Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant

$$$$ ($15-$24)

Editorial Review

Hahn Review

Diners searching for a bite to eat around the new Rockville Town Center will find many overly familiar names such as Potbelly, Cosi, Austin Grill and La Tasca, so it figures that the best place to grab a drink is also a chain. Thankfully for German-beer lovers, it's a Gordon Biersch brew pub.

Open since May, this is the area's third Gordon Biersch, following locations in Penn Quarter and Tysons Corner Center, and like the others, it makes only traditional lagers, ranging from the light Golden Export to dark Schwarzbier, which has a nice roasted malt flavor. Brewer Jim Sobchak comes from Fordham Brewing in Annapolis, and so far I've enjoyed most of his offerings, including the hoppy Czech Pilsner. However, the crisp, slightly fruity Sommerfest, which my bartender pushed as "great for hot weather," tastes listless and smells slightly funky.

Gordon Biersch offers only its own products on draft, and the bartenders are patient with first-time visitors who ask for Budweiser or Guinness. The best jumping-off point for newbies is a sampler of five house beers for $5.75, but if you're curious about only one or two, the bartenders will pour a shot-glass-size taste for free. Beers cost about $5 each and arrive in fancy German-style glasses measured in half liters, not pints.

The building itself is inviting, with a modern look and a two-sided bar that faces a breezy veranda and a television-filled lounge. (Stools on the outdoor half are filled much more quickly.) A few tables are available on the wide sidewalk, though the seating areas are surrounded by low metal fences that make customers look as if they're dining in cribs.

Happy hour draws workers from the nearby county government buildings as well as groups heading to the Regal Cinemas across the street. From 4 to 6:30 weekdays and from 10 p.m. to last call Sunday through Thursday, take $1 off beers and $2 off wines, and pay $5 for house martinis, mojitos and margaritas. Mini pizzas, wings, egg rolls and other appetizers cost $4.95 during these times; skip the soggy, lifeless garlic fries, even though the staff highly recommends them.

--Fritz Hahn (August 3, 2007)

Lewis Review

The Rockville location of this chain of brewery/restaurants from Chattanooga, Tenn., is at East Middle Lane and Maryland Avenue, the gateway to the new downtown Rockville Town Square development, a mix of restaurants, shops and residences. The sprawling restaurant features a brewery -- six of the chain's own beers are on tap -- a large bar with big and small tables, a large dining room and a covered porch for those who want a sidewalk seat. A long counter fronts the street under large windows, and just behind, there are a few tables. Ten-ounce cheeseburgers, and variations, are mainstays of the menu, which has more sandwiches and salads at lunch and larger entrees, including five steaks, on the dinner menu. The restaurant's most popular beer, Marzen, a Bavarian lager, is featured in the vinaigrette and even makes an appearance in the carrot cake.

The burgers are good -- almost too good; 10 ounces is a lot of meat. The accompanying garlic fries taste mostly of garlic instead of potato. Among appetizers, the pot stickers and chicken wings were bland, but the Southwestern egg rolls were flavorful and slightly spicy, combining pulled chicken, black beans and corn. Service was prompt and professional from a corps of college-age servers who seem to swarm the place.

--Nancy Lewis (June 28, 2007)