Bern's Steakhouse

Good food is art. And not just in the general sense (presentation, color distribution, etc). In my opinion, if I'm going out on the town somewhere classy it should be a visceral experience. Bern's Steakhouse is surreal in every way imaginable. I know what you're thinking...what is a devout vegetarian doing at a STEAKHOUSE?! Well, it's is not your average steakhouse in any capacity my dears. Unlike commercial joints where I'd be stuck with a mediocre baked potato and wilted iceberg lettuce, Bern's is vegetarian friendly - offering dozens of dishes loaded with vegetables organically grown in their local garden. Here is the excerpt from their menu (it's online here) that made Matt and I decide that this was definitely the place for our anniversary dinner: "Like everything else at Bern’s, our farm is far from an ordinary commercial establishment. It exists solely to grow farm-fresh, pesticide and chemical-free vegetables and salad greens for our restaurant – and for your pure dining pleasure. We’ve done it this way from the very beginning, because we feel strongly that the best tasting vegetables are those that are grown naturally, with no poison sprays or harmful chemicals.

Organic? Yes. In the truest sense of the word. We use compost, sea weeds and crushed rocks, mother nature’s food, to nurture and enhance our products. And, in general, bugs and disease stay away.

Depending on the season and the weather, we try to serve what we grow on our farm daily to our customers. (The only exception is our land cress sprouts which are grown in our kitchen). Our goal is to offer you one or two farm-fresh vegetables at no charge. Want seconds or thirds? We consider it a compliment and will be happy to serve you more – again at no charge. Just ask your waiter."

Dang, son! Wish every restaurant was this accommodating!

Nestled beside a Tampa freeway overpass in the middle of a residential neighborhood, Bern's is an unlikely one-of-a-kind experience.

The place is huge and extravagant as all get-out. The interior design and decoration of themed rooms may verge on gaudy anywhere else, but Bern's pulls it off just fine. They opened in 1956 and I'm not sure much has been updated since! Win. Also, please note that the extreme low light inside made for total crap photographs (I had to resort to the dreaded flash ::gasp!:: in some), but I still had to share!

After dinner, we got a tour of the kitchen. My favorite part about it? As mentioned above, they grow their own land cress sprouts in there!

And then a tour of their expansive wine cellar (6,500 different labels dating all the way back to the mid-19th century).

I liked this label.

Hand-crafted tiled stairway leading up to Bern's famous Harry Waugh Dessert Room.

The dessert menu consisted of several pages of sugary magic.

After (literally) 20 minutes of weighing our options, we decided on the flourless chocolate torte with homemade whipped cream and hot fudge on the side!

We chose jazz for our cozy private booth, for obvious reasons.

The perfect end to our incredible nearly four-hour culinary adventure: cappuccino.

Medium format photos taken in our backyard before leaving for Tampa!

Good times.