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October 24, 2014

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Brewing up terrific flavors at BJ’s

BJ’s might make you wait, but trust us, it’s worth it

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Beverly Poppe

Bacon cheeseburger pizza and BJ’s beer sampler.

Seeing two police cars parked in front of BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse somehow gave me a real sense of comfort. After all, if cops are dining here: A) the food must be pretty good; B) the price has got to be reasonable; and C) you know no one’s doing anything funny to your food. (Forgive me, I was momentarily thinking about Domino’s.)

The popularity doesn’t end at police officers, apparently. This place—the newest location in a chain with outposts in 13 other states, and one in Summerlin—was packed, so much so that even after our pager went off, we had to wait 10 minutes in line before being seated. BJ’s two-tiered, well-lit design maximizes its dining area—at the expense of its waiting area. Indeed, during our secondary wait, my dining companion and I found ourselves perched between the diners and the servers, who had to wedge in between us to get to their tables. This setup seems fraught with potential calamity: one errant foot could send a server—and her tray of hot soups—flying. Guess this is the price a restaurant pays for being too popular.

The Details

Restaurant Guide
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse
Four stars
9520 S. Eastern Ave., 473-2980.
Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight.
Suggested dishes: Angus beef sliders, $7.25; bacon cheeseburger pizza, $10 (mini); Derek’s Favorite Meatloaf Sandwich, $9.75; shrimp tacos, $9.50.

With such ridiculous crowds, you would have to assume that the food is out of this world ... and you would be right. As we worked our way through the menu, everything topped the dish before it, with no duds in the bunch. This being a brew-pub, we started the meal off with the seven-beer sampler, BJ’s signature brands from lightest to darkest. We both agreed that the highlight of the bunch was the Piranha, a pale ale with a very distinct taste. But we both enjoyed the Tatonka Stout and its hearty but slightly sweet aftertaste. If you’ve never been here before, this is a good way to sample the house beer. (There’s also an extensive selection of non-BJ’s drafts.)

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Our appetizer of Angus beef sliders was perhaps the best version of this American craze we’ve had to date. From tiny top to tiny bottom, these miniature hamburgers were moist, juicy and, most importantly, fresh. The accompanying wedge-cut fries ($1 extra) were perfect in texture, temperature and taste. We knew more food was on the way, but there was no way this plate was going back with food on it.

Next up: the bacon cheeseburger pizza, one of BJ’s signature dishes. It’s difficult to say what was more impressive—the aesthetics or the taste. It looked like an artist’s palette, with splashes of red, yellow, green, white and, of course, the dark hues of the burger bits. The crust had a satisfying crunch and texture, and the various flavors—bacon, tomatoes, dill pickles—were united by a rich white sauce. (It should be noted that on a second visit, the sauce was used far too liberally; thus, our advice would be to order it on the side.)

If you really have an appetite, try Derek’s Favorite Meatloaf Sandwich. We had ours split onto two plates, and the portions were still enormous—a half-inch-thick slab of spiced beef/pork mixture under a large helping of mashed potatoes and fried onions, all sitting atop bread that reminded us of that wonderful pizza crust.

The shrimp tacos also come highly recommended. They are served in a slightly toasted flour tortilla with chipotle mayo, cabbage, carrots, red onions, cilantro and a “Santa Fe” dressing. This was the favorite across the table, and I loved it as well, but I can’t help but wonder what it would have tasted like on a corn tortilla. Perhaps next time I’ll find out. Watch out, though: The accompanying salsa and guacamole are a bit on the spicy side.

Desserts are primarily traditional, but if you want the true BJ’s experience, you’ve got to order the Pizookie—a large cookie served in a shallow pan and smothered with your choice of ice cream. We opted for the chocolate chip with vanilla, and had no complaints. Rather than harden, the cookie remained smooth and pliable as we ripped it apart.

A restaurant’s future is based on repeat business, and my dining companion has already been back. Odds are you will, too.

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