Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
There was a time long ago when I drank Karl Strauss beer with greater frequency than suds from any other local brewing company. My location of choice was their Sorrento Mesa outpost (9675 Scranton Road). A buddy of mine worked close by, so many were the afternoon our circle of friends would meet up and down pints on Uncle Karl’s outdoor patio while taking in the view of the brewery restaurant’s beautifully landscaped, waterfall-outfitted koi pond. It’s still one of the loveliest dining areas in the county, but I haven’t been back in a long time. Bottom line: it’s too far from my home to justify the big trip when I have a plethora of good breweries (literally over a dozen) closer to my inland neighborhood. All of the Karl Strauss restaurants — being located either close to the coast or in other counties — dictate a special trip for me, so most of my consumption of the company's quaffables occurs at home or at festivals where Karl’s crew is pouring.
That may change now that Karl Strauss’ seventh brewery restaurant in 4S Ranch’s 4S Commons Town Center (10448 Reserve Drive) is open for business. It’s the local business’ first legitimately inland San Diego location and the first brewery restaurant they’ve opened in a decade. And that shows. The design, though well branded via beer bottles, brewing photos, and beer-related signage ("Make Beer Not War") to fit in with its older cousins, is updated to match current trends and go beyond what their other locations provide in terms of a cool, more current atmosphere. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words (writers really hate hearing that and get really steamed when they find out how much more money photographers earn), so I’ll let the shots I snapped do most of the talking, but my take—the new place, with its reclaimed materials, Edison bulbs, and pull-up garage doors, feels like Karl Strauss’ original Little Italy brewpub updated with touches that bring to mind contemporary hotspots like North Park pizzeria URBN and Encinitas’ Union Kitchen and Tap.
A three-sided bar with a concrete top is located just left of the entrance. It sports 12 taps, including one that is reserved for beer made on the premises (though to date, their on-site seven-barrel system has yet to be pushed into service). Seating options include the dining room where a few lifted banquets provide nice perches from which to look out on floor seating that’s abundant, if not a bit cramped. Expect to meet your neighbors. If you already know and like those around you, head for the high tables in the areas separating the bar from the dining room and the portal leading out to the expansive open patio. Seating is a bit more spread out outdoors (they can fit 104 there—almost as much as they can hold indoors) where a fire pit adds nighttime charm.
KS4S (Karl Strauss refers to its newest location by this alphanumeric label, which, unlike most companies’ marketing ideas, I actually like) brings today’s design trends to an area where most buildings—be they restaurants, stores, or residences—look like they were cut by the same die at the Chips Ahoy factory. But those elements are introduced in a gentle way, one which appeals to a broad sect of consumers including kid-equipped families (i.e. a large percentage of the residents of 4S Ranch and its surrounding suburban neighborhoods). Everything is perfectly fabricated and neatly polished. It’s easy to appreciate all that went into setting such an elaborate and alluring scene. All the care makes KS4S a very enjoyable place to hang out and have a cold one.