Bern's as solo diner [with update]

I’m in Tampa on business and have a free night tomorrow. I’m planning on getting a meal–solo–at the Bern’s bar.

I assume they have good .375s and BTG offerings? Or should I buck up and get a bottle?

Any other tips?

[Edit: I’m an idiot and see that they have a list online.]

Do it, Ryan! I do that exact thing regularly when I head to Tampa for business. Ironically, I’m at the Tampa airport for a 2 PM meeting, was debating to Swing by, but now have to be back for a 5 PM meeting in Orlando, coincidentally with a potential client from Houston.

Get there when the doors open as Thursdays can be busy. Hustle straight to the bar, you can get full meal and wine service. Grab something BTG while you peruse the huge list. They always have some mature offerings BTG. Last time I was there, they had a Cornas and a Mondavi Zin from the 1970s. The Zin was $4.99! I would have been happy sticking with just that. But, always gotta grab a mature 375 of Bordeaux. Ask one of the Somms or bartenders on recommendations on a mature 375 that is drinking well. They always have something. Last two times I was there I grabbed a 375 of 1964 Leoville Poyferre for $145 and a Delas Hermitage (cannot recall price but over $100), both excellent. Had a 1961 Pavie another time that was excellent, and it was $185 I think, which is not far off current retail for the Perse era Pavies that are nowhere near is good.

I’ve done solo dinners there twice. You’ll have a blast!

Well now I’m emboldened. I’ll report back.

Save room for Madeira.

And take pics!

I’ll second what others have said about arrive early. My only experience at Bern’s was arriving at 9pm and after waiting ~an hour to eat at the bar and walking out due to hunger. Was not meant to be, I guess!

75 fo sho

Ask for Brad. He’s the senior somm there and incredibly knowledgeable, not to mention an old friend of mine. Belly up to the bar and enjoy the ride!

That’ll do it…

How long before he started working there did you know Brad?

Old friends/bookends…

From his days at Island Way Grill in Clearwater…So, early 2000s?

Was Rugers at Bern’s then?

+1 for Brad. He has treated us very well in the past.

Bern’s was super fun, albeit imperfect in ways that ultimately detracted very little from the experience. First, the good. The bar was extremely lively and fun. Service from the bartenders was top-notch, and the crowd was interesting and outgoing. The wine service was also impeccable. While I waited (we’ll get to that), I started with glasses of 1975 Souverain Zin and an old Rhone (never learned what it was). Both were impeccable, fresh, and delicious. Both were $7.

Once I was seated, I asked for a somm, and the wine director came over (maybe Brad?). I’ve rarely had better wine service. I told him I wanted a great, old-school .375, and that I like Burg, N. Rhone, and Bdx. I said I was willing to spend $200-300. He said that, while I could get great Bdx in that range, he really recommended a N. Rhone because they had some great .375s that were drinking well. I was in no position to disagree, so he brought out a 1964 Jaboulet Cote Rotie. Not on the list and only $90. It was perfect for what it was–fresh, balanced, fully resolved, and Cote Rotie to the core.


The whole experience was loads of fun and one I’d love to do again with a group. I ended with a tour of the cellar, which is well worth it. The wine director lamented that the list was being severely picked over–and I’m sure that’s true–but there is still a ton that I would love to drink, and the fact that they have so many mature bottles for cheap is completely unique. I’ve never seen anything like it.

All of that said, there are a few things Bern’s first-timers should know. As Robert and others previewed, the place was packed and the wait considerable. I couldn’t arrive until 7:20 or so, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it was the busiest I’ve seen any restaurant, ever. And it’s quite a scene. I eat solo on business travel almost weekly–often at very popular, Michelin-starred type places–and I have never waited anywhere near as long as I did at Bern’s. It took nearly 2 hours to be seated at the bar, which was sort of okay because (1) I had nothing else to do, (2) the crowd was fun, and (3) the wine BTG was great. But it did test my patience.

The food was tasty but not superlative. I actually really liked the old-school approach of the French onion soup and old-school salad (which is in line with the old-school decor), but neither was remarkable. And the steak, while tasty, was nothing special. I had a 14oz ribeye, which was huge and seemingly much larger than 14oz (or other places are short-changing me). It was good but not nearly as good as I do at home routinely with a Whole Foods prime ribeye on the big green egg/cast iron. I guess that’s the reality of ordering steak and why I rarely do it–but I didn’t find the Bern’s steak on the same level as other great steaks I’ve had at places that really focus on aging/marbling/etc. May also be a product of serving 1,000 covers a night. I was stuffed after dinner so I skipped desert and Madeira. Next time.

A final note: I found it notable how few people seemed to be taking advantage of the wine program. The bar had one guy who was drinking '93 Ponsot CdlR and DRC solo. But the rest, other than myself, were drinking martinis or beer, except two groups who were drinking The Prisoner.

I’m so psyched you did this! Yea the key is arriving at 5 if you do not have rezzies.

Your last point, that I see all the time. Cannot tell you how often i have been and see people drinking new releases of Caymus, Jordan and Silver Oak.

The bar is a blast. Very convivial. And lots of business done right there.

I’m with you. I almost never order steak of any sort at restaurants, though one must order steak at a steakhouse. I think we’re Texas spoiled. Prime beef and steakhouses here are as good or better, wagyu et al. aside, than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

Agree. Exhibit A: this $14.99/lb dry aged ribeye I picked up from Whole Foods last week. Cooked slow on the BGE followed by a cast iron sear, it was leaps and bounds better than just about any steakhouse steak I’ve ever had:


The first rule of Berns… [wink.gif]

I’m overdue for a visit. Anybody want to get together and spend some $$?

That’s one of the things that I think makes Bern’s one of the greatest spots on the planet. You can get a '64 Cote Rotie (375ML) for under $100 and have a great experience or someone can go and get a martini, a bud light, or current vintage Caymus, order a filet well done and butterflied, and still have an awesome time. It is a happy spot for whatever floats your boat.

I am a defender of Bern’s food. I love the simplicity / retro, no frills, + value. You get (IMHO) an excellent, straightforward piece of meat simply prepared (that allows the wine to shine) soup, salad, and 2 sides, for the cost of less than a steak at corporate steak house and without being ridiculously over seasoned