concierge Level which cost $157 (AAA rate), plus state sales tax and occupancy tax, for a total of $175.96. Granted, that's not inexpensive, but it was a very good value for this hotel, and the weather was 75 degrees and sunny - warm enough to use the outdoor pool if you wanted. The next morning, 12 noon was inching ever-closer, so I called down and asked if the room was available for a second night, and it was only $4 more expensive, so I opted for a two-night stay. Incidentally, while writing this review, I checked the same rates for tonight, and the website listed the room as being $329, so keep that in mind if you can find this same room for something in the $160 range - this is what I was referring to about our room being a "good value" even though it isn't cheap - it really does feel like it "should" cost more than we paid for it. Because the room was on the Concierge Level (a separate floor on the top level), there was a lounge that was open for much of the day, with free breakfast from 6:30-9:30 AM - worth getting up for (Starbucks coffee, bacon, scrambled eggs, bacon, sliced fruit, cereal, bacon, coffee, bagels with a little toaster and *all the smoked salmon you wanted*, bacon, and coffee). This lounge, which was much like an airport lounge, also had free beverages starting at around 3 PM, and running up until 9 PM - the beers were of the Miller Lite and Heineken variety, but they had passable liquors if you wanted a cocktail, Badoit water, and in the evenings, there were ample-enough snacks where I made a dinner out of it: so-so charcuterie, chicken quesadillas (which were surprisingly not that bad), shrimp cocktail (also surprisingly not bad) - enough to cobble together a full meal, albeit not the healthiest food in the world; still, the total food bill was $0 for two people on night number one, with all the middling alcohol you cared to imbibe. In all honesty, the lounge wasn't good enough for two consecutive nights of dinner, so night two was Restaurant Night. However, on night two, Hyatt displayed an act of hospitality that I shall not soon forget: I went downstairs to the bar at 11:45 PM - the two bartenders were cleaning up the empty bar, and told me they had closed, but I could call room service (for a $3 delivery charge and a 22% service charge) and get anything on the bar menu. I wanted a Macallan 12, so I went back upstairs, and called room service - a very gentle, congenial Latina woman fielded my phone call asking for a glass of Macallan 12, then called me back in about one minute. "We don't have Macallan 12-year-old," she said " - we only have Macallan 18-year-old." I replied, "That's an expensive drink." She: "Yes, it is $40." Me: "Would you please pick me out a Whiskey in the same price range as the Macallan 12-year-old?" She: "Certainly, sir." And we hung up. About five minutes later, there was a knock at the door. It was the same lady who had talked to me on the telephone - an older woman, perhaps in her fifties or sixties, even more kindly and gentle in person than she was on the phone. "I brought you a present for your last night with us," she said " - here's a glass of the Macallan's 18-year-old, and it's on me." I looked down and saw the check, and the only thing on it was the $3 delivery charge. I asked her if the bar would be ringing up the drink as a separate item, and she sort-of, kind-of implied that they would be, so I expected to see a $12-15 charge on my bill when I checked out. I tipped her well, but not extravagantly: $8 on top of the $3 delivery charge, basically a "thank you" for the free upgrade from Macallan's 12 to Macallan's 18 (which is a considerable amount of money); what I didn't realize is that, between her and the bartenders (whose register was almost surely closed), they had comped the drink entirely, and I was given a glass of Macallan's 18 Scotch for all of $3, total. Had I known this, I would have given her a $20 tip, and I feel guilty about it even as I type this note. Nevertheless, if anyone from the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay ever sees this review, please thank the kindly woman who was working room service at 12:15 AM this morning (November 29, 2016), and do whatever you must do to keep her happy, because she defines what good hospitality is supposed to be. Kudos to your hotel and your management for having the foresight and intelligence to hire and employ this wonderful ambassador of goodwill. It should say something that fully half of my review of this $367, 2-night stay, is about this one act of kindness. It probably goes without saying that this is a solid, four-star hotel - there isn't anything else you could possibly rate it: If I could use just one example to demonstrate what a "business-oriented" four-star hotel would be like, it would be this. Here are some photos of the hotel: The Room Itself - It may not look like much, but it was a top-floor King overlooking Tampa Bay, and the bathroom was marble, with a great shower: The View from the bed: The View out our window which includes magnificent sunsets:
I'll be spending a couple of days in Tampa and vicinity, so please nominate some restaurants you'd like reviewed. I've been to Bern's a couple of times, but I'd be happy to review it - that, or anywhere else. Just go ahead and throw out some names, and at Friday 5 PM, we'll open up a poll for about a week to vote on them. So there's no rush, but don't wait forever.