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Restaurant Review: BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse

July 29, 2011

You know those commercials for places like TGI Friday’s and Bennigans, where they try to make the restaurant look like a really awesome place to go hang out in a fun and relaxed atmosphere? Unlike any TGI Friday’s or Bennigans I’ve ever been in, BJ’s actually manages to pull off that atmosphere. It feels like the sort of place where you would want to go with your friends and spend a nice casual dinner. The decor is done in dark woods and light stones, with clean lines, and a nice open feel to the whole place. Amusingly, Moose and I are pretty sure that none of the rock music was any newer than 2005, invoking a great feeling of nostalgia without crossing the line into “oldies.”

Last night was actually our second dinner at BJ’s. Last weekend, Moose and I had a quick, light dinner prior to going to see Captain America. We split an order of their New Orleans jambalaya, while I had the dark beer flight. Last night, Moose had the parmesan crusted chicken, and I had the beer battered fish and chips, with the pale flight of handcrafted beers.

The jambalaya certainly didn’t hold a candle to my mother’s, but it’s probably the best jambalaya I’ve had that wasn’t cooked inside the Louisiana state line, or the kitchen of someone related to me. The cayenne was a little overpowering, both for Moose and myself, which may have simply been an over enthusiastic chef. Otherwise, it was quite good.

Moose was torn between the chicken parmesan and the parmesan crusted chicken. He asked our waitress for her recommendation between the two, and she told him that the parmesan crusted chicken was a house specialty. It came out looking really beautiful. Naturally, I didn’t get to taste anything, since a cheese crust and cream sauce don’t exactly agree with my dairy allergy. Moose said this was a good dish, but that he probably would have been happier with the chicken parmesan. The parmesan crusted chicken was simply too light for him.

Choices were somewhat limited for me, but our previous experience proved that BJ’s management was more than willing to work with their customers’ allergies. The manager even brought out a brochure which had a chart of the most common allergies and which dishes had those items in them. Sadly, most of my allergies aren’t exactly common, so for last night’s meal, I kept it simple. The beer battered fish pieces were small, but thick. So the fish was beautifully flaky, and the batter was nice and crispy. Best of all, there were two options for the fries, one of which was thin cut string fries. My favorite! They were just the right balance of crispy outside and soft inside. I don’t normally finish a side of fries, but Moose only managed to snag a few before I polished them off.

We saved room for dessert the second time around, because the BJ’s signature Pizookie looked so tasty. After much discussion, we decided on the chocolate chunk cookie. It came out in its own little tin, fresh out of the oven. It was cooked just enough to melt the chocolate and make the whole thing a plate of tasty gooshy goodness. We cleaned the tin, and I even licked my spoon.

For beer lovers, BJs has a selection of handcrafted beers, and the option to try a four beer sampler of either the dark beers or the light ones. Over the course of both meals, I tried both sets. The light flight wasn’t too bad. The Lightswitch Lager was described as being a “light” beer, and it really is. It was almost watery in its lightness, but not so watery as to be undrinkable. The Brewhouse Blonde was very good, with a mossy, green flavor to it. The Harvest Hefeweizen came with a suggestion that it should be tried without the lemon, but I found that the extra hint of citrus rounded off the flavor nicely. I really wanted a slice of orange with it, but since my fish came out right as I was starting the Hefe, I used one of the handy slices of lemon. I saved the Pale Ale for last, as its description used “hop” or a variation thereof four times. I’m not fond of a heavy hop flavor, so I didn’t want my dinner to be ruined if it was too hoppy. This actually worked out well. The sweetness of the cookie and the bitterness of the hops made a good balance.

The dark flight was not nearly so successful. I loved the Jeremiah Red, and fully intend to make this my default beer for those evenings when I don’t feel like experimenting. Given BJ’s enormous selection of beers, those evenings will probably be few and far between. The Nutty Brewnette was very good as well, with a lovely earthy flavor. The P.M. Porter, however, was really not to my taste. There was an overpowering flavor of bitter caramel, which made it difficult to appreciate any other flavors. Trying to follow this with the Tatonka Stout was a complete waste. The taste of the porter lingered unpleasantly and it was hard to tell if I actually disliked the stout, or if the porter was the problem. I found it odd that I disliked these beers, since I’m normally a huge fan of darker beers.

All in all, BJ’s is the sort of place Moose and I will return to again and again, both alone and in the company of friends. It’s a little more expensive than the places we usually dine out, but nothing we have experienced thus far has not been worth that price.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2011 9:06 am

    The parmesan crusted chicken is probably one of the best meals on the menu there, although the BJs near me is frequently a tad stingy with the sauce.

    However, what shocked me was that their deep-dish pizzas… are surprisingly good! Like “good, especially for a chain” good. I know your allergies might make it tough to try ’em, but I’m fairly certain you could make a custom one that’s light on the cheese.

    Just don’t get anything larger than their small, because as good as they are, they’re gonna sit like lead in your gut afterwards.

    • July 29, 2011 9:13 am

      There wasn’t much in the way of sauce on Moose’s plate, either, so it might be their standard amount of sauce.

      The pizzas look amazing, and Moose really wants to try one. He doesn’t want to get one on his own, though, since he’s trying to cut back on the amount of cheese in his diet. For me, I’m down to the point where even a little cheese is making me queasy, so I’ll have to settle for enjoying them vicariously.

  2. August 10, 2011 10:02 pm

    Great review! I went to a BJ’s in Houston a year or so ago with Jimmy and I remember not being overly impressed, but we went to the Post Oak one two weekends ago and had a great time. I LOVED the stout, but Jimmy didn’t care for it, saying it was too bitter and coffee-like. Maybe that’s part of why you didn’t like it? Their berry cider was good, but too sweet for me. One problem was the staff seemed confused about the non-house beers. Jimmy ordered the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Dunkel, which is on tap, and it took a while because they thought it was “some weird bottle in the back”, to which the 2nd bartender to try and get this order for us said something about people usually calling it “Franks or something” and that’s why she was confused. I don’t know all the beers ever, but I also don’t work at a restaurant that boasts to be for beer lovers and apparently has “beer class” for the employees. I loved the deep dish pizza and pasta we had and despite the hang ups want to go again next time I get a chance.

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