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May 21, 2001 11:48 AM

Gordon Birsch .... another brew pub, almost.

  • j

I tried Gordon Birsch's new place near that Gallery Place Metro stop this weekend..........

I read a few reviews of the new Gordon Birsch brew pub. While I enjoy beer and have brewed it at home in the past, I don't expect too much from the kitchens at brew pubs. Afterall, most don't visit beer houses/brew pubs for the food.

The articles and interviews about Gordon Birsch's place stated quite strongly that their place was 'different', they insisted that they produced high quality and flavorful dishes.

I tested it out with some family in town for the weekend. Small outdoor seating section. Nice interior. I was optimistic. The Menu looked a bit more creative than say the Cap City brew pub or Brickskeller. However, the quality of what came out of the kitchen was not great. Hanger Steak (ordered Medium) arrived rare and not that flavorful. The Red Beans and Sausage were salty, etc. etc.

The MaiBock beer, however, was very nice!

About what I expected from a typical brew pub.

What set this place apart from the other brew pubs in the area was not its food menu or what came from the kitchen (sorry), but its TERRIBLE SERVICE. New wait staff could be easily be used as an excuse, but when a company puts that much cash into the building and operates about 15 other outlets around the country - I don't give them any slack. They should have the formula down of how to hire and motivate staff. This is not a new thing or a mom and pop venture.

Our waiter took our order for drinks and later our main course. After that, we did not see him again for 30 minutes, despite having empty water and beer glasses on the table! Strange way to treat patrons or more importantly sell beer!

We finally halied another waiter (who did not apologize for his colleague) and our original waiter showed up, in time to deliver the bill.


Way to go Gordon. Unless I hear that your act has shaped up, I'll stick to the Brickskeller or Cap City type brew pubs for equally good beer and predictably decent bar food with far better service.


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  1. You do realize that Gordon and Biersch are two people.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Jim Dorsch

      I confess I don't know who the founders are or how many exist. My disappointment in the experience at the restaurant/bar/brewpub remains the same. IMHO, stay at home and tear up five dollar bills for an hour and you'll achieve the same level of satisfaction as visiting their restaurant.

      1. re: Johann

        I haven't visited GB in DC yet. The capsule history is this: The chain was started in CA by brewer Dan Gordon and restauranteur Dean Biersch. They built a large brewery in CA to produce product for sale on the open market, and a year or two ago sold the restaurant to Big River in Chattanooga. They work together in some manner. E.g., G and B were in town when the DC location opened.

        Interestingly, Dan Gordon went to brewing school in Germany with Theo De Groen, who started Baltimore Brewing Co.

        Of course, all this does nothing to alter your dining experience at GB.

        I'm going to ask some of the DC beer folks to post on their experience at GB, if they feel inspired one way or the other.

        It's no excuse, but it is true, from what I hear, that it sometimes takes considerable time for a restaurant staff to gel. But gelled or not, servers can still exercise common courtesy such as apologizing when it's appropriate.

        1. re: Jim Dorsch
          Stephen Lipps

          I can't say that I've sat down to a meal there since the 2-3 I had in the first weeks the place opened (early March), but my experiences were different involving service. Some waitstaff (most of which are new) I've dealt with there weren't all that good, however they were courteous, and obviously doing their best. This goes a long way with me, even if they're not really paying quite enough attention to what the table is asking for/needing. In my case, other waiters took up slack when they saw the need. Still, I agree absolutely and completely with your comments re courtesy and general attentiveness. Half an hour is plain unacceptable. I have to say however that my food orders and the beer quality have been first rate be it at the bar, or seated in the dining area. There's no excuse for paying customers to accept less on any regular basis. Sure, I really dig beer and breweries, and would probably give a place more chances than most....but I say at least give the place another try. I doubt you'll be disappointed again. Incidentally, just a couple pint glass tosses from GB is another brewery I often recommend. The District Chophouse (7th & F). Great Belgian blonde on tap right now. Calimari is excellent too. Cheers

          1. re: Stephen Lipps

            As my office is right around the corner, this beerophilic new resident of DC was delighted when it opened. . . . until I visited. To cut to the chase, great room, good beer, lousy service, uneven food (some good, some average), high prices.

            First visit was 2nd day it was open, so I'm inclined to cut them a break. . . then again, after literally standing up on my barstool to flag down a huddle of waiters who were standing around doing nothing, within 15 feet, maybe I shouldn't be so forgiving. There were almost as many staff as customers in the place, and the service was terrible, which I can only attribute to lousy training and/or hiring.

            Next visit had a more attentive waitress (I think they moved from a zone defense to a man-to-man), and I'd echo the comments about the pleasant free sampler. . . then again, you're paying for it 3 times over with every drink you buy.

            The room is great if you're in the mood for a slightly swank evening or after-work feel--lotsa marble, black, etc. And the beer is quite good--I particularly enjoyed a dark, unfiltered wheat beer they had on tap, and I enjoyed tasting the maibock, though I found it sweet. Absolutely worth an occasional visit, on the beer front.

            But will it be regular haunt for me? Let's put it this way: I took a buddy out the other night, we had 2 drinks each and 2 apps, and I came out more than $50 poorer. You do the math.

            1. re: Greg Cohn

              You mention the swankiness of the GB space. This seems to be the trend in brewpubs -- upscale feel and menu items with interminably long names. I expect operators have found this is something that works for them.

              I enjoy a simple place with burgers and good beer. In fact, many hounds here are aware of my love for the exquisitely (well, other terms have been used) trashy Bardo, whose latest descendant is Dr Dremo's Tap House on Clarendon Blvd in Arlington. (OK, so Bardo didn't have burgers, but the nachos were great!)

              At the height of Bardo's success (or maybe a while after; I forget now), a new place (a bar, not a brewpub) opened up which obviously copied it, but in a clean, homogenized way. Well, Bardo is gone and Carpool lives on. I'll give Carpool credit, however, for installing a branch of Rocklands Barbecue. But I hear the beer list is nothing to write home about. But that's where people go.

              I'm not sure what all this has to do with our discussion of Gordon Biersch. Oh, yes, you might want to visit one of the Capitol City Brewpubs for more of an industrial feel, as opposed to the general swank of GB. John Harvard's probably fits in the middle on the swank scale. Nice place, and Mark Kauffman makes some excellent beers.

              I guess what I'm driving at here is that everything always seems to morph into a predictable, corporate version of what's popular. Can't people make up their own minds instead of swallowing all the hype? Do they really want to do exactly what everyone else does? How boring.

              1. re: Jim Dorsch

                "Can't people make up their own minds instead of swallowing all the hype? Do they really want to do exactly what everyone else does? How boring."

                they CAN make up their own minds, and they DO want alternatives, but they're not willing to fight for them. That is, folks tend to take the path of least resistence. It's hard to find the interesting alternatives, the really great stuff. It takes savvy, commitment, time and energy. And people tend to use up a lot of their fortitude on other things.

                This site was created to provide a tool, so those of us who HAVE made that commitment won't have to work quite as hard (because we now have a place to swap tips). And so those who've always craved more characterful things to eat and drink in more characterful (less plastic/corporate) surroundings have a support group to guide and advise them.

                First step: though you're a very fair-minded guy, you don't have to (at least not here on chowhound) express everything so evenly. Gordon Biersch is creepy, chain-like, and their beer is bland and inert. Bardo is/was incredibly great and alive. Go ahead and say it! It's liberating to be opinionated!

                And it's also contagious. Your passion will attract more people to more places like Bardo, thus pleasing the people and keeping the good businesses in business. It's important. We can even up the score a little bit, and those of us who know and care about the real deal have a responsibilty to do so.


                1. re: Jim Leff

                  Well, I've never visited Gordon Biersch, in DC or elsewhere, so I'm going to reserve that judgment, at least for now. But point taken!

                  1. re: Jim Leff


                    Agree 100%. If this message board is to be useful, we need to encourage honest (sometimes panifully) reviews of places.

                    After visiting several of the beer houses in the area, I still prefer Brickskeller, and I liked Bardo as well. Both have character and were not born in a marketing department or on a graphic designers table. I doubt they were even focused grouped.

                    Reward the independents who provide a unique and quality experience. Shun the McDonaldization of eating and drinking.


            2. re: Jim Dorsch
              Debra Delacroix

              Informative post! Been to the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants in San Jose, Ca and Seattle and have had pretty decent service/food at both (Seattle GB is packed--service a bit slower), and just stopped at the Big River Brewery in Chattanooga last month. I had no idea of the relationship between the two. Thought the beer and food at Big River in Chattanooga was excellent.

        2. Thank you for the query, Jim. Serendipitously, my wife, our 2 1/2 yr. old daughter and I went to Gordon Biersch in DC for dinner last night (5/20) and had a wonderful time. The host was curteous and our server was gracious and attentive. They have perhaps the best looking brewpub in town, adorned with vaulted ceilings, white marble columns and vintage beer posters above the bar.

          When I requested a beer sampler from our server, she brought me four approx. 3. oz servings of the four beers they had on tap -- export, marzen, dunkels and maibock. Apparently, the "sampler" was for taste-testing purposes only as she didn't charge me for it. She then brought me a serving of maibock, my beer of choice, in a beautiful gold-rimmed glass that I later purchased for a very reasonable price of $5.50. For the record, the export and marzen were very light and unexceptional but the dunkels and maibock were both excellent.

          Our food was ready about 15 minutes after we were seated -- a requirement if you have small hungry kids in tow. My daughter loved the crabcake appetizer (made with dungeonous crab, I think). My wife, a self-professed coleslaw hater, liked the spicy "Asian" coleslaw beneath the crabcakes. She also enjoyed her hummus and goat cheese salad, perched on toasted focaccia wedges. I was in the mood for asian food and had the Mongolian beef stirfry. The beef slices were tender, the vegetables were fresh and the brown sauce was moderately sweet, mildly spicy and had a little bit of a ginger after-burn -- a very edible, if not very Asian, meal. The food presentation was very colorful and imaginative and the portions were large but not gargantuan.

          The wait staff didn't panic when our daughter, aided by her mother's "helping" hand, knocked her glass of milk onto the floor. In fact, they didn't charge us for her milk and brought my wife free refills of fresh lemonade.

          The only negatives of the night were that they didn't have a printed beer menu on the table (just a wine and spirits list) and the wait staff could have used a little more beer style/tasting/brewing training.

          All in all we had a great experience and plan on returning some time soon. Perhaps we just lucked out with the service; it was, after all, a slow Sunday night.

          -Ken Carter

          1. If you're an ale drinker, keep in mind that this, like all Gordon Biersches, is purely a lager house; and by all Colorado and California standards, mediocre.

            -- Larry