BERNS Steak House

 √√√√√  $$$$  ⬆️  

1208 South Howard Avenue  •  Tampa, FL.   33606   

RESERVATIONS (813) 251-2421

Sunday- Thursday   5:00 PM - 10:00 PM   
Friday - Saturday  5:00 PM - 11:00 PM

A FIVE STAR  restaurant in the SoHo district of Tampa, Florida, founded in 1956.  I first ate there in 1967, continue to do so and it is currently owned and operated by David Laxer, son of original owner Bern Laxer. This is a place that deserves a five star for longevity withs consistent excellence for almost sixty years.  

Last time I dined there, I sensed a small change as with all things and rumors abound that it probably involved, new head chef's, policies, menus and temperament.   

All of the above centered on and that was the big ticket with the new HAVEN BAR replacing “SIDE BERN’S and opening of the EPICUREAN HOTEL.  A lot of expansion and changes and now Bern’s has it’s subsidiaries. So I did my research.   They receive a five rating as all the changes are for the good.  High end eatery’s are rated on a five scale, the extra point really the wow factor.   

There was an attempt into lighter fare called “Side Bern’s”  but that has closed now, locals  called it "Bern’s Lite”.   It was themed lighter healthier fare and realistically thats not Bern’s to me.   Bern’s is Steak.  Thats like a Vegan visiting the Chicago Stock Yards.  

But it is so much more than a bar with bar food.  With Bern’s Steak House, the Haven and now the Epicurean Hotel with its own Wine theme, David Laxer has created the Steak Industry’s literal “Disney World” of wining and dining fine food right here in Tampa Bay.  The era of the Steak Theme Park has been issued in.

THE HAVEN  —    
2208 W. Morrison Ave   •   TampaFL 33606  •  HYDE PARK/SOHO area of Tampa, Florida  •  
SideBern’s closed June 24 for an extensive renovation as owner David Laxer informed Epicurean Hotel’s James Beard Foundation dinner of the restaurant's upcoming changes.   SideBern's was looking for the "best way to utilize the renovated space."  From high-dollar wines that reflect the Bern's lineup to "unique finds" that aren't as well-known, Haven's wine selection will be broad. By-the-glass liquids will range from around $9 to $18.

  Their site has the menu.  

The theme will be the cheese and charcuterie.  A cheese cellar will be visible from the dining room, outfitted with more than 100 cheeses.  Haven will offer 50 varieties depending on what's ripe every night, and that the restaurant plans to pursue "off-the-wall" cheeses.


  • In 2013 Bern’s opened a hotel across the street called The Epicurean. Located in the hotel is Bern’s Fine Wine and Spirits. 
  • In 1996, Wine Spectator rated Bern’s in a tie for the best steak house in the United States. 
  • In 2009 Rachael Ray rated Bern’s, the best restaurant in America, having beat a dozen top-rated steakhouses in the U.S.
  • In 2010 industry magazine Nation’s Restaurant News deemed Bern's a "Top 50 All-American icon."
  • George W. Bush ate at Bern's twice during his presidency.


Bern's Steak House is famous for its steaks but that only part of the story, and that is a big part part of it’s success.  A large portion of the fare the vegetables are organic and are  grown especially for Bern’s.   This is the attention to detail a five star organization is built on.  As one who lives in Tampa Bay Florida, theoretically a good place for produce, I usually have to search for good produce because all the chain supermarkets buy in bulk and it’s sometimes a United Nations World Event guessing what country or planet it comes from.  I go to private vendors who deal locally.  Nothing like getting week old or two weeks old veggies from a foreign land.  Three days later in the fridge and they turn bad.

According to connoisseurs, Bern's has the largest wine list of any restaurant in the world. In its cellars can be found depression-era French red wine, pre-war Sauternes, and Madeira from the 17th century. Diners can take a tour of the wine cellar as well as the kitchen at Bern's after their meal. Bern's boasts the largest private wine collection in the world, and due to this status has quite a following of wine aficionados. Bern's is one of three locations that annually host "Winefest", the second largest private fundraiser for charity in the Tampa Bay area, the first being "Taste of Tampa”.  The establishment also boasts a private dessert room, the Harry Waugh Dessert Room. 

TRIVIA - Another notable feature of Bern's Steak House is that there is only one single window in the entire establishment, although it is not viewable by customers.

I have eaten there since 1967. Known for it aged beef and the largest wine collection mere mortals are entitled to, bring your credit card if you can spell Rothchild. 

They will take you on a tour of the wine cellar,  When ordering the hand cut steaks at BERNS use the chart to the right.  

When ordering deserts use the last exam your Internist did on sugar and insulin levels. Their new deserts are to die for. (Pun)

They also offer Chicken, Lobster and Duck in a multitude of variation and styles. I’m not going to print the menus because I would be taking part of the fun of going to Bern’s.  You’ll get an education in fine dining.

The impeccable attention to detail is noticed, your steak is hand cut, prepared and broiled precisely to your liking. This is a standard most places would like to go by if they could.  

Their main competition in Tampa comes from other prime houses like Ruth Cris, Charley's, Schuller's and the Outbacks new edition called Flemings.  

To me it's Bern's vs. Ruth Cris.  Slight differences  One difference is the way they age their meat.  Bern's dry-ages their beef and Ruth Cris wet-ages theirs. Both are superb methods and have their advantages and they will argue that for the ages.

Bern’s is darker inside, more turn of the century.  Chris is more open.  Longevity and legacy is the hallmark of this establishment. Bern's was opened in 1956 by Bern Laxer, and now the torch is carried by his son David Laxer. Their dinner guests are both locals and event partakers and it's not unusual to see a cornucopia of celebrities in the political, sports and entertainment arena. Including me.  I have eaten there at least fifty times. For that my picture should be on the wall.  Only the post office makes that claim today.  But I could be on every one.

Bern's wine cellar s huge by both local and international standards.  The wine guide book is to fine wining as the Visa card is to Paris Hiltons monthly trysts and drug adventures.  It is a delight to read if you have about a year. The have a huge inventory. Not confirmed, probably classified, but the numbers are staggering.  I think they own more wine than France, probably in the high hundred of thousands of bottles on site and in a warehouse. No body would store that much in one place. A fire would really get you whining.   ONE HALF MILLION BOTTLES AND 6500 LABELS

For me it's a shoot-off, both BERNS and RUTH CRIS do a superb job and are both five stars. A friends recent comments thought the attention was better at CRIS, warmer than some of the waiter's at BERN'S and the food a few percentage points better.   Hey, I go there to eat and have a good time, I handle waiter problems with the size of the tip and if the foods not right I complain.  Never had to in forty years so maybe he’s just picky.


They served the most delicious Chocolate Cream Cheese pie in the world and the recipe was a secret for many years till I decided we were going to take it apart in our lab. So we kidnapped one of the Chef's and threatened to take her apart if she didn't tell us the secret.  The recipe is in the recipe section.  No Chefs were harmed in the making of this cheesecake.


Two of the three great steakhouses in the country I have had the pleasure of dinning in.   When I lived in New York,  Peter Lugers Steak House in Williamsburg Brooklyn was the number on in the nation.  After moving to Florida and living in Tampa I was introduced to Bern’s forty years ago and it’s as great as my first day there when Uncle Jessie and my tribe gathered for dinner.  People who know Florida steakhouses, know Bern's in Tampa.   We usually celebrating an occasion at Bern's and I'll tell you get your name in early.   Here are some of the points of light...

1-  Valet parking only.  Don't park elsewhere and walk.

2-  The place if you haven’t been there before is Baroque, Impressive, Castle like...and something you don’t experience in Florida. You think you might be on the set of Game of Thrones in one of the more elaborate castles in Wstmoros. .
Everybody is dressed up to the nines and when you enter you will  be amazed by the red velvet walls, and the aura you suddenly are in.

3-  The menu is huge, so is the kitchen and staff.  The menu covers so much you might want Cliff Notes to get through the course. 

4-  The food is extensive, the steaks the best in Florida carefully aged, home grown,  cut specifically by a team of ex-surgeons working for free meals — the steaks come with the usuals of  salad, baked potato, french onion soup, and then after selection from what seems to be a million bottles of wine.  

4A -  Bern's only buys three primal cuts, steaks are dry aged for six weeks, and the steaks are only cut once you order them.  You have a multitude of choices as to cuts, thicknesses, and weight.   Each individual steak has 32 variations in color, juiciness and cooking time that it can be ordered. For every ounce of fat that's cut off your steak an additional ounce of meat is added so a 10oz steak IS a 10oz steak. 

5-  The aftermath:   You embellish your bill with a viable credit card for dinner (which includes 12% service charge) .  

6-  Choice: You can leave and keep your bank account solvent or take the tour to the Harry Waugh Dessert Room.  

7-  Take the kitchen tour, a tour of the most complete kitchen, ( sheer envy from me) and expansive wine cellar which is one of the largest most comprehensive wine cellars in the world.

8-   You are now in desert heaven and fear not cholesterol, they have quite a menu of their own for all blood pressure types.

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