A food writer spotlights seven icons of Florida dining.

By Janet K. Keeler

Bern’s Steak House has been Tampa’s go-to spot for politicians, business leaders, society mavens and guys popping the question for decades. Sit at the lounge bar and look for oversized flashy rings. There’s a chance you’ll see one on the finger of a Super Bowl or Stanley Cup champ.

The hallmark of Bern’s is beef, and the booklike menu details the many cuts—filet mignon, Delmonico, chateaubriand, strip, porterhouse, T-bone. Tradition rules, so you can get your steak with bernaise or cognac au poivre sauce, but you can now also ask for yuzu kosho aioli and chimichurri.

Bern’s got its start in 1956 as the brainchild of Bern Laxer. He and his wife, Gertie, revolutionized Tampa Bay dining. He started a vegetable and herb farm before farm-to-table was a phrase, introduced American caviar to diners and used a computerized ordering system long before anyone else. Laxer died in 2002 (his obituary was published in The New York Times) and Gertie in 2020; their son David runs the place.

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Janet K. Keeler teaches journalism and advises the student news publications at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. She taught food journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus for more than a decade and was the longtime food and travel editor at the Tampa Bay Times.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2023 Issue of FORUM Magazine. Visit our collection at the USFSP Digital Archive by clicking here.