Mortar & Pestle: Coffee, Food, Alcohol? Sounds Like a Good Time!

There are a lot of opinions about this restaurant. Lets see what the Exploring Tampa crew thinks!
Mortar & Pestle, 2019
Coming from the ashes of a popular food truck, Mortar & Pestle is a concept that thrives to bring back the old timey pharmacies. You know the ones... You go to get a soda from the fountain, you wander the aisles, make your way to the lunch counter, then leave with your prescriptions. Located on the same block as local favorites Angry Chair Brewing and Trip's Diner, there's no lack of business to be had. This is also one of the few places in Seminole Heights with a real parking lot. Had you never read a review of this place and had you not heard about their filing for bankruptcy, you'd be impressed. The inside of the building is a hipster's paradise, with the industrial looking tables and chairs, the high ceiling, the steampunk-esque inspired decor. The inside of this building is cool. Next door is also a fully functional pharmacy that I wasn…

Bern's Steak House: Break Out Your Wallet

Steak? Check. Wine? Check. Desserts? Check. I think we've got it all covered!

Bern's, 2018

Disclosure: I am by no means rich. This review is not a "look at me and how much money I have!" I can assure you, you would laugh if you saw my bank account. Stormy and I saved up to go here like I imagine most people who go here do. We decided to document it so that you can make an informed decision about going here before dropping ~$300.

So, a little back story here: Stormy and I met up with our buddy Brian and his girlfriend Sharnese at Chili's a while back. I made mention that I wanted to check Bern's out one day, and then that my birthday was coming up (two different conversations). I didn't think twice about it. Next thing I know, Sharnese is telling me that we have reservations to Bern's at 9:00 on my birthday. Wai-- What? Is this actually about to happen? The answer was yes. I've never been to this caliber of restaurant before, so I had no real idea what to expect. The day arrives and my first impressions of the building itself, from the outside: "Oh, this place is small." Also note, if you decide to come here, valet parking is $5 (or was on the day we came. It may fluctuate.). The fact that the building only has one window is also a bit on the strange side. There is very little parking in front of the restaurant, and I imagine most of that is for the employees. The SoHo neighborhood has a lot of restaurants and seems to have quite a few of the higher end. Bern's fits in the neighborhood perfectly, albeit a bit further outside the main strip than the other restaurants. But you didn't come here for that.

Filet, 2018

Once you do make it inside, you quickly notice that Bern's loves the color red. It is very hard to take a picture in their lobby. To the right of the lobby, you have their lounge, a bar where you can order drinks and where they stick people who didn't meet their dress code. To the left, and just behind the host stand, there are two dining rooms, both of which seemed to be bigger than their other dining rooms. Straight ahead, there was another two dining rooms (one of which we were seated in), the entrance to the kitchen and wine cellar, and the entrance to the dessert room. Once you're inside, you realize how deceptively big this restaurant really is, and then you see how small they like to keep each dining room. Each dining room (we were meant for one of the bigger ones, but were later seated in a smaller one) were meant to feel like an intimate dining experience. As has been famously stated, there are no windows that diners at this restaurant can actually see. The decor inside gives off a very ancient Roman vibe, with ceramic busts, paintings, color schemes, and wood trimmings you'd hope to find in a well preserved mansion of the era. The one humorous thing about this restaurant was that, under the fancy table cloth and behind all of the decor, suits, and wine, there was nothing more than a plastic folding table. We are seated and introduced to our waiter, whose name has escaped me.

Kitchen, 2018

The one thing I wasn't expecting was exactly how much food came with your steak. You get a soup (French onion on our trip), a salad, a baked potato (we made ours loaded), steak, green beans, carrots, and onion straws. This was all included in the price of the steak. Their wine list ranges from economically responsible to outrageously expensive. I asked our waiter for a good wine in the $50-100 range. He did not disappoint, while also managing to find us a wine that pleased the table on the lower end of my wine budget. I can't speak for every waiter there, but ours definitely added to the experience. Think a wiseguy from any mafia movie you've ever seen, complete with personality and knowledge of steaks and wines. When it comes to the steaks, they separated on the menu by cut, and then by size. If you're looking to head here, and you're looking to save a little bit of money, go for a cut of steak that serves two people. There are ways to save a little money while here. I just wish we knew before going.

Filet Cut, 2018

Lets get to the beef (eh... Eh?) of Bern's. Bern's is a world renowned steakhouse. You already know going in that you're going to have one of the best steaks of your life. Knowing that going in, I was afraid that this was going to set the bar impossibly high. Fortunately, it did not. But first, we received our soup and salad. I have a weird thing against soggy bread, so my soup was passed over to Stormy who devoured her own and didn't touch mine. Great... I look like the picky one. The salad, on the other hand, was amazing. The greens were fresh, the tomatoes had just the right crunch, and there were plenty of olives. You get your own choice of dressing, and I went with a vinegar based dressed. Pristine. Then the loaded baked potato came out and loaded it was. Sour cream, cheese, bacon... Not your typical luke warm potato with unmelted Kraft cheese scattered on top. And then the steak came! The steak was everything you could've imagined, plus more. I'll also make a really strange observation, while also acknowledging that it's strange now: The green beans were to die for. I honestly wish that they had provided more of them on the plate. The carrots, on the other hand, were not my favorite, but that's such a minor complaint given how small the portion was. The steak was incredibly tender and the flavor was on point. We also had them cook our steak in a garlic butter sauce that our waiter suggested. He did not steer us wrong. While the flavor wasn't as pronounced as you would probably like, when you did get a nice bite of it, it was a nice kiss to add to an already amazing steak. As the meal wound down, and we all started filling up, we were then asked if we'd like to visit the dessert room. I'm never too full to say no to dessert!

Wine Cellar, 2018

But first, you have to take the tour of the kitchen and wine cellar. After your meal, you're lead to the kitchen and told that your tour will begin shortly. You're in a group slightly larger than your party (I think we joined about two other parties) and you're led on a tour through Bern's extensive kitchen. No, really... It's huge. And in order for a restaurant to offer tours of their kitchen, it has to be spotless. I was impressed with the size, the cleanliness, and how well the kitchen seems to manage at all hours with random people walking through every 15 minutes or so. The waitress leading us through the tour claims that their grill can fit 300 steaks and I thought it was a cool enough tidbit to leave in here. Their grill was massive. You also get to see the inner workings of the kitchen and how they go about preparing your meal, which was a nice change. I need to start going to higher end restaurants and doing these types of tours. After your tour of the kitchen (which is maybe 10 minutes, if that) you're put into a line for the wine cellar. Now this is what you hear about most often. Bern's is known for having the largest private wine cellar in the world. Let me state one thing for the record: This is still Florida. If you think this cellar is going underground, you will be very disappointed. IF the cellar is underground at all, it's just barely there. You start the tour and the tour guide tells you that the cellar you're standing in only has about 15% of Bern's massive wines in it at any given time. You're then led deeper into the cellar until you get to the most expensive bottle they have on site, which they are aging. Honestly, of everything with a reputation that you could build up to the point of disappointment, I'd say the wine cellar was it. It was cool to go into, it was cool to see how they stored everything, but I found it paled in comparison to my own expectations. That's on me, but there it is.

Fire, Fire!, 2018

You're then led to a staircase that brings you up into the dessert room. You have another hostess stand with a hostess who will then seat you. We had to wait roughly five minutes while they cleaned out a booth and prepared it for us. The booth was an interesting concept as it felt like we were sitting inside of a barrel. Every party there had their own private barrel. Even as you were walking by to use the restroom or what have you, you really didn't find yourself in anyone else's space. They had a guy playing the keyboard and singing upstairs, the lights were down low, and the room was set up like a whole other restaurant. The waitress came up and asked what we would like to drink, I stuck with water at this point, and I informed her it was my birthday (after the rest of the party kept telling the waiter and he told us to tell our waitress upstairs). I was told they'd bring me a birthday surprise. Cool! So I ordered the strawberry key lime tart, Stormy ordered a bananas foster, and Brian and Sharnese ordered ice cream. I will say this from the start: I didn't care for any of the desserts. I found the strawberry key lime tart to be lacking something that I still can't put my finger on. The bananas foster, while cooked to order at the table, didn't even come close to the bananas foster at Gino's. The sauce was watery, the flavor was lacking, and it lacked any sort of crunch that I like when I bite into the foster sauce. It tasted like eating bananas and ice cream, with no real caramelized sauce to speak of. Keep in mind, this was an expensive lesson as the bananas foster was $28. The birthday dessert they brought out was probably my favorite part, but it was seemingly just whipped cream and a few chocolate chips. Finally, after about three hours at Bern's, it was time to leave.

Birthday Surprise, 2018

Things to know before you go:
- It is expensive! I treated myself and Stormy and the bill was just over $300. 
- You will probably need a reservation. This place is seemingly always full!
- They only offer valet parking. It cost $5 while we were there, but the price may fluctuate.
- Be prepared to spend quite a bit of time here. It's an experience, and you'll be experiencing it for a good three hours.
- Your waiter makes his money by a 12% service charge added to your bill. I have no problem tipping the waiter (he was excellent), I did have a problem with Bern's not giving their waitstaff a salary and pushing that burden onto you.

What's your favorite cut of steak? Do you have a particular budget for wine? Leave a comment below. If you'd like more information on Tampa, check out my YouTube Channel and if you'd like to support my efforts, don't hesitate to buy a shirt from our Spreadshirt (we have new designs!).  Also, don't be afraid to click subscribe and you'll instantly be notified whenever a new entry is posted. Thank you all and I will see you next time!


Comments