Bern’s Steak House

Lobby
Lobby
Tournedos au Poivre
Tournedos au Poivre
Tuna Tartare
Tuna Tartare

**** (4 stars)

It pains me to give Bern's four stars, but it's time for a wake-up call.

I've been going to Bern's for forty years, and it has always been my favorite restaurant. But pandemic changes have made it not the experience it once was, even though there has been plenty of time to adjust.

The menu is a third of what it once was. True, it could have used some tightening, but all around us we heard people complaining that their favorites were missing. And some of those favorites, such as Bern's caviar service, made the restaurant the unique experience it was.

The extremely aged steaks at Bern's have never been the highlight for me, but, with so much of the menu eliminated, I decided to try the Tournedos au Poivre. The meat was wonderfully tender and perfectly cooked, but the dish was literally inedible. I have never encountered such a salty sauce short of seawater. No chef could possibly have tasted this sauce during preparation.

"Another new menu coming next week," our waiter told us, with some degree of exasperation.

With over one million bottles of wine, the primary attraction of Berns is, of course, the wine cellar. But the older obscure wines on the list are nowhere to be found. Hundreds of pre-1980 listings from Burgundy alone have vanished. Were they all really drunk during the pandemic? Or has this, too, been streamlined? The conversion of one of the wine warehouses into more hotel rooms is not a good sign.

The situation is worse in the upstairs dessert rooms, where a menu of a hundred vintage Madeiras is now a short non-vintage list. I ordered one of the two survivors, and it was also missing in action.

I can forgive obvious pandemic issues, such as the server warning us it would take twenty minutes for her to get a cart for preparing Bananas Foster. But it seems like corners have been cut everywhere.

If it's an inflation issue, just raise the prices. Bern's is still ridiculously inexpensive for what they offer, and the only way to get a reservation is to book one just after midnight the day they open. So there's no lack of demand. But please don't let the new chef cost optimize this restaurant into the pedestrian experience it was last night.

Bern’s Steak House
1208 S Howard Ave
Tampa, FL 33606

https://www.yelp.com/biz/berns-steak-house-tampa

Bern’s Steak House

Lobby
Lobby
Tournedos au Poivre
Tournedos au Poivre
Tuna Tartare
Tuna Tartare

**** (4 stars)

It pains me to give Bern's four stars, but it's time for a wake-up call.

I've been going to Bern's for forty years, and it has always been my favorite restaurant. But pandemic changes have made it not the experience it once was, even though there has been plenty of time to adjust.

The menu is a third of what it once was. True, it could have used some tightening, but all around us we heard people complaining that their favorites were missing. And some of those favorites, such as Bern's caviar service, made the restaurant the unique experience it was.

The extremely aged steaks at Bern's have never been the highlight for me, but, with so much of the menu eliminated, I decided to try the Tournedos au Poivre. The meat was wonderfully tender and perfectly cooked, but the dish was literally inedible. I have never encountered such a salty sauce short of seawater. No chef could possibly have tasted this sauce during preparation.

"Another new menu coming next week," our waiter told us, with some degree of exasperation.

With over one million bottles of wine, the primary attraction of Berns is, of course, the wine cellar. But the older obscure wines on the list are nowhere to be found. Hundreds of pre-1980 listings from Burgundy alone have vanished. Were they all really drunk during the pandemic? Or has this, too, been streamlined? The conversion of one of the wine warehouses into more hotel rooms is not a good sign.

The situation is worse in the upstairs dessert rooms, where a menu of a hundred vintage Madeiras is now a short non-vintage list. I ordered one of the two survivors, and it was also missing in action.

I can forgive obvious pandemic issues, such as the server warning us it would take twenty minutes for her to get a cart for preparing Bananas Foster. But it seems like corners have been cut everywhere.

If it's an inflation issue, just raise the prices. Bern's is still ridiculously inexpensive for what they offer, and the only way to get a reservation is to book one just after midnight the day they open. So there's no lack of demand. But please don't let the new chef cost optimize this restaurant into the pedestrian experience it was last night.

Bern’s Steak House
1208 S Howard Ave
Tampa, FL 33606

https://www.yelp.com/biz/berns-steak-house-tampa

Seared

Exterior
Exterior
Interior
Interior
Lady finger appetizer special
Lady finger appetizer special
Rib Eye
Rib Eye
Salmon
Salmon

***** (5 stars)

Excellent food is topped by truly great service at this fine dining but not stuffy restaurant right off historic Route 66.

The real standout here was a special appetizer using ladyfingers(!), feta, apples, and bacon. It sounds weird but it was fantastic and unique.

Meals include a soup or salad. The gaspacho was nice and spicy, and the Caesar salad was classic, but with the dressing on the side. The salmon and ribeye were both very good.

The wine list is great, and really concentrates on the complex chewy reds that we love.

Our server's wine knowledge was truly impressive, and he offered us a ton of great tips for visiting the area.

Seared
119 San Pasquale Ave SW
Albuquerque, NM 87104

https://www.yelp.com/biz/seared-albuquerque

Ten 3

Bar
Bar

***** (5 stars)

We came here for the amazing 360 degree views, but the food is really good, too. I just sat at the bar and had the chip trio, but the people around me were raving about the wings, meatloaf, and other dishes.

My Ten 3 Margarita was excellent.

Service at the bar was great.

Ten 3
30 Tramway Rd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87122

https://www.yelp.com/biz/ten-3-albuquerque

Memories of Peru Pollos a la Brasa

Interior
Interior
Pisco Sour and Chicha Morada
Pisco Sour and Chicha Morada
Causa de Camarones
Causa de Camarones
Ceviche de Pescado y Camarones
Ceviche de Pescado y Camarones
Mariscos saltado
Mariscos saltado

***** (5 stars)

This is my favorite Peruvian restaurant in Orlando. Everything is very authentic. They have the best ceviche I've had anywhere but Lima. The causas are also excellent.

As of this writing if you check in on Yelp they offer a free Chicha Morada, a delicious fruity non-alcoholic drink (based on purple corn, interestingly) with a touch of cinnamon and clove.

The pisco sours are also excellent.

Memories of Peru Pollos a la Brasa
5700 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819

https://www.yelp.com/biz/memories-of-peru-pollos-a-la-brasa-orlando-11

Gallaghers Steakhouse

Fries extra crispy
Fries extra crispy

***** (5 stars)

It's delightful to visit a traditional steakhouse that isn't part of a chain, and that maintains the aura and service that was a fixture of grand steakhouses before they became ubiquitous franchises.

Everything about Gallagher's is what I'm looking for, from the cozy booths to the subdued lighting, the sparkling central bar, and the professional yet friendly service.

We went after theater, and although the place was hopping, currently curtailed hours meant the kitchen was closing, so we limited our experience to a spectacular chilled seafood platter, some carpaccio, and some wonderfully crisp fries. Everything was terrific.

Prices are reasonable for NYC, and it was appreciated that there was a selection of half bottles of wine so we could each have our favorite.

We'll definitely make this a regular stop during visits to the theater.

Gallaghers Steakhouse
228 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019

https://www.yelp.com/biz/gallaghers-steakhouse-new-york

Boteco do Manolo

Interior
Interior
Exterior
Exterior
Churrasco Misto A Dom Manolo - Mixed Grill
Churrasco Misto A Dom Manolo – Mixed Grill
Lunch Menu
Lunch Menu

**** (4 stars)

Traditional Brazilian food, done well, in a nice place with table service and a full bar.

The emphasis is on meats of all kinds, and the VERY extensive menu does a good job of picturing everything. The prices seem high at first, but even the half portion is more than enough for two people. There is also a lunch menu.

Hard surfaces, so it can get noisy.

Boteco do Manolo
7653 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819

https://www.yelp.com/biz/boteco-do-manolo-orlando

Sear + Sea at JW Marriott Bonnet Creek

Bar
Bar

***** (5 stars)

While the focus here is definitely steakhouse, Sear and Sea definitely departs from the standard formula. Starting with a modern, airy decor and light colors, the room isn’t clubby at all, and is almost more of an extension of the massive hotel lobby. Servers, on the other hand, are garbed in black from head to toe, including (presumably pandemic-inspired) black mask and black gloves. They look exactly like ninjas! And like ninjas, they seem to be everywhere at once. Service was really exceptional. Perhaps the highlight of the meal.

The appetizers and salads aren’t the usual steakhouse fare, either. I particularly like the endive salad, a generous portion served with a lovely assortment of ingredients and a bright vinaigrette dressing.

The steaks are good, but they’re not going to change your life. They were perfectly cooked to the desired medium rare, and had a nice, somewhat salty rub on the crust. But they weren’t stunners, and the rib eye was surprisingly low on the fatty marbling the steak is known for.

The wine list is particularly noteworthy, both for its breadth and reasonable markups. Contrary to the rather pricey food items, the wines seem to be at about three times retail or less.

We finished with a superb bread pudding.

It’s also worth calling out the lobby bar attached to the restaurant. It’s open, appealing, has some very interesting cocktails, and many wines by the glass.

Service in both the bar and the restaurant were both exceptional, and we felt really welcomed by the entire staff.

Sear + Sea at JW Marriott Bonnet Creek
14900 Chelonia Pkwy
Orlando, FL 32821

https://www.yelp.com/biz/sear-sea-at-jw-marriott-bonnet-creek-orlando

The Boathouse

Beef carpaccio
Chopped salad
Exterior
Interior

***** (5 stars)

Restaurants in tourist areas don’t need to be all that great, because there is a constant supply of new patrons. But I’m a big fan of Gibson’s restaurants in Chicago, so I decided to give The Boathouse a try, and I’m glad I did.

As you would expect for a restaurant at Disney Springs, the decor and theming are spectacular. But the food is even better. I had the chopped salad with a couple of shrimp added. The salad was huge, very fresh, and the shrimp were perhaps the freshest I’ve had anywhere. I will definitely explore their raw bar when I return.

My wife had a selection of raw oysters, and also commented on how fresh they were.

The place was packed at lunchtime on a Monday, but the servers did a good job of keeping up, and the noise levels were quite reasonable.

The Boathouse is definitely my new favorite restaurant at Disney Springs.

The Boathouse
1620 E Buena Vista Dr
Lake Buena Vista, FL
32830
(407) 939-2628
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-boathouse-lake-buena-vista

Bull and Bear

The Wedge
Beef Short Rib
Carpaccio
Entry
Bar

***** (5 stars)

Orlando lacks variety in the high-end dining scene, with only a few top-notch restaurants that aren’t steakhouses. That makes the competition for best steakhouse even tougher, because there are so many to choose from. It doesn’t get much better than The Bull and Bear.

You won’t find much on this menu that isn’t on every other steakhouse menu in town, but the execution here is superb.

The wedge salad, really more of a stacked dome, is a good starter, with a choice of dressing, and delicious bacon crumbles.

The steaks, of course, are top-notch. But the real standout for me was the short rib, which was easily the best I’ve ever had. Served on one not-so-short rib, the meat was succulent without being overcooked, and the rich, complex reductive sauce was stellar.

The usual sides are here. Particularly good is the creamed corn.

Wine prices are average, and there is an adequate selection, although no vintage depth.

The electronic menu used for both food and wine actually works really well, and the pictures linked to the menu items looked exactly like the dishes we were served.

Our wine group used to meet here regularly, but over time it slipped off my radar, so I hadn’t been here in years. The food is a top-notch as it ever was, although the prices have certainly increased!

Bull and Bear
14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Ln
Orlando, FL
32821
(407) 597-5500
https://www.yelp.com/biz/bull-and-bear-orlando-2