Address: 1208 S. Howard Ave., Tampa
Bern's is an institution -- and a trip. First of all the kitchen turns out fantastic steaks, but that's only part of the reason people come here. The huge, warehouselike building in the Hyde Park area is decorated sort of like a bordello, complete with red wallpaper. If you like, the waiter will arrange for you to tour the kitchen and wine cellar -- one of the largest in-house cellars of any restaurant in the world. Dessert is not served at the table, you must go upstairs to the dessert room, where you'll be seated in a private, enclosed booth with a closed-circuit television.
Shula's Steak House
Address: Sheraton Grand, 4860 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa
This is a second location for the former Miami Dolphins coach's highend steakhouse (the original is in Miami Lakes and there is another now in Fort Lauderdale). The decor is very masculine, with lots of dark woods and obligatory sports-oriented artifacts. The waiters introduce diners to the meat selections with a tableside spiel. It is a little too rehearsed and tedious, but forgivable when the finished product is delivered.
Mise En Place
Address: 442 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa
Phone: (813) 254-5373
Despite the French name, this is actually an American bistro. The menu is inventive without losing a home-style feel. Foods are presented in an artistic fashion by a knowledgable wait staff. Reservations are not accepted for parties of less than six, which can mean long waits on the weekends. But you'll be waiting with lots of locals who know that the food is worth it.
Address:2117 S. Seventh Ave., Tampa
Phone: (813) 248-4961
This original in Ybor City is still worth a visit. It has grown over the decades to occupy a whole block but still manages to serve excellent Cuban and Spanish dishes. The decor has old-world charm, and there is entertainment on some evenings to set the mood.