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Group Dining, Garlic Fries, and the Gratuity Tax

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If we learned one thing this weekend, it's that it's darn hard to come up with a fun, original, low stress, easy to propose to a large group of people, last minute place to grab a drink and some eats after a shindig on a Saturday night. We tend to work fairly well under pressure, save the "okay so where do you wanna go right now?" kind. We had to take into consideration folks arriving from all angles of the city, varying degrees of hunger, parking, and what place could seat a large group on the fly. We ended up opting for Burbank's Gordon Biersch--a compromise in terms of our "no chains, try new places" mantra, but the seemingly only in-the-moment solution to a group of folks moaning "where can we go?"

Admittedly, we like Gordon Biersch, although it had been probably a good two years or so since we'd last sat in the brewpub and sipped a microbrew. We adore the smashing way they pair garlic with french fries, and hear that now you can even buy them at good old Dodger Stadium, which, if you're headed there, seems like a good thing. Our table ordered various shades and flavors of beer--Hefeweizen, Blonde Bock, and Marzen being the top choices--as well as various items off the menu. Plates were passed around to share the wealth of appetizers, like our Spicy Ahi Spring Rolls, Shrimp and Chicken Potstickers, and Calamari. Some swore by the Goat Cheese Ravioli, a pizza was split three ways, and burgers with piles of aforementioned garlic fries were gobbled with gusto. Desserts, like the generous Carrot Cake and the Key Lime Cheesecake, met with eager forks. The food is good--not stellar, not revolutionary, but good--and everything is better with beer. Moreso, everything, including life in general, is better with a mojito, we think, and GB's is a winner. We think they sub Sprite for sugar and soda water, which, granted, takes away the rugged authenticity of the cocktail, but makes it incredibly refreshing and sippable. When the bill came there was the usual chaos of group dining--who owes what, who needs change, were we overcharged, is the tip added in?--and after some fussing, it was settled. We did notice, however, that there's an item called "Gratuity Tax" listed; this seemed odd, and even our pleasant server was stumped to its purpose. A good old Google search unearthed this piece from Seattlest territory, that assures us it's completely legit. So the tale of "where do we go?" woe ended on a happy note, and we left, full of beer, and garlic, and the sweet fizz of mojitos.

Gordon Biersch has locations all over the U.S., but we dined in Burbank: 145 South San Fernando Boulevard (818) 569-5240