8060 Park Lane
Dude Factor: 5, or David Hasselhoff, on a scale of 1 (Adolphus Busch) to 10 (Charles Bukowski)
I can almost imagine the German-American (I'm guessing) restaurateur who founded this chain irately shouting down a customer who asks if they serve any beers besides those brewed at the restaurant: "You vant a Guinness or a Shiner vith your meal? NEIN! You vill drink our bier or you vill drink nothing!
I have to give Gordon Biersch some dude points for that attitude, actually--especially given that they charge $5 or $5.50 a glass. That takes some gall, even if the beer is pretty good.
As for the food, location and ambiance, however ...
It was my wife's birthday, and she'd been wanting to try the place since hearing from a friend about its great food and beer. So my old lady--actually, that might be an insensitive choice of words given the occasion, so make that "my girl"--and I decided to make a night of it by catching a movie at the nearby NorthPark mall cinema after dinner.
At first, despite the sterile environment, it seemed promising. My young lady friend and I each chose the seasonal winter double-bock from the 10 or so German-inspired beers on the menu. Along with our choices, the server without prompting brought out samples of the chain's most-popular brew, the amber marzen. The sample was nice, but the hearty, strong double bock was definitely the superior brew. Her starter cup of beer-cheese soup was thick, salty, cheddary and bacony--what more do you need?
She was even more happy with the chicken and shrimp potstickers.
But my Southwestern burger, the daily sandwich special, was pretty much a big slab of boring. The patty was dry, bland, closer to well-done than the requested medium, and suspiciously round, with the southwestern sauce and coleslaw doing little to add flavor.
The fries were soaked with grease and fresh garlic. I love french fries and I love garlic, so garlic french fries sounds like an ideal marriage. But there had to be half a bulb on the scattering of fries, with some fries sporting as much as half a clove each. My suggestion to the chef (or whoever creates recipes at chains) is to tone it down a bit, considering that many of the people eating there are not Larry King and might be on dates (Larry just gets married over and over), and therefore don't want to worry about garlic breath at the end of the night.
Even dudes have to think about this sometimes.
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The schwarzbier, or black lager, was OK if not especially impressive. My favorite brew of the night was the Czech pilsner, which was crisp with a bit of hop bite. None of the beers were exciting enough to lure me back, though the free slice of fresh cheesecake in honor of the b-day was a nice gesture.
The restaurant is located in Park Lane, which you can probably deduce by its claim to be the "Ultimate Urban Neighborhood," is one of those Live.Shop.Play or whatever loft-and-chain-store mixed-use developments. I would peg the typical resident of an "urban village" whose greatest selling point is its proximity to a mall as more of a Michelob Ultra drinker than someone interested in craft beers. But on Sunday night, at least, the place was packed. The crowd was mostly clean-cut Yuppies of all colors--with the exception of an older guy in a bright yellow dashiki, fedora, gators and an awesome diamond-encrusted skull medallion on a thick gold chain that was probably worth more than my life.
But even the most diverse crowd on earth couldn't have hidden the generic, chainy vibe of Gordon Biersch's unimaginative bar food and its too-clean ambiance. Even the service was too polished and eager, with well-rehearsed descriptions of items that sounded like they were read off a TelePrompter. Of course, the place just opened in November. Maybe as it ages, a few scuffs, stains and just a touch of server indifference might add a little character.
But will I ever find out? Nein!