File photo.

If you’re celebrating a special occasion, planning ahead for Valentines Day or you’re just not the one paying, these are the 5 best-rated expensive restaurants in the Tampa Bay area. Two are on the Hillsborough side. Two are in Pinellas. And one is a short drive away to Hardee County.

Normally for my #GenoAteTampa features like this, I rely on my own experiences. But I’m a cheapskate. I’ve only been to one of the places on this list. This list has been created according to diners on social media scores and several review websites. The list is in alphabetical order, not a ranking.

Bern’s in Tampa
Bern’s is so well known that when I was moving to Tampa from Boston ten years ago, my mechanic made sure to mention it as he was preparing my car for the long drive south. Since opening in the 1950s, Bern’s has made appearances on just about every “Best Steaks in America” list you can find. But be sure to look the part. We live in Florida where casual is common. Bern’s website says if you arrive in “relaxed attire,” you might be seated in the lounge area instead of the dining rooms. This is the only spot on the list I’ve been to and to be honest, I didn’t even do the full Bern’s experience – I had the steak sandwich they serve at the bar. It’s the cheap way to do Bern’s. And you can still do the tour!

The Black Pearl in Dunedin
Specializing in New American and French dishes, this one’s been around since the mid 90s. It was actually a barbershop when it was built in 1905. Dark painted walls and low lighting set a romantic mood as they serve lobster risotto, filet mignon and rack of lamb. All entrees come with the Black Pearl salad with organic greens, some Gorgonzola and pine nuts topped with a house poppy seed dressing. Keep in mind they only have a dozen tables so you want to call ahead for a reservation, even though they’re not required.

Council Oak Steaks & Seafood in Tampa
Didn’t get enough steak at Bern’s? Head to the casino and try your luck here. Their in-house butcher shop and dry-aging room have Himalayan salt walls. Just like Bern’s the wine selection is top-notch to with over 400 labels. At Council Oak, you can watch your food being prepared with their open kitchen. And then after dessert, join me at the blackjack table and maybe win enough to pay for the meal.

Maritana in St. Pete Beach
Food is sustainably sourced from regional farms and fishermen. Popular main courses include Spiny Lobster, Seared Duck Breast, Filet Mignon and Red Snapper. Recently renovated, the dining rooms “transport you to a glamorous and timeless era of elegance and shimmer,” according to the Don Cesar website. After the meal take a stroll along St. Pete Beach and take in a Florida sunset. They’re incredible this time of year! Check out these photos from last night.

Restaurant 59 in Bowling Green
Probably unfamiliar to most, we head out to Hardee County for this one. Located at the Streamsong Red & Blue Clubhouse, they feature steaks, seafood and a seasonal menu. Main courses currently on their dinner menu include the Duck Trio, Poulet Rouge Chicken, and Meyer Lemon and Wild Arugula Ravioli. Add lobster mac-n-cheese with bacon crust as a side item. This might be the only spot on this list that offers breakfast.

Geno’s pizza tour of Tampa Bay

Up for something a little less fancy? Let me show you around Detroit, New York City and Chicago… without leaving Hillsborough and Pinellas County.

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