Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Karl Piles on the Chicken
“Happy Hour?” I ask the guy cleaning an outside table.
“You’ve got ten minutes, sir.”
All right! I’ve been trying to figure out a way across to Little Italy, when I happen on this beautifully bricky corner at Columbia and B.
And the sight of the crowds bulging out of Karl Strauss’s original brewery/eatery (1157 Columbia Street, 619-234-2739), specially with the rest of the street dark and empty and clattery, gives me a thirst, and sudden hunger pangs. This is about 6.15.
I see Barbarella was up in Strauss’s Carlsbad eatery last May. This is the original, and more important, we’re talking Happy Hour.
I mean, you always think of Broadway down towards the bay as a kind of desert when it comes to places to snack and sip where you’re not going to get charged hotel prices.
So I sit up to the crowded bar. I’m next to this gal who’s having a lively discussion with the barman. Turns out she’s his lady. The sentences are grab and go. He’s listening, moving, telling customers about the ales, pouring, coming back. In his stride. Jeff. She’s Danielle.
Jeff drops a happy hour menu in front of me. They’ve got $5 apps and $4 beers. And not just the standard Red Trolley types. Looks like ten brewskis to choose from.
But first things first: da food choices are kinda standard, but I see a couple of plates along the bar and they’re plentiful. Choice is crispy calamari, boneless wings, spinach dip, spicy hummus, sweet and stinky fries, and sweet chili lime fries.
Decisions…Time is ticking.
“The calamari is really good,” says Danielle. “The spinach is filling, and everybody loves the chicken wings.”
“They’ve got west African piri piri peppers in them,” says Jeff, who’s suddenly here to get my order, seeing as how it’s now 6.29.
D’aah.. a plate of chicken wings turns up three stools along. Piled like a volcano. Original. Plentiful.
“I’ll have those,” I say.
And to drink?
“Tower 10 IPA’s one of my go-tos,” says Jeff.
Thirty seconds and counting. Endless Summer Light, Woodie Gold, Oatmeal Stout, and huh, Fullsuit Belgian Brown Ale… somewhere I’m seeing “Peppercorns, unripened mangoes, cinnamon, faint chicory and strawberry make for a pretty complex aroma…” Oh, it’s about Fullsuit from beer Advocate Magazine.
Whatever, time’s up.
“I’ll have the Fullsuit Belgian Brown,” I say.
Oh yes. That Fullsuit’s actually a great brew. Sweet and dark enough for my country boy tastes. And the chicken...
Martha brings my wings
...fills you nicely. And you get that piri piri loud and clear. Kinda entertains your taste buds, and it’s all sweetened with a glug of Fullsuit.
The wings, the Fullsuit, and the original Karl Strauss brewing vats
Result is a heck of an evening for nine bucks. Natch, the main menu’s gonna set you back way more. But why bother?
Happy Hour’s from 4-6.30 weekdays, and in this deserted part of town (after five, anyway), we have ourselves an oasis. I come out feeling, well, more right with da woild.
Hey, here’s the line they should use: More Strauss, less stress.
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