Barbecue, beer and biscuits

Dan Gordon's is the delicious follow-up to Gordon Biersch

Dan Gordon's started off with a knockout punch -- oversized cheddar biscuits ($7.95) with candied Hobbs bacon and whipped maple syrup butter.

These weren't Pillsbury biscuits, nor the kind passed around the Sunday morning breakfast table. These were He-Man sized, served on a plank, flaky, yet moist enough that they didn't fall apart. The whipped maple butter melting atop the warm biscuits almost made the candied bacon bits superfluous. Almost.

Dan Gordon's is really about barbecue, beer and whiskey, not biscuits. They have a programmable 750-pound wood smoker fueled by new oak from the Santa Cruz Mountains. New oak imparts less smokiness to the meat, according to general manager André Hall. The meat is dry-rubbed before smoking and it is the balance of rub and smoke that gives the meats their distinctive flavor.

This is Dan Gordon's second turn at the Emerson Street site. He and Dean Biersch opened their eponymous brewery restaurant in 1988 in the same location. Their brewpub concept was wildly popular and grew to a dozen units, including a brewery in San Jose. Ten years later, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control declared that brewers operating restaurants were illegal. Brewers were being considered as both wholesaler and retailer, a no-no in virtually every state.

Gordon and Biersch sold to an entity that ultimately became CraftWorks, which currently operates 195 multi-brand restaurants across the country. As brewpub popularity swelled, state legislatures eventually rescinded archaic laws and made it legal for Gordon to be both a brewer and a restaurant owner again.

Biersch moved to Sonoma County and currently operates brewpubs in several locations. Master brewer Gordon partnered with Steve Sinchek of Palo Alto's Old Pro and Local Union 271 and reacquired the Emerson Street location. After pouring $1.5 million into the remodel, Dan Gordon's opened in March.

The space is urban rustic with high ceilings, skylights, lots of wood with high-top communal tables as well as traditional seating. The bar is longer, the kitchen open where chef Kwin Vu keeps that smoker loaded with pork shoulder, St. Louis ribs, brisket, sausages and turkey breast.

Besides the biscuits, another good starter was the burnt-ends brisket poutine ($11.95). Poutine is a dish that originated in Quebec, and is, arguably, Canada's one-dish meal. Here, it's a bowl of garlic fries, cubes of brisket, poblano cheese gravy, and pickled vegetables, including scorch-the-tongue jalapeño segments that had me summoning the server for another beer.

The St. Louis ribs (four bones for $15.95 or six bones for $21.95) were meaty, fall-off-the-bone tender. While I liked the ribs with just the rub, there were additional squeeze-bottle sauces on the table for enhancement. The classic sauce was on the honey-sweet side, the mustard sauce was tangy and acidic, the habanero sauce added heat.

The 1/2 pound brisket ($16.95) was fork-tender and well marbled, accented with hints of smoke, herbs and spices. The texture was marvelous in the mouth.

Entrees included one side, pickled vegetables and a roll. Both the three-cheese mac and cheese and the smoked barbecued beans were noteworthy.

Sandwiches were equal to the task. The pulled pork ($11.95) with kale slaw, pickled vegetables, and French fries, was aromatic and inviting on the plate. The soft bun accentuated the dreamy pork and the double-cooked garlic fries were wonderfully crisp.

The fried chicken sandwich ($12.95) was juicy and crisp, topped with kale slaw, and slathered, but not overwhelmed, with barbecue sauce. Most ingredients were locally sourced and organic.

The desserts were so-so. The apple cobbler ($8.95) was the best. Served in a mini iron pot, the cobbler was topped with whipped cream. The hot apples had a note of cinnamon in the thick syrup.

Less successful were the peanut butter-pecan squares ($8). Two pie wedge-sized pieces, not squares, had a soggy crust beneath a lifeless peanut butter filling. Only the pecans atop were worth eating.

There was beer, of course: a dozen on tap, several made in-house, the rest at the San Jose brewery, all small batch, handcrafted, plus experimental one-of-a-kind brews that change frequently. The range of beers was broad, from light pilsners and lagers to deep-colored wheat beers and dark ales. Whiskeys too, cocktails and martinis made with Maker's Mark, Old Grand-Dad and Dickel. A dozen miscellaneous California wines completed the beverage offering.

Service was good, though the kitchen can be slow when busy. Overall, excellent food and libations in an open, noisy, festive environment -- and dare I mention again, fantastic biscuits.

Dan Gordon's

640 Emerson St., Palo Alto



Hours: Monday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Tuesday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight.

Reservations: no

Credit cards: yes

Parking: street

Alcohol: full bar

Happy hour: 3-6 p.m. daily

Corkage: $20

Children: yes

Takeout: yes

Outdoor dining: streetside

Noise level: moderate-high

Bathroom cleanliness: very good

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1 person likes this
Posted by M2
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 23, 2016 at 4:08 pm

You Didn't mention they charge $8.75 for a beer. The place is ridiculously over priced even for pa. Also they suspend happy hour for "big sporting events" which is whatever they decide is "big".

5 people like this
Posted by cheeseguy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 24, 2016 at 4:10 am

I actually liked the interior of the former Gordon Biersch (GB) better than the current place. The new place is bright, loud, and the long bar (which maximizes noise and minimizes the ability to socialize) looks exactly like a dozen other places in PA. In fact, it looks exactly like the place next door (Tacolicious). The old place had the bar set aside in the back where you could view the brewery. Now the brewery has become an afterthought and is barely visible. Also agree with M2 above that the $10 (with tip) tap beer is pretty outrageousky priced and the unpredictable happy hour is insulting. The food is fine, but also pretty much a rip off for what you get.
Want a better vibe, cheaper prices, and more interesting beer? I would suggest Freewheel Brewing Company in Redwood City.

Like this comment
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 24, 2016 at 11:03 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@M2 - To be fair, they charge 4.75 for a regular sized glass of beer, and the 8.75 is for those oversized (1/2 liter?) glasses. I do find it a little expensive overall, especially relative to the size of the portions, but it isn't overpriced relative to the rest of overpriced downtown Palo Alto (see the $5 tacos next door).

1 person likes this
Posted by M2
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 26, 2016 at 4:31 pm

A "regular" sized beer there is the .5 liter. Which is 17 ounces. IOW a pint.

Go to the rose and crown etc and a pint is $6. No tax added on top which DG also does and after tip you are over $10 for a pint of beer.

Considering they are brewing their own it's even more ridiculous. Not sure how many suckers will keep paying that.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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