It’s not exactly a secret that I love a good steakhouse. A recent meal at Bern’s Steak House in Tampa got me thinking about what specifically I look for in a steakhouse. I’ve narrowed it down to six important criteria:
- The steak. There are few things in life that I love more than a perfectly rare filet.
- The service. Believe it or not, this is almost as important as the steak. Part of the reason I’m willing to pay $50+ for a piece of meat is for the excellent service that usually accompanies it.
- Caesar salad. I’m a creature of habit. A steak dinner always starts with a Caesar salad.
- French fries. You won’t find any baked, mashed, or scalloped potatoes on my plate. Always French fries, preferably drizzled with truffle oil.
- Dirty martini. This classic drink goes perfectly with a steak.
- Chocolate cake. No matter how full I am, I always have room for a rich and decadent chocolate cake.
Back to Bern’s…let’s see how they stacked up.
The steak. The second steak I received at Bern’s was perfectly rare and delicious. The first, unfortunately, was medium rare, despite the fact that I ordered it “as rare as possible” and even specified that “yes, I would like it cool throughout the center.” I ordered the châteaubriand cut, which is essentially a filet sliced differently. I couldn’t actually tell any difference between the two, but like I said, the second steak was quite tasty.
The service. The service at Bern’s was without a doubt the worst I’ve ever received at a steakhouse, and this wasn’t my first rodeo. In baseball, they say three strikes and you’re out. Bern’s struck out twice and then some during our two hour meal:
- After learning this was our first time dining at Bern’s, our server didn’t provide any type of introduction to the restaurant or overview of the menu. She gave us menus and took our drink order. Strike one.
- I asked a question about the châteaubriand cut, and our server explained that I should read the description of the cuts on the menu. I’m quite capable of reading, thank you, but the menu description didn’t answer the specific question that I had. Strike two.
- Refer to the French fries section below. Strike three.
- Refer to the steak section above. Not only was my steak overcooked, my Mom’s was as well. I didn’t realized that my request for “as rare as possible” was too vague for Bern’s. Strike four.
- Wait, isn’t our server supposed to come by at some point to ask how the food is? Hmm, I guess she forgot that part too. Strike five.
- After all of that, our server brought the check over and explained that per restaurant policy, a 12% gratuity charge had already been added to the bill. She then had the nerve to specify that we were welcome to add additional gratuity if we felt that she deserved more than 12%. This was simply rude beyond belief. Thank you for the Tipping 101 course, but we have, in fact, dined in a restaurant before and are quite familiar with how gratuity works. Strike six.
- Refer to the chocolate cake section below. Strike seven.
- Needless to say, we were all pretty ticked off about the meal, so we called and asked to speak to the manager the following day. He called back three days later and pretty much said, “sorry I’m not sorry.” Strike eight and Bern’s is out.
Caesar salad. We opted for the tableside Caesar salad in lieu of the house salad that came with the steak. I love a good tableside Caesar, and Bern’s is among the best I’ve had. The dressing was zesty and delicious. It was actually a tad lighter than a traditional Caesar dressing, which I really enjoyed.
French fries. Each steak at Bern’s comes with their famous French onion soup, a salad, a baked potato, onion rings, and the vegetable du jour. Woah, that’s a lot of food. We explained to our server that we weren’t really interested in any soup, salad, potatoes, onion rings, or vegetables, and could we just order the steaks a la carte? No. Sorry, we don’t do a la carte. Of course they don’t. We then asked if instead of the four servings of soup, salad, potatoes, onion rings, and vegetables that we didn’t plan to eat, could we simply substitute one order of truffle French fries. No. Sorry, no substitutions allowed. And that was that, there were no French fries to be had at this meal.
Dirty martini. My martini was ice cold and just right. Bern’s even made up a tiny bit of ground with the blue cheese-stuffed olives.
Chocolate cake. After dinner, we headed upstairs to Bern’s famous dessert room in hopes of drowning our dinner sorrows in some chocolate cake. Unfortunately, 15 minutes later, no one had even come by to take our order, so we left. Cakeless.
To say that Bern’s was disappointing would be the understatement of the century. When I think about my favorite steakhouses here in Atlanta, the service at Bone’s immediately comes to mind. Bern’s was basically the anti-Bone’s. Now, just in case there’s any hint of lingering doubt in anyone’s mind (although I’m not sure that’s actually possible at this point), there is a 0% chance that I would recommend Bern’s to anyone visiting Tampa. Ever.