I know that Tampa isn’t technically part of Southwest Florida but I took a recent vacay there and came across a dining experience that everyone needs to know about. A few months ago, my husband and I ate at DeRomo’s (check out our awesome meal on the blog page) and our waiter was kind enough to tell us about a little hidden gem called the Harry Waugh Dessert Room. At first I thought he was playing a cruel trick on me because, come on, a dessert room? Aren’t those only found in dreams? As it turns out, there was no joke. It actually exists and it’s kind of amazing!
The Dessert Room is located on the top floor of the Bern’s Steakhouse. If you’re into old school service, quality steaks and an overall good meal, by all means check it out. One thing worth noting; you cannot make reservations for the Dessert Room. It’s first come, first served and those who dine in the steakhouse have priority seating. So if you plan on going to have just dessert on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday……. good luck!
For this reason, my husband and I had a small meal in the downstairs steakhouse first. I won’t spend too much time on it because I think the steakhouse should have it’s own review but the service was impeccable and the meal was delicious. One thing I love about this particular steakhouse is the fact that your meal comes with French onion soup, a house salad, a baked potato and vegetable. That’s a lot of food which is why I think Bern’s Steakhouse is a great value.
The French onion soup is to die for! The broth is rich and flavorful but the portion is small and not overwhelming. The salad was great since it included egg, tomato, cucumber, cheese, onion, croutons, carrots and a large selection of housemade dressings. We each ordered 6oz filet mignons which were cooked perfectly. They came with a side of vegetables and the best loaded bake potato I have ever had! The waiters open and mash up the potato for you tableside before topping it and mixing it together.
While the meal was excellent, it’s time to get to the fun stuff. After we paid the check, our waiter took us to the kitchen for a tour of the wine cellars. Fun Fact: The owner of Bern’s Steakhouse has the largest private collection of wine in the US, possibly the world with over 100,000 bottles! We were able to see where they stored the ones used in the restaurant and it almost resembled a library. It was therefore fitting that they used the Dewey decimal system to catalog them. Once our tour ended, we were led upstairs where the real fun began.
First off, the Harry Waugh Dessert Room is huge! The area is filled with small rooms and intimate enclosed booths, each with its own sound system so you can enjoy music with your dessert. They also have a live pianist taking requests. Once you’re seated and have chosen your music, the server hands you a book which is meant to be the menu but lets be honest, it’s a book.
The first few pages highlight the history of the Dessert Room along with facts about how it was built. It’s amusing that the booths are made out of wine making materials and casks, thus reinforcing their love of wine. Also worth noting, the menu is filled with hundreds of dessert wines and cordials, so even if dessert isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy the ambiance.
On the first page you’ll find coffee and espresso based drinks. Anything from an iced coffee to lattes or even espresso drinks with alcohol will be found. My husband and I ordered an iced coffee and their version of a latte known as a café con leche with housemade flavorings. We chose the hazelnut and I kid you not, it was the best coffee drink I’ve ever had!
As I mentioned before, the menu is extensive so come hungry and stay a while.
The prices are a little steep but I assure you the portions are adequate, especially the sundaes; they’re massive. Everything on the menu is made in house including all of the ice creams, sauces and toppings. I had taken the liberty to glance at the menu before we went so I knew what I wanted to order. Keep in mind, I’m a pastry chef, so you can’t judge me for ordering five desserts… it was research!
I ordered a pineapple upside down cake because, well because I wanted to and I love pineapple! It was not only lovely to look at but really delicious. The cake was awesome and the ice cream was ideal. It wasn’t overly sweet and I found myself eating most of it.
The second dessert was a heavenly espresso brownie with a rich chocolate mousse and coffee ice cream. This was my favorite because I couldn’t stop eating it. I love all things coffee flavored and this dessert had the right amount of sweetness and bitterness.
Next up was a flourless macadamia nut chocolate raspberry concoction that was truly decadent. The thing I loved about this dessert was how the raspberry sauce was a little tart, balancing nicely with the richness of the chocolate.
The fourth dessert was actually one they are famous for and now I can see why. It’s the macadamia nut sundae and it’s outrageously good. I know what you’re thinking – “That looks like ice cream in a waffle bowl” – well that’s exactly what it is but the flavor of this ice cream is unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. According to our server, it took them seven years and 200 tries to perfect it. All I can say is, good job!
The last one we tried was one my husband chose because I couldn’t very well hog the whole night could I? He picked a strawberry shortcake ice cream sundae that was not only humongous but rather tasty as well.
See? I wasn’t kidding – Huge!
If you’re in the Tampa area and have the slightest love of sweet things, please, please, please, stop torturing yourself and get to this amazing attraction. Be sure to make reservations for the steakhouse first otherwise, you’re taking a chance on not getting in. Also make your reservations long in advance. Unlike most restaurants where you go online and select a day and time to dine, Bern’s has to email you back and confirm your reservation. No confirmation email? No reservation and trust me, you need them. The place was packed at 6pm on a Sunday and it’s a huge restaurant so don’t say I didn’t warn you 🙂