All bars are great. Every last one of them, even the nightclubs that advertise on the sides of Muni buses. I have my favorites, of course, and I never miss the ones in hotels or airports. That's why Gordon Biersch on the Embarcadero is my one-stop shop for a bar that seems inspired by both. You have the travelers, who make up 90 percent of the clientele -- close your eyes and you can imagine yourself in the lobby of a Holiday Inn. Then you have the building itself, which looks like an airplane hangar and is furnished with industrial-grade restaurant seating that can probably be hosed off at the end of the night.
Gordon Biersch is named for two guys, Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch. According to their press releases, they got started in the Bay Area in the late '80s with a dream and a brewman's certificate from Germany. They became very successful, and now bill themselves as the largest local brewery, making them a pariah for San Franciscans' obsession with all things indie and noncorporate. I'm sure this really bums Gordon and Biersch out when they are off playing polo or refueling their jets. The beer is actually pretty good, despite not being created on a kibbutz in Mendocino. The two also claim to be the inventors of garlic fries, or at least to have popularized them here.
I like this place because when you are at the Ferry Building and in need of a drink, all you have to do is meander down the street. Even the nearsighted can spy the Biersch silo in front of the gigantic building.
The other day I tootled down to the Embarcadero. It was our first sunny day in a long time, and my downtown wanderings pulled me closer and closer to the brightness of the boardwalk. I emerged by the big fountain directly across from the Ferry Building, then crossed the street and entered the edifice to check out the usual suspects: Cowgirl Creamery, Acme Bread, and whatever high-end, anodized cast-iron cookware companies were in attendance. It was nuts, and every single employee of every single place looked miserable. It is at times like these that I begin to feel self-conscious and embarrassed. "I am not a tourist!" I want to yell at the Top-Sidered hipster slacker working the gelato stand. "I am a journalist, purely collecting data for a hard-hitting yet bullshit column about nothing!"