Karl Strauss carne asada fries. Michelle Moran, City Times.
Karl Strauss’ carne asada fries. Michelle Moran, City Times.

Craft beer in Little Italy

San Diego is slowly becoming a craft beer mecca for all the beer lovers, due to the vast amount of breweries that have been opening up over the past few years. Karl Strauss first opened their micro brewery in 1989 and it has gradually been reaching popularity since. Now with eight restaurants, you can imagine why this place is so popular, because of their fresh craft beer.

Their Little Italy/Downtown location is the first Karl Strauss that was opened by Strauss himself. During lunchtime, this restaurant gets packed with locals that come to enjoy a nice cold pint of craft beer. The brewery’s most popular beers are their Red Trolley Ale and their Amber Lager. With just the right amount of hops and a hint of toffee flavor, the Red Trolley never disappoints. In this particular visit, they had a Red Trolley with Rye on tap and it was very tasty.

The servers are generally very attentive and easy going. They will give you some samples of beer without you asking, which is pretty neat. While you wait for your table, they will also offer you a sample of any beer that you would like to try.

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The menu is impressive. There is a variety of options to choose, food and beer. At the very top of the menu the brewery shows the featured pairing of the month, which is an entrée that pairs well with one of the beers. There is also the featured flight of the month, which is like a beer sampler, only bigger, with four different beers of their liking.

All the appetizers sounded delicious, but the asada fries were the most tempting. Straight from the menu’s description: Plancha-seared steak, house-made jalapeno cheese whiz, Gorgonzola, avocado chimichurri, cilantro, pickled onions, and chipotle ketchup on the side. All the ingredients complemented each other very well, the chipotle ketchup was not necessary in this indulging experience.

The beer pretzels were served with mango mustard and beer cheese dip. Although good, they tasted bland after only eating half of one big pretzel. The asada fries took the win for the better appetizer, it was intense in flavor while the pretzels lacked it.

Karl Strauss serves four different types of mac and cheese, which all sound mouth-watering. The “Buffalo Sold-Jah” mac and cheese is made with buffalo chicken, scallions and gorgonzola. The first bite into this entree is heavenly, just the right amount of cheese, not to overbearing and doesn’t make you feel that guilty.

The brewery offers Happy Hour on Monday through Friday, from 3 to 6 p.m., and includes some appetizers that are only $5. Beers, wine, and flights are only $4.

If you want their beer to go, they sell 64 oz growlers. Usually to refill a growler it’s about $9-$13, depending on the beer of your choice. But on Fridays the refills are only $8, which is a great deal. If you follow their Instagram (@karl_strauss), they announce their “growler code” so you would say the code to fill it up for only $8.

For dessert, they serve several different “beer floats” for the adults.

The pricing for food ranges from $5 to $25, so it might be a bit pricey. But overall, the food is delicious and so is their beer.

They are open seven days a week, hours vary depending on which day you go but range roughly from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday and 11 p.m Friday and Saturday.

This Karl Strauss brewery/restaurant is located on 1157 Columbia St.

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Craft beer in Little Italy