Employees at tech companies like Facebook and Google hardly need restaurants near their places of employment, given the multiple, in-office venues serving every imaginable kind of food day and night. What they do need is a local bar that offers great beers and a spot to socialize and even get some sunshine. Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant seems to deliver on all fronts.
Since Steins opened two months ago, owner/beer curator Ted Kim says the Mountain View, CA-based restaurant has been so busy that the wait time on a weekend night can run up to two and a half hours. He estimates that about 6,000 guests visited the restaurant during its opening weekend of March 28-31. The response has been so overwhelming that Steins had to discontinue the policy of taking reservations, except for groups of 10 or more.
What’s the big deal? Well, it’s literally big: The 12,000-sq.- ft. venue can seat 300 inside and includes a large outdoor space. The rounded, barn-like beer hall boasts long wood tables and a bar flanked by tap handles on one side.
A key challenge in dealing with such a large space is training a staff of more than 100 servers, Kim says. The waitstaff also has to keep up with Stein’s beer menu, which changes weekly and seasonally.
The food menu, supervised by chef Colby M. Reade, focuses on seasonal, American comfort food; all the breads and pretzels are made in-house.
Some of the offerings include a braised lamb shoulder with parsnip puree and kale for $19 and a dish called “Breakfast for Dinner,” made with smoked pork belly, a poached egg and frisee, and priced at $15.
Stein’s Burger ($11), made from an in-house selected grind of short ribs and sirloin, is flying off the menu, Kim says. Grilled steaks, served on house-made ciabatt and priced at $12 have also been popular. Guests can also add items such as pork belly or a fried egg for $2.
Steins boast some 20 beer taps. Not surprisingly, the restaurant’s beverage sales have been running 85% beer, though it offers a dozen cocktails—priced at $10 each—and a handful of wines.
Most of the restaurant’s beers are priced from $7 to $8. A popular choice is Hefeweizen Weihenstephanar, a 15-oz. German wheat beer for $7.
Other esoteric beer selections include Hitachino White Ale, priced at $9, which Kim describes as “what happens when you take a classic Belgian witbier, add some fresh orange juice and sprinkle in a healthy dose of Japanese refinement.”
Another interesting beer at Steins is New Belgium’s Hoppy Bock ($7), described as a “German-style springtime lager brewed with rye then loaded with Hallertauer, Perle and Fuggle Hops for a spicy, earthy aroma.”
The wine list focuses on local favorites as well as imports, with 11 wines poured by the glass at $7 to $13 and from $26 to $46 by the bottle.
Kim, who had previously run a handful of bakery cafes in the Bay Area, invested in the Steins concept with a handful of partners operating under the Prost Restaurant Group.
The target audience for Steins, Kim says, is young, working professionals. So far the crowd has typically been a mix of locals and those driving an hour or more down from San Francisco, Kim says.
The lunchtime rush has also been fairly intense around noon during the workweek, he adds.
It helps that Steins is located in a downtown, pedestrian-heavy area a few blocks from main drag in Mountain View, which happens to be Google’s home-town headquarters. It’s also near the Caltrain stop, which many visitors use to come and go from San Francisco.
Perhaps the only issue with the location may be that Mountain View is a noise-conscious, affluent suburban community. So Steins closes comparatively early for Bay Area bars, between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. to respect its neighbors.
Kim has a lot on tap for the new venue. He says Steins is planning to host brewer dinners and offer seasonal pairings as it gets ramped up. ·