Monday, October 22, 2012

Gordon Birsch, Mission Valley, San Diego, CA

I am always looking for someplace to take my parents to eat when they come down to San Diego.  The only problem is that while somewhat adventuresome they are somewhat hesitant to go to the many hole in the wall locations I prefer to visit.  It is a bad habit they picked up from going to so many chain restaurants.  While there are a few expensive locals I like to hit every once in a while I wanted something that looked nice but wouldn't break the bank, and most importantly had good food, but wasn't part of some gigantic chain.  After consulting with my wife, a native of San Diego, she finally mentioned a placed that I'd been thinking about going, and then she sealed the deal by saying, "... and they have great garlic fries."

Gordon Biersch is a great big brewery/restaurant located in Mission Valley.  While it is a chain, it is not a big chain with only five in California so far and a few scattered throughout a couple of other states, and the menu looked pretty good.  Upon walking up to it I was a bit worried I was walking into a TGIF, but once you enter the double doors at the front you get more of a low key sports bar feel to it.  No obvious flare on the walls, and the front of house is friendly and respectful.  After we had been led to our seat I took a look at the menu, and was unsurprised to see a fair amount of bar fare.  There were the obligatory sliders, egg roles, and wings you'll find at any restaurant, and further down a variety of burgers, tacos, pizza... actually you name it they probably had it, and of course beer.  My usual feeling when seeing so many different things on a menu is that when a restaurant has a lot of different items on it they don't have the time or expertise to do any one of them well.  Still I have been proved wrong in the past, and as I said there was beer.

After perusing the menu my wife surprised me by not ordering a burger, instead she got the California Cobb Flatbread, and I ordered a New York Steak Sandwich with garlic fries.  Then I did something else totally out of character for me.  I ordered a beer.  This is not to say I don't like beer.  After being in San Diego for so long it is hard not to have formed an appreciation for the cold sudsy drink produced in large quantities in this area.  It was just not something I did very often.  The reason being that I am, as my wife puts it, a light weight when it comes to alcohol.  Still there are certain occasions when the taste of a nice cold beer is not just wanted but needed, and as this was a brewery I thought I would give it a try.  My wife and I each ordered a Hefenweizen, which was delivered shortly to us from the bar.

Now unlike food, which I tend to, and will below, examine in detail due to having tasted and examined a wide range of flavors and styles, beer is probably one of the things I know little to nothing about, but I know what I like, and I really liked this beer.  For those of you that know even less about beer than me, a Hefenweizen tends to be one of the slightly lighter fruitier beers, or as the menu states it had, "...subtle notes of banana and clove."  All I know is that it is the type of beer I prefer, and in this instance it was delicious.  Now, if this was due to the workout I'd just finished, or the warmness of the day I can't say.  All I know is I liked it a lot, enough to go back and have another, but on to the food.

After I'd drunk enough to become slightly inebriated, about fifteen minutes or so, the food came out, and on first seeing it there was certainly a great deal there.  I'm used to getting maybe half of a steak when I order a steak sandwich but this time they sent out what looked like an entire steak.  With relish I took my first bite and was surprised to taste they had not seasoned the steak, not even a little.  On occasion I will come across a steak that doesn't need any seasoning, a good rib-eye perhaps, but this was not one of them.  I won't say the steak was bad.  It came out medium-rare, cooked pretty much exactly how I like it, but out side of a hint of salt and pepper it tasted like a big piece of meat.  The fried onion string, garlic aioli (of which I barely tasted), and spinach (which I now love on a my burger/sandwiches) helped, but just enough to make it taste good, not amazing.  The dish though was saved by the garlic fries, which by some miracle had, just the right amount of garlic on them.  When I say just the right amount I mean a little more than a normal person would enjoy, as I really really like garlic.

Looking over to my wife's flatbread I saw that the grilled chicken, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, cheddar, blue cheese, and baby green looked a little lacking.  Still after point behind her and saying "Hey is that your cousin?", I stole a piece of piece of it for testing purposes.  After a deft smile of contrition I had a bite, and tasted something leaning towards healthy.  It wasn't a bad flatbread, and here I am doing my best not to add the word pizza as it does not apply in the least to this dish, but it was hard to find a bite that had all the ingredients in enough abundance to really add flavor to the bread.  Oh, the bread was pretty good, but it looked like the chef did not bother to throw on enough to really make it great.  Still I finished off the piece and then proceeded to drink more amazing beer, which in the end made the meal pretty good, especially as I had a gigantic piece of steak to get though.

Okay, maybe not the best meal in the world, but I will say that the service was phenomenal, and again the beer was amazing.  For the beer alone I'll go back there to try something different, hoping that the unseasoned steak was just a mistake done during a slow lunch, and at the very least I now have another place I can take my parents.  Gordon Biersch is just entertaining different enough to fall outside the trappings of a chained restaurant, and just clean and well lit enough to be suitable for the less adventurous of my family.  Until then, cheers, and I'll have another beer.

Gordon Biersch
5010 Mission Center Rd.
San Diego, CA 92108
(619) 688-1120