Food & Wine

Some Restaurants Have a Dessert Cart, This One Had a Dessert Room

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Who knew Tampa, Florida had one of the top steakhouses in the nation? Even more that it had a famous dessert room!?

On my recent stopover in Tampa I was commanded by friends to visit Bern’s Steakhouse. Ignoring my pleas of flying in late and traveling alone, I was instructed that if I didn’t have time or couldn’t get a reservation for the steakhouse, I at least had to visit the Harry Waugh Dessert Room. Kind of a restaurant within a restaurant.

Boy was I glad I did!

Despite losing a half hour while the Tampa PTC persecuted my Lyft driver, I arrived about an hour and a half before closing. The place was large, and was packed. I walked through the crowded foyer to the reservations desk, barely taking in my surroundings in my haste to get my name on the list.

A “table for one” seemed to catch them a little by surprise, but there was an immediate opening for me. I was instructed to walk past the kitchen, down the hall, and up the stairs. I regret not taking more time to look around me and even take pictures to share with you, but the whole thing was a little overwhelming.

Harry Waugh Dessert Room Tampa Hallway

The hallway was narrow and large parties were exiting making for tight quarters, but eventually I came to a broad staircase at the back of the restaurant, leading up to a landing full of historic pictures and the second reservations desk.

Harry Waugh Dessert Room Tampa Staircase

There was a short wait, and then I was escorted into  a small room that housed the piano (and pianist) surrounded by 7 or 8 cozy booths.

Harry Waugh Dessert Room Tampa booths

Harry Waugh Dessert Room Tampa Kenny Pianist

And I was the only one in there! Except for Kenny, the pianist. One of the cool features of Harry Waugh’s are the telephones set in almost every booth — you can make requests without ever leaving your table (note the phone on the left).

Anyway, Kenny welcomed me, immediately played my request for “Summertime” and entertained everyone seated in his area with light-hearted banter throughout the evening. He even made up a song for me that started “Keri’s landing tonight, she’s landing on a runway…” to a tune similar to Elton John’s “Daniel”

That definitely added to the festive mood. 🙂

But before I could start to relax from the evening,  I had to make my way through the immense menu of desserts and dessert wines. I had no problem picking a dessert, I’d hesitated between two, and then quickly saw the Taste of Bern’s with sample size portions of their signature desserts: Macadamia Decadence Cake, King Midas, Banana Cheese Pie, Chocolate Cheese Pie, and Vanilla Cheesecake.

Picking out a wine was tougher. And I wasn’t quite ready for a sweet wine on top of my sweet foot, so the waitress brought me the list of wines by the glass and I picked out a glass of Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon, something you can usually only get by the bottle!

One of the standout elements of Bern’s is their wine list! It’s massive and (relatively) affordable. Particularly the wines by the glass — there’s only a small markup on bottles and the price per glass is only about 1/4 the cost of a bottle.

But anyway, loved the desserts! My favorites were the Banana Cheese Pie and the King Midas which is a rich carrot cake topped with fudge covered macadamia nut ice cream.

Harry Waugh Dessert Room Tampa Taste of Berns

The next glass of wine I wanted to try was a red from 1979 and under $6, but apparently everyone else had the same idea so it wasn’t available. Instead my waitress had consulted with the wine cellar and came with two suggestions based on what I had been drinking before.

But now that my dessert was finished, I was more excited to get recommendations from “her menu” — the dessert wine list. She brought me two to try — one a Sandeman 30 year old tawny port the other a Hungarian Tokaji, which I’d heard about but never tried. I’m not a huge port fan, but if I had paired with cheese, I would have loved it. Since I was completely full, I wound up going with the Tokaji — which was powerfully sweet but equally flavorful with notes of honey and apricots.

Harry Waugh Dessert Room Tampa Tokaii Raspberry Ice cream

When it arrived, my server had thoughtful brought a tiny cup of their raspberry swirl ice cream which was fantastic in it’s own right and paired beautifully.

At this point it was 10:30 and I was ready for the bill, which came as another pleasant surprise! While $55 certainly isn’t cheap, I couldn’t believe I’d had 3 glasses of really good wine and an immense dessert platter for that.

Harry Waugh Dessert Room Tampa Bill

So should you go! Yes. If you’re in Tampa it’s definitely worth a trip to experience the unique ambiance, the good desserts (including gluten free), and most of all, the incredible wine list and pricing. Just know that lighting is really dim and very red, at least where I was sitting, which makes perusing the menu a little difficult.

Looking forward to trying the steakhouse and taking a tour of the cellars and kitchen next time I’m there!

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

2 Comments

  1. Rings

    August 2, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Nicely reviewed. One aspect I have always enjoyed there are the enclosed booths. It allows both for privacy and quiet. Something so often missing in a restaurant. The selections of dessert wines has always amazed me but moreso are the cordial, eau de vie, scotch, Armagnac and Cognac listings.

  2. Jessica

    August 2, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Berns is a must do for us every trip to Tampa. The food is great and I love the old school atmosphere! Reservations are a must though. As you mentioned at the end, if you want a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar, all you have to do is ask your waiter and he will lead you through after dinner. I seem to remember them saying they have one of the largest wine collections in the world!

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