Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, December 5, 2002
BJís Restaurant & Brewhouse
Spinach and artichoke pizza
(small) $11.40
Baby back pork ribs (full rack) $17.95
BJís Famous Pizookie $4.35
Old-fashioned apple crisp $4.45
Docís Real Draft Root Beer $3.25
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
The Pies Have It

While BJís does beerand pizza (and dessert) well, itís blasť about entrťes.

By SHELLY SANDERS

BJís Restaurant & Brewhouse

2609 S Stemmons, Lewisville (NW corner of Hwy 121 at I-35E). 972-459-9700. Mon-Fri 11am-midnight, Sat 11am-1am. All major credit cards.

tís obvious that the folks behind BJís Restaurant & Brewhouse in Lewisville are proud of their homemade beer ó the drink appears in many of the restaurantís entrťes, from the beer-battered fish íní chips to the baby back pork ribs to the homemade chili. All that is fine, but I wish BJís would lay off the sauce long enough to serve up an excellent, instead of above-average, entrťe.

Owned by Chicago Pizza & Brewery and based primarily in southern California, BJís has additional restaurants in Hawaii, Colorado, and Arizona. Microbreweries can be found in a handful of BJís restaurants across the country, though not in Lewisville. This restaurant marks BJís Texas debut. And even though this location has been open for only a month, business seems to be going well ó the house is usually packed for weekday lunches and weekend dinners.

The first thing I noticed ó and, ultimately, the best thing about the new BJís ó is the dťcor. BJís signature look of industrial chic is honestly the best warehouse-style interior for the average burger-and-pizza eating family: modern, yet cozy, with big-screen televisions all around. BJís mixes warm woods, red brick walls, steel, patina, and great track lighting with funky leopard-print chandeliers and irreverent art (a great post-industrial mural featuring a giant beer distillery covers the backside of the building).

As with a lot of other chains, the service at BJís is fast as hell and disturbingly friendly ó you actually wonít feel like youíre being ushered out of your seat the second you take your last bite. And while it offers everything from a meatball sandwich to pot-roast dinner, this place, deep-down inside, is where good olí beer-and-pizza is serious business, fancy track lighting and surround-sound notwithstanding. Every table is set with a glass gallon container filled with layers of hops and barley that serves as a pizza stand; magnets on the stand steady the iron skillets that the pizzas come on. Weíre talking serious pizza business here.

But back to the beer. My guests and I ordered the Seven Taster Set and had a grand time passing the three-ounce tasters around the table after each sip (not quite kosher for blind dates or those squeamish about sharing). Everything we gulped was flavorful. You can also buy tasters by the glass or order a four-taster set, at a dollar per glass. For youngsters or those not in the mood for brew, BJís also makes its own Docís Root Beer, which is deliciously sweet.

By the time we finished passing the brew, we were starving, so my guests and I attacked the Brewhouse Nachos, dripping with ďChili ní BeansĒ made with Piranha Pale Ale, ladled over tortilla chips and topped with several kinds of cheese, diced tomatoes, green onions, sliced olives, sour cream, and salsa. The chili topping tasted a little too much like the Hormel variety for me, and I must admit that the nachos were pretty standard, in contrast to what our waiter had said.

We then went after the small spinach and artichoke pizza, a rich, creamy medley of spinach, huge chunks of buttery artichoke hearts, cream cheese, and mozzarella topped with fresh diced Roma tomatoes and basil. It was served steaming hot, with the crisp, rich golden crust you expect from a deep-dish Chicago pizza. The toppings were cheesy and gooey, and the artichokes were salty and tender. The dish was also perfectly sized to satisfy two moderately hungry eaters.

The baby back pork ribs smothered in a barbecue sauce made with the Jeremiah Red Ale came in a distant second to the pizza. The ribs were lukewarm, and they didnít fall off the bone like we expected. The bland mashed potatoes accompanying the meat were topped with brown gravy and had a chalky aftertaste.

On a recommendation from our waiter, I also tried the Cajun chicken pasta, which featured a dense and spicy tomato sauce over chicken and fettuccini; long slimy strands of red onions were heaped on top of the dish. At $10.95, it was a generous portion of pasta, served with scrumptiously soft and buttery garlic bread. But the plate just didnít distinguish itself from similar pasta you could find at a nearby Italian restaurant. When it comes to Cajun pasta, chain restaurants are often great with spice but lax with flavor. I think a cream sauce would have worked wonders for the dish.

But dessert here took the cake ... or cookie. BJís famous Pizookie is a real treat: itís a freshly baked cookie (you can choose from chocolate chunk, white chocolate macadamia nut, peanut butter, or oatmeal raisin), served in a deep-dish pan and topped with vanilla-bean ice cream. We cleaned the tin of every ice-cream-soaked crumb. And if a cookie sounds too insubstantial, the old-fashioned apple crisp should do the trick. This dessert was also served in its own pizza pan and topped with a grandmotherly helping of toasted oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and two scoops of ice cream. The oats were too chewy, but the sugar and cinnamon combination rounded the dish out with a nice crunch. The topping is overwhelming, and the apple pieces scarce, hidden at the bottom of the pan. But none of that really bothered me ó thatís what apple crisp should be like.

At the end of the night, the message was clear: You canít go wrong at BJís if you stick to lifeís basics: Beer. Pizza. Dessert. Not necessarily in that order.


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