Tampa, FL: Channeling Ike and Mamie
The vibe is early Eisenhower at Bern's Steak House in Tampa and we mean that in a good way.
The maitre d' who seats you. The waiters in tuxes. The servers who serve while your waiter oversees. The themed rooms, some with more statuary than is perhaps good for your appetite. But even when it's tacky or dated (the place opened in 1956), Bern's is still cool.
The steaks, dry-aged for up to 8 weeks, are trimmed and cut once you order, broiled over lump hardwood charcoal (briquettes would be cheating). They are sublime.
Bern's pays attention to the other stuff, too. How many steakhouses can you think of that grow their own organic lettuces, tomatoes, and herbs? Or offer more than 20 types of caviar?
For dessert, a bit of hilarity: you go upstairs to the dessert floor to be seated in a private room (just your party) with piped-in with music from the lounge. A telephone allows you to call the pianist in the lounge to make a request (you can also dial in different music from a control box on the wall).
Beyond all that, Bern's has one of the best wine lists around—6,800 selections, half a million bottles. What's amazing is that they offer many old and rare bottles at beyond-reasonable prices. At a time when most American restaurants think nothing of a 300% markup on a bottle of plonk, the prices on Bern's famous list could almost convince you Ike was in the White House.
We've come a long way since the 1950's, but some things just couldn't be improved.