Bern’s Steakhouse: At Its Prime

August 4, 2014 | South Tampa Magazine | Categories: Editorial, Food | Tags: Bern Laxer, Bern's, Bern's Steak House, Bern's Steakhouse, Captain Jamal Hussamy, David Laxer, Davor Karaban, Erhan Ozgur, Harry Waugh dessert room

After more than 50 years, Bern’s Steakhouse is still a rare find

The old white stucco building on South Howard Avenue doesn’t look like much. A strip mall turned fine dining restaurant, Bern’s Steakhouse has no windows and the same décor from when it opened in the late 1950s.

When the food is as good as Bern’s, however, the decorations don’t seem to matter. The main attraction every evening is the wine and steak.


With 90,000 bottles of wine, Bern’s wine cellar is the largest of any restaurant in the country. Every wine is available by the bottle, and 200 are available by the glass. Some bottles date back to the 19th century, the oldest of which is an 1802 Maderia wrapped in plastic bags to protect the original label. The most valuable is an 1851 magnum Gruaud Larose, worth approximately $10,000. There are seven types of steaks to choose from, all aged in Bern’s kitchen for five to eight weeks, all cut to order. The steaks are cooked on a grill, using natural hardwood charcoal, giving the tender, aged meat the perfect flavor.

Then there’s the Harry Waugh dessert room: Fifty desserts to choose from, 1,000 dessert wines and spirits, and a piano man who can play nearly any song that comes to mind. The booths are made from California redwood wine barrels purchased from California wineries by founder Bern Laxer.

From beginning to end, a journey to Bern’s Steakhouse is a dining experience like no other—something to be enjoyed slowly, and savored every bit of the way.

At Your Service

Three Different Ties, One Common Goal: Make the Customer Happy

The world-class servers at Bern’s Steakhouse are put through extensive training. Their graduation may not seem sweet, they‘re awarded with a burgundy tie upon completion, but it’s a pride-filled badge of honor. After a year or two of proving themselves on the dining room floor, and passing an oral exam, servers trade in their burgundy ties for silver. To get the gold, and to be called a captain, you must be elected by your peers.


Captain Jamal Hussamy has waited tables at Bern’s for 37 years, Davor Karaban for 10 and Erhan Ozgur for three.

Boot Camp

They call him the drill sergeant.

Since 1975, captain Jamal Hussamy has been whipping servers into shape—teaching them how to be the best of the best. But before the young recruits ever get within arms-length of the prestigious burgundy tie, they must complete a long and rigorous obstacle course: A minimum of one year working in the kitchen (usually mopping and cleaning); Two to three months observing customer interaction in the Harry Waugh dessert room; One week weeding and picking vegetables on the 14-acre organic farm; One day hosting; One day bartending;  8 to 12 weeks of hands-on training with a captain; One week with all five captains, demonstrating they can handle a 3-table section.