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Karl Strauss: Way more than just a great beer

Karl Strauss earned a sterling reputation as a brew master with a variety of special hand-crafted brews that reflect his Bavarian heritage and his adopted home in Southern California.

But as most La Jollans know, there’s a lot more to Karl Strauss Brewing Company than beer. The company has several restaurants, including the one on the corner of Wall Street and Herschel Avenue in La Jolla.

The local Karl Strauss Brewing Company is a handsome restaurant and brewery, with high ceilings, beautiful booths and solid-looking stone and wood walls. On pleasant afternoons or evenings, diners enjoy alfresco dining on the attractive patio. Karl Strauss has been a popular haunt for food and beverage lovers for more than a decade.

The contemporary restaurant is roomy and comfortable, with a menu that runs the gamut from typical brewery favorites such as beer-battered fish ‘n’ chips and grilled sausages to wood-oven pizzas - prepared with dough seasoned with Karl Strauss Amber Lager - salads, steaks, burgers and sandwiches.

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The cuisine is not just an afterthought, by any means. All the food at Karl Strauss is as outstanding as the beer, and every month the restaurant features a special beer and food pairing created by the talented chefs.

There are several new items on the menu these days, such as portobello fries, thick slices of lightly fried portobello mushrooms with pesto and chili aioli dipping sauces, diablo shrimp skewers prepared in a fiery red sauce made with Strauss’ Woodie Gold pilsner, and the tri tip cheese steak sandwich on a toasted roll.

They join the large list of tried-and-true brewery favorites and California classics that make this brewery such a popular dining destination.

For starters, you’ll find a wide assortment of appetizers and soups. We love the vegetarian black bean soup ($3.95) and the velvety smooth tomato bisque ($3.95). But the chef also adds an interesting soup of the day, because soup is such an important part of the menu at Karl Strauss.

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Fries are available to suit your style. You can opt for spicy Cajun or garlic parmesan fries ($4.95 each). Boneless wings are another standard starter, and they come in Red Trolley barbeque, firecracker or buffalo style ($8.95 each).

Ahi poke ($9.95) features sashimi-grade chopped ahi and other ingredients tossed in a spicy firecracker sauce and served with won ton chips, while the spinach artichoke dip ($8.50) is a perfect start for sharing with a group of friends. The warm and seasoned tri-colored tortilla strips make it a colorful appetizer to brighten the table.

Among the many entrees on the menu are drunken shrimp sauteed with Woodie Gold pilsner, garlic, spices, a touch of cream, diced tomatoes and fresh herbs ($16.95). The dish comes with garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach.

Don’t miss the new beer-braised pot roast ($16.95). This hearty dish is tender and tasty, with slow-cooked beef in an ale barbeque sauce. Steamed broccoli and garlic mashed potatoes round out this delicious beef dish.

Another great newcomer to the menu is the rustic herb crusted chicken ($15.95). The chicken breast is pan-seared and served with sauteed spinach and steamed broccoli, and it is juicy and flavorful. If you happen to dine on a Wednesday, check out the “not-your-mom’s meatloaf” platter ($12.95). It is served under a blanket of Downtown after Dark brown ale mushroom sauce.

Steaks and chops are all basted on the grill with Amber Lager marinade, so you can’t go wrong with any of them. The brewhouse filet ($26.95) has a balsamic Amber Lager glaze, the beer-brined pork chops are brined in Red Trolley Ale and served with a spicy mustard sauce ($17.95), and the porterhouse comes with garlic parmesan fries and broccoli ($28.95).

There are several burgers on the menu, and not all of them are made with beef. Try the turkey bleus burger with gorgonzola cheese, pesto and housemade slaw ($9.95), the portobello mushroom sandwich with roasted red peppers, grilled onions, pepper jack cheese and housemade chips ($9.95), and the beefy double cheddar burger with the works ($10.95).

The sandwich selection is fantastic, too - especially the new Cuban ($12.95), made with ham and roasted pork among other fillings, the warm pastrami sandwich with hot mustard ($12.95) and the Brewpub club ($10.95), with oven roasted turkey, bacon and other goodies.

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The motto at Karl Strauss Brewing Company is “Making beer, not war, since ’89.” You’ll be glad the company decided to complement its fine beers with a full menu of culinary delights as well.

By the way, Strauss celebrates Happy Hours on weekday evenings, and late on Wednesdays. You can learn more about the beers, and sample them too, on the first Friday of every month, when the brewer mingles with the crowd and the restaurant features a traditional tapping of the keg.

Karl Strauss Brewing Company is at 1044 Wall Street. Call (858) 551-2739.