9675 Scranton Road, Sorrento Valley
With magnificent Japanese-style gardens, a waterfall, and a koi lagoon flanking its northern edge, Karl Strauss Brewing Company’s Brewery Gardens location (9675 Scranton Road, Sorrento Mesa) is the crown jewel of its brewery-restaurant empire. I’ve always fancied it one of the best places in San Diego to enjoy a craft beer. It recently made my list for The Reader’s Happy Hour Guide, and last year, the panel of advisors lending critiques for the *San Diego Beer News Complete Guide to San Diego Breweries* agreed, awarding the venue a near perfect score (24 out of 25) in the Setting category.
If there was any critique of the 30-year old restaurant (which has been under Karl Strauss ownership for the past 20 years), it was that it needed a bit of a refresh to match the modern-meets-reclaimed, semi-communal motif of the company’s newer venues. Owners Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner were of the same opinion. So, two months ago, they closed down the popular eatery so it could undergo a $2 million renovation. The results were unveiled earlier this week during a mock dinner service, and the differences are dramatic.
The gardens and waterscape are untouched, but now it’s easier to take both in thanks to expanded patio seating (an additional 36 seats) running the length of the north end of the dining room. The rest of the patio retained its original dimensions, though seating is more spread out, and made up of new tables and chairs, most of which were custom-built by a local woodworker. Doorways leading inside are more modern and include garage-style roll-up doors allowing wide passage between the dining room and outdoor areas.
Inside, reclaimed wood in different shades of brown set a warm tone while a giant letter K serves as a focal point, further linking the Brewery Gardens with the rest of the Karl Strauss chain. The seating is made up mostly of long rows of tables, with banquette seating along the south wall and tables on the north wall. Additional seating exists in what used to be the private dining room, but is now configured to serve as an extension of the main dining room (though it can still be closed off for private parties). The bar has also been updated and provides service on all four sides.
Gone is what used to be the main entrance. Now, the restaurant will rely on a longer, more scenic entryway leading from the main parking lot and through the gardens to a hostess stand at the entry to the patio. That trail was an idea of Cramer’s many years back and, for most, it was always considered the venue’s primary portal. (In dozens of visits over the past 16 years, I used the closed-down original entrance a total of two times.)
Though there are additional components still to be installed, this was a remodel that was done right, leaving firmly intact all of the things that made this restaurant so special, while updating the feel and appeal of the place. The curious can get a glimpse for themselves when the venue officially opens April 17.