Housed in a 110-year-old Victorian abode, the
Front Porch Grill & Bar (5924 N. Florida Ave., 813/237-5511, www.frontporchgrill.com , 4–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., average entrée $12) is best known for its award-winning meatloaf, a moist and substantial affair that’s baked, briefly grilled, and then topped with a port wine demi-glace. The rest of the menu is similarly homespun; American classics like pot roast and catfish are available, along with pasta dishes and a goat-cheese-topped chicken breast. Enjoy a drink on the spacious front porch before you settle in at one of the nook-and-cranny tables inside. The Front Porch is far from ideally located, and the neighborhood isn’t scenic, but it’s one of Tampa ’s most unique eateries.
Bern’s Steak House (1208 S. Howard Ave., 813/251-2421, www.bernssteakhouse.com , 5–10 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 5–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat., steaks $29–200, other entrées average $35) is a Tampa institution, and for good reason. Despite a stark exterior that looks like an abandoned dry cleaners, the inside is all Gilded Age excess, even though it opened in 1956. From the crystal-dripping chandeliers and the ornate staircase to the excessively decorated, deep-red walls, Bern’s oozes a very particular and peculiar idea of “elegance.”
Similarly baroque is the menu; allow yourself a good 15 minutes to read the various exegeses penned in honor of their meats, wines, and caviars, and then another 15 to decide between the multiplicity of ways you can have a slab of meat cut and prepared. They take their steak very seriously at Bern’s, and it shows, although the effect may be enhanced by the, uh, unique surroundings. Make sure to check out the downstairs dessert bar, where guests can sit in a hollowed-out wine cask and enjoy richly decadent sweets.