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Thursday night, John had just gotten back from a business trip to a city in the Midwest where, apparently, there is no good beer. Makes you appreciate what you have in your own backyard. So we headed up to the The Public House on Kline St. in La Jolla, which is definitely not in our "backyard" — we're from the wrong side of the tracks (or I-5, if you will), but they have good beer, and lots of it.

There's 43 rotating taps of Belgian ales, local beers, specialty brews and hard to find microbrews, in addition to 200+ bottled beers. They also have a small but more interesting wine list than most beer places. I was pleasantly surprised to see a Filas Torrentes from Mendoza, Argentina, a crisp, refreshing white wine varietal that I haven't seen on many wine lists yet.

The Public House's restaurant is in the house portion of a converted home; the bar and patio is in the garage and driveway. I've never been in the restaurant — we always sit at the bar — but it looks pretty.

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The bar crowd there has always been really friendly, someone usually strikes up a conversation with you. Tonight we're commenting on the Seahawks/Eagles game on one screen and a Hooters Girl Beauty Pageant on the other.

I ask for a Saison recommendation from our bartender, and go with the Brasserie Dupont Biere de Miel Belgian Organic Farmhouse Saison Honey Ale ($8) and John has the Great Divide Hades Belgian Style Golden Ale.

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One of the day's specials is the Cowboy Burger ($15.50), a 1/2 lb. Brandt Farms Angus burger topped with boneless short ribs, beef bacon, spicy cheddar, onion rings, and barbecue sauce. It sounds so over the top that I get it. John's more conservative, opting for chicken fingers ($7.50), choice of ranch or bbq sauce. Both come with a side of fries.

My burger makes us both laugh when we see it.

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It's definitely not something to order on a first date. But I don't have any problem diving in. It's medium rare, just like I ordered, the bun is nice and sturdy (they make them at the Encinitas Alehouse, their other location), and it's properly messy to eat. The short ribs make it a little chewy, but they are well cooked, with nice, crackly edges. Bacon's crisp. The cheese was the only misstep, it wasn't really melted, just sort of dried. Oh well. Shoestring fries are my favorite, and these were crispy, salty and good.

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John's chicken fingers were not the usual kid's food. These were beer battered and perfectly fried to a dark, crunchy goodness. Nicely caramelized golden brown deliciousness. The chicken inside was juicy and flavorful.

Ah, it's good to be home.

The Public House has Happy Hours Wednesday to Friday between 3:00 and 6:00 pm with $2 off premium drafts, $5 wine selections and $8 off bottles of wine. Tuesday is 2-for-1 Angus and veggie burger night from 4:00 until 8:00 pm.

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The Public House La Jolla

830 Kline St. (between Fay and Eads)

La Jolla, CA 92037

(858) 551-9210

http://www.the-publichouse.com/index.html

Hours:

Tuesday - Saturday 11:00 am - 11:00 pm

Sunday 11:00 am - 9:00 pm

Monday - Closed

Credit cards accepted. Free street parking.

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