Bart Mendoza 5 a.m., Dec. 8
It's super far from where I live, and I'm not much of a beer drinker, but yesterday I found myself all the way up by the Flower Fields at Karl Strauss Brewing Company in Carlsbad, because that's where my sister gathered the masses to celebrate my brother-in-law's 40th birthday. Sean's more like a brother than an in-law, so I'd drive anywhere to honor him. Carlsbad from Hillcrest wasn't that much of a stretch. It's right off the Palomar Airport Road exit off the I-5, at 5801 Armada Drive.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I wasn't just in for an evening of burgers and beer. The menu had a small selection of acceptable wine (I went for Wild Horse pinot at $9.50 a glass). It was a large party, so I got to see and taste a variety of offerings. There was the buffalo chicken, which I was happy to discover contained no bones, just white bits of meat breaded and fried (but not greasy), slathered in a lightly spicy sauce and served with blue cheese dressing ($9.95).
There were "rollos locos," basically chicken and avocado rolls, think California meets Vietnam ($9.95).
The artichoke spinach dip was addictive, we ate it so fast I didn't get a picture. I'm not one for tuna, but everyone else seemed to enjoy the Ahi Poke ($11.25). There were burgers on the table, and pitchers of beer, but there was also the classic Vietnamese sandwich, Banh Mi, seared Ahi Tuna, and my dish, Australian Seabass, baked and served over green beans with a basil-parmesan cream sauce. Entrees went for about $11 to $30, but that was the filet mignon, and most people were in the $16 range. Two of my sisters split the "cajun chicken pasta" dish.
Overall, I found most of the food fairly bland, in need of more spice and salt (three people added salt to their plates). But considering the area, and the fact that most tables were populated by families, I could see why the chef would play it safe. Jane just asked for red pepper flakes and added salt to her "cajun" dish, and after a bit of salt, my seabass was plenty good.
But more importantly, everyone had a great time, the service was friendly, and my bro is OLD. Now I'm curious to try the Karl Strauss closer to home, to see if they kick things up a notch in the city.
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