Why is this the best thing you ever ate between two slices of bread?
Bern’s was one of the first restaurants I ate at when I moved to Tampa. The steak sandwich has a great cut of beef topped with fried onions, lettuce, and tomato. It is legendary. This off-the-menu secret sandwich is only available in the bar area.
Have you always enjoyed cooking?
I’ve been cooking since I was 14. My grandmother would laugh if she heard me say that because I was always a skinny kid who never wanted to eat. But when I was 14, I started working at Chubby’s Barbeque in Naples, Florida, and I haven’t left the kitchen since. I love everything about the business, and I love teaching people how to cook.
Did you go to culinary school?
I went to Johnson and Wales for a short time, but in ’92 I was offered a job working to help create a brand new concept – Carrabba’s Italian Grill. They said if you want to come work with us, you have to do it now, and so I moved to Houston.
Was there one person who has most influenced your cuisine?
Johnny Carrabba and Damian Mandola really influenced and inspired me. Johnny grew up in the restaurant business, and he knew how to make customers feel welcome and at home. Damian really influenced my cooking. He taught me a lot about cooking methods and how to develop a recipe.
What brought you to Tampa Bay Brewing Company?
I worked at Fleming’s for 7 years and then opened a pizza restaurant with a friend for a short time. Tampa Bay Brewing Company was a concept that I had not worked with before and I loved the atmosphere and the people here.
How would you describe the cuisine at Tampa Bay Brewing Company?
We have an amazing menu. It has a pub feel to it with burgers and Shepherd’s Pie, but then we also have veal and pasta dishes. The menus at both locations are slightly different, although the atmosphere and the beers are the same. The Ybor City location has more of an island feel to the menu, and the Westchase location has more of an Italian flavor. At Westchase we can cut steaks to order.
What’s one dish everyone should try at Tampa Bay Brewing Company?
Hands down the meatloaf is the best you’ll ever have. It is a combination of veal, prime ground beef, and wild mushrooms infused with Moosekiller Barleywine served over white cheddar mashed potatoes, wild mushroom gravy and topped with fried onions. It is very hearty. You’ll love it even if you are not a meatloaf lover.
What’s the oddest dish you’ve ever come up with?
I made Smoked Goat’s Head for a party. It was not the prettiest dish, but it was delicious. Once people got past how it looked, they really enjoyed it.
What’s the best thing about Tampa’s food scene right now?
That there are so many new and great sounding restaurants open now. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to try them all.
What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t cooking?
I love motorcycles and enjoy riding with a group of friends to the beach on my Kawasaki 1200.
Bern’s Steak House
1208 S. Howard Ave, Tampa, FL 33606