Fine-dining landmark Bern’s Steak House has a sweet retreat.
Reservations at the Tampa, Florida restaurant come with not one table but two — the first for dinner, the second in a private upstairs dining space reserved solely for dessert.
It’s called the Harry Waugh Dessert Room. It makes for a sumptuous, unusual and perhaps even unique-in-America haute cuisine experience.
“Each time you book a table here for dinner, we save another table for you for dessert,” a manager told one group of gleefully surprised first-time Bern’s diners of the unexpected treat in store.
Bern’s Steak House has earned James Beard honors, international acclaim and a clientele that includes jet-setters who fly into Tampa solely to feast on the venerable eatery’s towering seafood plates, globally sourced caviar and signature house-cut steaks broiled over hardwood charcoal.
Each street-level dining room is plush with rich red colors, dark woods and images of European wine country — Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, for example.
Service is attentive, professional and polished yet friendly. The waiting list for a table, some diners are told, is seven months long.
But the two-table experience of dinner, then dessert, makes it a bucket-list dining experience worth the wait. It’s the highlight most people remember and eagerly tell others about after dining at Bern’s.
“It’s classic Tampa.” — Kiera Andrews, restaurant influencer
“Everyone should experience Bern’s at least once,” Tampa restaurant industry trendsetter Kiera Andrews, who chronicles the city’s dining scene on Instagram (@thisbabeeats), told Fox News Digital.
“It’s classic Tampa.”
After carpaccio, caviar and cabernet, diners retire upstairs to a clubby retreat of wood-paneled circular cubbyholes. It looks straight out of a 1960s restaurant design textbook. So old-school it’s cool.
The Harry Waugh Dessert Room serves coffee, digestifs culled from an array of rare and luxurious global spirits, and decadent house-made sweets prepared each day by pastry chef Hannah Thomas.
The macadamia nut sundae “took years” to perfect, Thomas told Fox News Digital.
The macadamias are toasted under her watch, sweetened with a simple syrup flavored “with essence of other nuts,” and served with Bern’s own ice cream and served in a waffle cone bowl.
“It’s really the most guarded recipe we have,” the pastry chef said.
Bern’s peanut butter truffle features layers of peanut butter and chocolate mousse with brownies glazed in ganache. It’s the restaurant’s upscale version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, said Thomas.
“Each time you book a table here for dinner, we save another table for you for dessert.” — Bern’s manager to diners
Bern’s top-selling dessert is its signature banana cheese pie.
It’s a combination of banana cream cheese mousse with an almond praline crust and fresh bananas.
It’s surprisingly light and airy.
The “age-old, top-secret” recipe was first created by Gert Laxer.
She co-founded the restaurant with husband Bern in 1956.
The couple met in New York City in 1950 and stopped in Tampa in 1951 to visit a relative on a planned trip to California.
They never left.
Bern’s was originally a beer bar. The couple turned it into a small 40-seat restaurant and with success expanded by buying neighboring shops.
Bern’s now seats 350 guests in its eight dining rooms.
The “world-famous Harry Waugh Dessert Room,” the restaurant claims on its website, “was built in 1985 using wine casks to create 48 private rooms.”
Guests can choose from 45 desserts, 15 flavors of homemade ice cream, and sorbets, cheese and spirits.
Reservations just for dessert are available. But, as the restaurant notes online, every dinner reservation comes with a dessert reservation.
Waugh, the sweet spot’s namesake, was the director of French wine estate Chateau Latour.
The Laxers met him while traveling in Europe.
He invited them into an after-dinner drawing room at the estate for port, cheese, cigars and conversation.
They vowed to recreate the experience back at Bern’s in Tampa.
The restaurant’s growth, and its national and international profile, has become a notable microcosm of the region’s explosive expansion.
The Tampa Bay area has grown from about 650,000 residents when Bern’s opened in the mid-1950s to about 3.3 million today.
The region added nearly 1 million residents just since 2000 — a population boom of more than 40% in the 21st century.