By Kelley CarlsonJust minutes from La Jolla’s beaches, Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery – with its canyon country motif — is renowned for its made-from-scratch food and beers. According to General Manager Scott Bialkowski, 90 to 95 percent of the fare is freshly made, including dough, pizzas, sauces, desserts and even the root beer.
And award-winning Brewmaster Marty Mendiola handcrafts beer on the premises, often providing behind-the-scenes tours upon request. “It (the beer) doesn’t see the light of day until it hits the glass,” Bialkowski said.
There are several seating areas where guests can savor their food and drinks, and enjoy some leisurely moments. The main dining room features picturesque scenes along its warm-hued walls of locations such as the Grand Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands national parks; the occasional oak barrel is found among the booths and tables.
The cocktail bar caters to sports lovers, with about a half-dozen flat-screen TVs tuned in to athletic events; patrons can also play billiards at one of three tables for $8 an hour. For the outdoor-loving set, there is a heated “beer garden” patio, where a person might be able to catch a glimpse of the beer brewing process through a window or sit at a table around the bottom of the silo.
Modern, casual music plays through speakers during the day, and becomes more up-tempo at night, when the restaurant has more guests. Thursday through Saturday evenings are the busiest, with Friday being the “main” night, Bialkowski indicated. Sunday and Monday evenings, along with weekend days, tend to be quieter.
While Rock Bottom is a great place to enjoy the local brews and watch sports, it is also a family environment, Bialkowski said. Kids receive crayons and their own special menus, featuring items such as grilled steaks, grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken, root beer floats and sundaes.
The standard selection list offers quite a few choices. Among the appetizers is the house-made Brewery Nachos, topped with black beans, cheddar and pepper jack cheese, tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro and red onions, with additional options of guacamole, chicken or beef. There are more than a dozen salads, including the Chicken Waldorf, with sun-dried cherries, arugula, Gorgonzola cheese, candied walnuts, grapes, celery and a house-made honey mustard vinaigrette.
For comfort food, try the Classic Mac ’N Chicken, topped with Parmesan breadcrumbs.
Guests at Rock Bottom don’t necessarily need to drink to enjoy the dishes, but Bialkowski pointed out that the staff is specially trained to help pair items. One beer/entrée combo recommended is the I.P.A. with Southwestern Shrimp & Chicken and Anaheim peppers, tossed with fettuccine in a roasted red pepper cream sauce. Another option: the Longboard Brown Ale with The Laredo Burger, garnished with pepper jack cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo and chipotle mayonnaise.
For dessert, a favorite is the Moonlight Porter served with vanilla ice cream. Although that beer is not currently on tap, it will return, Bialkowski noted. In its place at this time is the Fire Chief Ale, a medium-bodied, auburn-colored brew being sold through April 15 to benefit the UCSD Regional Burn Center.
Along with tapping parties to aid charities, Rock Bottom offers its popular brewers dinners seasonally, in which the public is invited to sample food paired with beers.
For patrons who can’t get enough of Rock Bottom’s brews, growlers – half-gallon glass jugs – and kegs are sold. “This is such a great location and a great crowd,” Bialkowski said. “It’s laid back, and there are always smiles on guests’ faces.”
Rock Bottom Restaurant & BreweryAddress: 8980 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla
www.rockbottom.comThe Vibe: Relaxed, casual
Signature Dishes: Southwest Egg Rolls, Asiago Artichoke & Crab Dip, Santa Fe Ranch Chicken Salad, Classic Mac ’N Chicken, Lobster & Shrimp Tacos, Texas Fire Steak, The Laredo Burger, Pint Glass Sundae
Open Since: 1996
Patio Seating: Yes
Take Out: Yes
Happy Hour: 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 p.m. to midnight daily
Hours: 11 a.m. to close Monday-Friday; 11:30 a.m. to close Saturday and Sunday
On The Menu RecipeEach week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story.
This week: Rock Bottom’s Laredo Burger.