- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2008

Gordon Biersch, part of a national chain of brewery restaurants, at 9th and F streets Northwest has a perfect location.

In this amusement-parklike area of town with a new Madame Tussauds wax museum, International Spy Museum, a sports arena, a slew of chain stores, a multi-screen cinema, remnants of Chinatown and more, the brewery restaurant fits like Mickey Mouse in Disney World.

It’s a perfect tourist destination, full of food and spirits that will neither offend nor thrill. It offers solid, but unimaginative food that sports restaurants serve. The difference is the microbrewed beer: multiple varieties and pretty good.

The restaurant seats about 320 in its spacious 19th-century space (the Washington Loan & Trust Co. commissioned it in Romanesque revival design in 1891). Gordon Biersch brews its on-tap beers on the premises and most guests can see the large, shiny boilers and tanks at one end of the restaurant, which also sports a long bar and flat-screen TVs, where, at this time of year, basketball is a favored fare.

On the walls are reproduction, oversized antique posters of old beer ads a la Biere Titan (a red giant heaving a frothy stein of beer over his shoulder). Other eye-catchers are the majestic Corinthian columns that stretch up to the 28-foot ceiling.

The restaurant has a flight of five beers from full-bodied porter to the too-light Golden Export lager. Our favorite was the Marzen, an auburn lager that has both a clean and robust flavor.

The Gordon Biersch Baltic Porter, touted as a full-bodied, deep ruby-red lager that is smooth and warming with notes of coffee in its aroma, was the seasonal brew du jour at the F Street location. The other area GBs — one in McLean and one in Rockville — feature other seasonal brews) and through March 2, the seasonal brew, in this case, the porter, is paired with a prix fixe menu designed to complement the beer.

When we asked how the prix fixe starters (which included chicken gumbo and a very olive-heavy bruschetta) and entrees (a choice of sirloin and shrimp or pan-seared halibut) complemented the beer and vice versa we received only a blank stare in response.

Nevertheless, the food worked with the full-bodied beer — although we quickly switched from the heavy porter to the much tastier Marzen.

The chicken gumbo was surprisingly spicy and full-flavored. A nice choice. The Mediterranean bruschetta with marinated tomatoes, artichokes, red onion, Kalamata and Spanish olives was fresh, but lacked seasoning.

This was a good choice, though, for any olive lover, for at least two dozen olives were heaped on the tiny toast. We also tried the GB garlic fries — doused with plenty of sauteed, fresh garlic. Supposedly a GB specialty, they were good but not memorable.

The sirloin and the halibut were nicely prepared, but as most dishes, except for the gumbo, lacked seasoning. A nice touch were the perfectly prepared asparagus which accompanied the fish. Portions are generous, but thankfully not super indulgent. The sirloin was a nice cut and prepared to order.

A New York-style cheesecake, which was rich and not too sweet (just the way we like it), capped the evening nicely.

Sorely missing on this menu were classic German and other Central European dishes to complement the lagers. Where is the brat? Where is the kraut? The spicy mustard? The dark bread?

Their absence is a clear sign that this menu is intended to work anywhere and for anyone, rather than really please and excite some.

But what do we know? Apparently not much. On a recent Wednesday night visit, the restaurant was more than half-full, and the guests, including several regional sales rep types at surrounding tables, seemed quite pleased with their evening.

We think GB, despite its menu’s shortcomings, is here to stay. It provides a kind of you-know-exactly-what-you’re-getting-wherever-you-are guarantee that many people like. To cement our notion that GB is in its element, a stack of coupons for Madame Tussauds bid us farewell on our way out.

Our favorite was the Marzen and the magnificent space — and we’ll come back for that.

RESTAURANT: Gordon Biersch, 900 F St. NW; 202-783-5454 or www.gordonbiersch.com; there are also locations in McLean and Rockville

HOURS: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and until 11 p.m. Sunday.

PRICES: Starters $3.50 to $15.25; entrees $8.95 to $26.95; desserts $6.25; three-course prix fixe menu $26.95 to $30.95 through March 2.

CREDIT CARDS: Major cards

PARKING: Limited street parking

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

METRO: Gallery Place

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