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Town Square

Review: Crazy for craft beer

Original post made on Jun 18, 2013

Never ask Ted Kim a simple question about beer. If you do, you're in for a discourse on the qualities of craft beer, its history and nuances. Kim opened Steins Beer Garden in downtown Mountain View in March in the space last occupied by Villa 8 Buffet.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 10:38 AM

Comments

Posted by Foodie, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:06 am

I agree that its not all about beer at Stiens, but the environment is so loud and boisterous that I wouldn't go there for any sort of restaurant experience. Its a bar, first and foremost. The focus is absolutely on alcohol. Yes, they have decent food, but its a bar at heart, and there will always be the loud mouthed bar patrons in attendance as expected.
To review this as a restaurant seems unfair to it, reviewed as a bar it might score better.


Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:59 am

I disagree with Foodie. I've eaten at Stein's maybe 4 times already, both lunch and dinner. I've had a few stellar meals, and some that were OK-- not bad, but not great. The food continues to improve. Service also quite good.

Yeah, its a noisy building, but the implication that the place is full of "loud-mouth bar patrons" is ridiculous! The bar is small compared to the dining area, and the outside patio has been at least half filled with families every time I've been.

Its an exaggeration to say that "the focus" is alcohol. Yeah, its a beer hall, but its hardly a boozy scene at Steins. The beer list is very high end and very good. "Loud mouths" don't tend to hang out at places serving pricey pints. The beer list is good enough that I haven't even glanced at the wine list, but I assume its also solid.

Love Steins. Best addition to downtown in a while.


Posted by A Talking Cat, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm

WHAT? DID YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT STEINS? WHAT? I COULDN'T HEAR- WHAT? SAY AGAIN?


Posted by Quiet Please, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 18, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Unfortunately, many restaurateurs nix noise reduction treatments from their construction budgets. The SF Chronicle's food editor Michael Bauer wrote about how some restaurants are dealing with this issue:

Web Link

I hope Mr. Kim considers adding some acoustical treatment to reduce noise; it would be a vastly better restaurant experience.

Good food, good suds!


Posted by suds, a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Does any one know if they sell growlers of beer to go?

Thanks


Posted by Beer Garden Guy, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I wanted to have a beer in the "beer garden". I was told I had to have my beer at the bar or at some high top in the corner. Stein's Beer Garden is a joke.


Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm

@suds:

No, they do not. You'll need to go to Tied House for those.

@Beer Garden Guy:

Put your name on the waitlist with the hostess at the door. That's how those people sitting in the beer garden got seats there. It's a space that's in very high demand and thus requires a reservation policy. If you don't like it, feel free to take your business elsewhere.


Posted by Mtn View Parent, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm

The noise level drowns out crying babies and whiney kids. Please add a playground like Augustiner Keller. :)


Posted by MAtt D., a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Both times I've been to Steins, the service was awful. At this point, my wife and I walk past it, sigh and say "such a shame" before heading straight to Steak Out.


Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm

@MAtt D.:

I agree that the service is spotty at times. This is pretty typical for any newly opened restaurant, not just Steins.

The management doesn't really understand the visitation patterns for a few months, plus you have a whole bunch of people who have never worked together working under a new roof.

Typically, there is pretty heavy turnover within the first six months. I was there a few days after it opened and have continued to return. My guess is that the front of the house (bar and wait) staff has had nearly 80% turnover.

I still don't think the management understands what the correct staffing levels are and I've seen the bartending staff deep in the weeds because they are short a person or two near the transition time between the lunch shift and the evening shift.

It takes time for the management staff to realize those sort of traffic patterns, maybe have one of the evening shift bartenders arrive an hour early, etc.

I suggest you stay away from Steins for four months, then try them again if you are unhappy with the service, however it would be unfair to think that the restaurant's service within the first month or two after opening is the way it will be forever.

Same with the food. Head chefs come and go in the restaurant business.


Posted by Aaron D, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 18, 2013 at 3:42 pm

I did speak to Ted about the noise problem inside and he is well aware of it. The problem is the large indoor area has hard surfaces from floor to ceiling, so the sound just echoes around and builds. Of course, since the patrons are having trouble hearing each other, they raise their voice and the problem spirals up.

They have consulted with acoustical engineers and are working on a permanent solution. In the meantime, when the weather & sun orientation cooperates, they open up the glass wall next to the main entrance and it allows the sound to escape to the outside.

Excellent beer on tap with more constantly rotating through. I had the best apple cider ever there too!

BTW, their chef is excellent. Will you like every dish he prepares? Probably not. But he is passionate about food and it shows. For me, it's all about having a light meal to nosh on while sampling craft brews...


Posted by Who want's quiet in a bar place?, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 18, 2013 at 4:58 pm

People this is a bar/dinner, what do you expect from a bunch of patrons, to be quite as church mice? If you want quiet, go to the local church.


Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Maybe "Quiet Please" is unaware of this, but the actual acoustical problem with many restaurant remodeling jobs is that (barring a detailed finite-element computer simulation job, which is far from routine or even always feasible), the resulting acoustics can be a surprise. I know a number of instances.

That was the case when Steins opened -- the ownership knows full well and considers the initial acoustics unsatisfactory (they were saying this the first week open). Another startup problem was staff training, and part of that happened (again I was told at the time) when late City requests for changes delayed pre-opening training. Steins has scrambled to catch up and yes, I've seen some disappointing staff gaffes. And, seen customers arrive in the first few days open, or on the busiest nights of the week, then complain online that the restaurant was crowded, or uncoordinated -- as if blissfully unconscious how much their own choice of timing influenced their experiences.

I've now had more Steins meals than probably everyone who posted here so far, combined (including you, Aaron :-) -- we had a local neighborhood party at Steins too. Those who write off the young restaurant based on early service faults are badly missing a bet. If you look past those transient issues, you can find a brilliant comfort-food chef and an amazing kitchen, complete with in-house bakery and huge stockpot making the "fonds de cuisine" for soups and sauces. Chef has rotated some real winners through the menu, including vegetarian and vegan options. Come at less crowded times, or eat at the bar, if you're concerned about residual service issues or noise.

It's the food that keeps me coming back.


Posted by Betta Burhger, a resident of Castro City
on Jun 18, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I agree with the person who brought up the Steak Out option. Its a better fit for us come meal time. If I want a beer I guess I'd head back, but...meh.


Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 8:20 pm

@Betta Burhger:

The Steak Out is a burger counter with a few beer taps. If you want bargain food in a bargain environment, yes, it's a viable option (although I'd personally rather drive to Clarke's or 'Zotts).

Max Hauser makes a good point in that the Steins kitchen is doing a good job, particularly with their baking efforts. The breads and pretzels are baked in-house, and that effort shines.

If you just want filling calories, hey, Steak Out is a decent value for local downtown eateries.

I'm more concerning about the acoustical issues at Steins. I can eat great food in lots of places, including my own kitchen.

Right now, I put Steins in the same place I put Cascal: someplace to visit early in the week and early in the evening because it's too damned loud to visit any other time. And most importantly, *IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE LIKE THAT*. Acoustical corrections can be made, it just takes a sympathetic owner.

I end up going to Cascal about twice a year since their acoustical issues are so bad. Will Steins end up that way for me? Maybe, maybe not. However it's up to Steins ownership to fix the noise issues in their store.


Posted by Wo'O Ideafarm, a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Wo\'O Ideafarm is a registered user.

Life is better without alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, pot, and other cognition modifying agents. Really. A billion dollars is spent each year to convince you otherwise. Many people clamor to tell you what you want to hear while emptying your wallet into their tills. I am telling you what you need to hear. Heed my warning and you will live a much healthier and happier life.


Posted by Mr Advice, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 19, 2013 at 12:54 am

Satan's tools are always F U N!!!


Posted by Betta Burhger, a resident of Castro City
on Jun 19, 2013 at 9:52 am

Jay Park, point taken, I think its a matter of preference, but I've been off Clark's ever since I found out they use bread filler in their beef. Truth.

Tell them you're allergic to wheat and ask if you can have just the patty. That's how I found out. The woman in front of me had that issue and was told "If that's the case, you can't eat our burgers".

Maybe its psychological, but their burgers were just never the same for me after that realization. Too many good places using 100% beef to pay top dollar for patties made with bread filler, for whatever the reason.


Posted by Shill, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jun 19, 2013 at 10:02 am

Steins has some of the worst food in the entire downtown area. If that's your idea of "excellent eats" I can't take any food articles here seriously.


Posted by Reader, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Went there for dinner on a Friday night recently. The food and beers are good but the indoor area is too loud. We could not hear each other even when we were sitting at the table across from each other.


Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Hard to take people seriously that compare Steins to Steak Out.

I counted up my trips so far to Steins-- 5. 1 just for a beer, so no comment on service. 2 with exceptional service, 1 unmemorable (not bad, not good), one pretty bad. I think that's an acceptable ratio for a new restaurant.


Posted by Steve Lalond, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 19, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I love this place. It feels like just fun when I go there (4 times). Ted is such a super guy and really knows his Beers. I heard they are fixing the noise issue. The place has been slammed since it first opened.Great food and Fantastic Beers.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Willowgate
on Jun 19, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I was disappointed with Steins. They were noisy, had poor service, and out of several items on both the food an beer menus. They try hard to be upscale, but when the food is not available, comes late or cold, they only end up being pricy, not good. It's hard to find something to recommend there.


Posted by Chris Bauman, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I've been there 3 times.

1st time, the food was bad.

2nd and 3rd time, I learned my lesson the first time and only had beer.

Not sure how you can screw up corn dogs, but they were bad.


Posted by vfree, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I hope the MV VOICE was paid well for this advertisment.


Posted by Alex M, a resident of Willowgate
on Jun 19, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I remember Steins promoted itself to the city council as being a restaurant first and foremost, to appease those living nearby who were worried about yet another late-night drunkfest in the vicinity of Tied House and the Casablanca nightclub.

The main problem with a first-and-foremost restaurant that features craft beers is that once it gets into business, it quickly devolves into a first-and-foremost bar that happens to serve food.

Corn dogs, sandwiches, burgers, ribs? Yup, that seems to be what has happened.

I hope they can keep their promise to focus on providing a DINING experience rather than just deciding it isn't worth it and focus on the beer instead.


Posted by Relax , a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 19, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Oh vfree, nothing wrong with the local small paper doing a softball review of a local restaurant. Its expected, don't act like its such a controversy. Besides, its just one person's opinion and others in the comments have given theirs. Ads don't let people negatively comment.


Posted by Gman, a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 19, 2013 at 6:36 pm

If you going to call the place Steins Beer Garden, serve the beer in liters and half-liters. On another note, they seemed to have fired all the white people and replaced them with Asians only. Pretty sad.


Posted by Wo'O Ideafarm, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Wo\'O Ideafarm is a registered user.

@Relax: Actually, I found vfree's observation to be insightful. Nothing that newspapers do is inconsequential. Newspapers and forums such as this one have tremendous influence on what topics you think about as well as which viewpoints on any given topic ever come to your attention.

The Voice is not your friend. Newspapers are not operated with the goal of informing you. If you don't realize this, then you don't have a clue, which is exactly how the editors want you to be.

This article is not just an "infomercial". It has the effect of promoting consumerism and distracting you from thinking about things that are far more worthy of your attention.


Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jun 19, 2013 at 9:56 pm

@Betta Burhger:

Look, if you are getting a cheap burger at a restaurant, it is likely an adulterated product that was brought by a Sysco (or other restaurant industry wholesaler) truck.

Sure, you love Steak Out. That's great. The patties are frozen products, with a high likelihood of rolling off the same manufacturing line that supplies Walmart, Costco, etc. Their buns are baked in massive commercial bakeries, probably delivered twice a week, again the same sort of stuff that you'll find in your warehouse grocery section.

If it's a cheap patty, they probably all have fillers, etc. in this age. People don't want to spend more, so food processors come up with clever ways to keep costs down.

NOTE THAT COOKS HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR CENTURIES.

When you don't have enough of a fancy product, you cut it with other cheaper products. Yes, *breadcrumbs* are a standard ingredient in meatloaf and meatballs. This has been like this for decades.

Go ahead. Find a moldy old copy of the venerable Fannie Farmer cookbook and read the various recipes for meatballs. That's right: bread crumbs, slices of whole wheat bread are called for.

People have been including wheat in hamburger patties, meatballs, and similar items for DECADES.

If it doesn't say *100% ground beef*, it isn't.

You don't know because you probably don't cook.

This isn't just Western meatballs and meatloaf. Things like ravioli fillings, dumplings, whatever are all typically cut with fillers. This was standard practice a couple hundred years ago when premium ingredients were too expensive for the typical peasant. You had something nice, but you had to stretch it out to feed your table of 4-6-8 people.

Add a wheat-based product (like stale bread) is one of the traditional techniques of any Western cooking.

Acting surprised when you find out about this just shows your ignorance in BASIC TIME-HONORED, WELL-PRACTICED CULINARY TECHNIQUES.

You'll probably be shocked when you find out that breadcrumbs are added to crabcakes.


Posted by Betta Burhger, a resident of Castro City
on Jun 20, 2013 at 5:46 am

Jay Park, don't get so frustrated that people have different tastes than you. Short take from all this is that yes people have done things or a long time to burgers, but the one's that shine are 100% beef with no fillers. I know about the bread trick, yep been used for centuries probably. No matter how long people have been doing the wrong thing, it doesn't make it the right thing. I was only surprised Clark's was doing it because I expected them to be on the side of 100% fresh ground beef, and not on the side of using fillers in their patties.
Some things like meatballs need that extra binder, but the top flight places have figured out how to make a hamburger w/out bread in the meat. Just because people have been doing things in the kitchen for years doesn't mean its the best way/right way.
Lastly, I'm not saying Steakout is the best place for burgers, but its better than Steins for sure, esp. for a family dinner.
PS, I cooked for 6 years when I was in my 20's in an Italian Restaurant. As a cook, I know how to make a hamburger w/out bread fillers. As a cook I know they taste better that way. As a restaurant worker I know why some still use bread fillers: it maximizes profit.
As a consumer, though, I'm perplexed why Clark's utilizes an old technique to save on the use of "premium ingredients" like meat,
but still charges top dollar for the end product. You enjoy it though, seems your pallet can't tell the difference so lucky you.


Posted by Darin, a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Darin is a registered user.

FWIW, adding bread soaked in milk to a meatloaf or meatball recipe isn't necessarily about reducing costs by adding filler. It's called a panade, and it's added to improve the texture of the finished product.


Posted by Yah But, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 21, 2013 at 5:57 am

No always Darin, not always


Posted by botharegood, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 21, 2013 at 10:28 am

steak out vs steins? Seriously? they are both good places to go, although quite different in atmosphere and cuisine. Sure, they both serve beers and burgers. Both have indoor and outdoor seating.

Ambiance is still quite different. Cuisine is quite different.

Personally, I have been to both and find that steakout has amateurish foods, although still not bad. They do their burgers on a flat grill, just like Denny's does. Who cares if the meat is 'grass fed' if they don't put it on a char grill? The meat just boils in it's own juice, rather than drip away onto a flame... Then, the bun just falls apart while you try to eat it. Amateurs!

Steins has better food, although it can be crowded and loud. Success can do that. Go patronize somewhere less successful then!


Posted by Historian, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jun 22, 2013 at 5:34 am

Flat top burgers are preferred by many chefs for the crust that the flat top give the meat; if it truly "boiled" there would be no crust. Many very successful places choose the flat top over a char grill because more of the meat taste can come through rather than being masked by the smoke of the charcoal. If you're using less that the best quality burger, the grill can "save" that. If you're starting with a premium grass fed beef a flat top really shines. It comes down to individual taste though. Calling the use of a flat top amateurish shows a lack of knowledge, since many of the oldest most successful burger joints in the _country_ have always and still use a flat top. Amateurs? I bet the owners of some of these burger joints using flat tops for the past 50 or 60 years have forgotten more about burgers than any of us will ever know. They are the OG's when it comes to burgers and their decades of success prove the worth of the flat top.
Its essential that you use quality meat though.


Posted by Tired of Jay, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm

botharegood sounds a lot like Jay. Steins biggest cheerleader needs a time out.


Posted by kathy, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Stein's owner said they are working with an acoustics company to deaden the noise...good idea. Can't' believe all the negative comments on this place, compared to previous tenants in that space Steins is a huge improvement. The food is decent, the staff we met was helpful. Give the guy a break.


Posted by May B., a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm

This business will survive or fail on its own merits, not what people say, good of bad, on this page. We'll see, its new. If its still here after a while and first hand word of mouth is good, I'll try it, maybe...not much of a beer person so the food will have to really shine.


Posted by Kathy, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 25, 2013 at 7:38 pm

to May.. I am not a beer person either, but they make some great cocktails (full bar)! "The Mountain View Mule" was tasty, a variation of the Moscow Mule .... absolut / plum bitters / lime juice / simple syrup / ginger beer. Agree that the place will have to stand on its own merits, but I wish them well because clearly they have put a lot of effort into this venture.


Posted by Botharegood, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 25, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Historian: Perhaps "amateurish" isn't the correct word. Denny's is a professional and profitable restaurant and they use a flat top. McDonald's is the most successful purveyor of burgers and they are microwaved prior to serving, so "success" does not a great burger make!

Flat tops are used for economic/profit reasons, not culinary. A cook that babysits the burger on the flat top can make a good burger, but unfortunately they have so much else going on. So, during the cookng process, liquid from the meat pools and unless the cook is vigilant, the meat boils in its own juice. Better to use a pan and keep complete control, which any chef knows. I've been to steak out multiple times and the meat is soggy with little to no crust to speak of. The drenched bun sometimes falls apart. That said, the ambiance is enjoyable with the outdoor seating.

And I maintain, both are good for different reasons.




Posted by Nope, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 26, 2013 at 5:47 am

There's a website focused on Hamburgers called Burger Conquest who held a contest between the two. Instead of simply referencing fast food places, people need to dig deeper.

Here's the "meat" from the contest:
(Cut/pasted)
Verdict: FLAT TOP beats Char Grill, hands down.

How good was this Burger you ask? The flat top griddled Burger at The Luncheonette in Mill Basin in Brooklyn is so good that you should rent a car, boat, plane, helicopter horse & buggy or whatever other means of transportation you have access to and go eat it immediately. It is one of the best Burgers in New York.

Here's the link: Web Link


Posted by Rob G, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Good luck to Steins.
The American way,a person (Ted) opens a
new beer house and restaurant.He He is taking all the risks.
He has invested his money.He's starting off well.
Do the decent thing and wish him well.
If you have nothing good to say then talk to yourself.


Posted by Yup, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Nope: Wow-- you have to go all the way to Brooklyn and find a made-up / paid for by the restaurant contest to support your point.

I'm sure the best cook they had created a custom burger for this contest. They also babysat them while they cooke. This is not a realistic test at all.

Flat tops are there so you can save time and just walk away from the cooking burger. Taste and texture suffer l, but profit increases.


If you want to dig deeper, read the about the Brooklyn restaurant that did this test. 2 1/2 star yelp reviews with most of the reviews saying the burgers are not bad, mediocre, etc...




Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jun 26, 2013 at 5:46 pm

I'm pleased to report that Steins has acoustical panels hanging from the ceiling of the main dining room. They help attenuate some of the noise, but the ownership still needs to improve this.


Posted by Both are good, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 27, 2013 at 9:15 am

The argument about flat tops vs. char grill is a bit like Ford vs Chevy. It really is about personal taste. Some times I want a backyard char flavor, other times I crave the flavor packed crust a flat top gives.

The comments above hold true for me about going char if you want more smoke flavor or going flat if you want more burger flavor. You can mask flaws in the beef easier with char, which is why I use my Weber for any grocery store level beef. Personally I would never buy premium meat and grill it, but many would and love it, and lets face it, it doesn't ruin it by grilling, its just different.

If you're looking for local flat top place, Roam originally in SF but now branching out was voted by Zagat's as the Best Burger in the Bay Area. They use premium grass fed beef and smartly, its a flat top house.


Posted by GG, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 27, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Not a beer garden sorry...not good choice of beers and the serve some specific beer in the wrong glass.. I moved,from Germany and I think I know a lot on different beer you can have also the best place to go is the Steak out..that is the place to have a good beer and to feel like you are in a German garden (long table where you seat any where you want..the food is just right for the beer you can have) and they serve the beer in the right glass.
Very frustrated with Steins place, beer and food..only the name sounds German and I believe the owner is not just to make customers to believe it is a German place.... Waiters need to be educated on what beer they are selling. And the place is noisy to BCBG* for a beer garden.. I hope the German association of MV will not choose this place to organize the Oktober fest or Steins needs to improve everything to welcome and satisfy all beer lovers before Oktober.
* Bon Chic Bon Genre