BJ’s Brewhouse and Restaurant in Santa Rosa

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

The new BJ’s Brewhouse and Restaurant is officially open for biz at  the Coddingtown Mall. It’s Santa Rosa’s first mega restaurant, with more than 250 seats, and frankly, a pretty imposing exterior that’s brings to mind a Borg spaceship decorated by Bolsheviks. It’s really, really, immense. And square.

To get an idea of the scope, the Southern California-based chain is rumored to be anticipating 1000 covers a day, compared to the maybe 2-300 covers a smaller local spot would do on a good day. The Titanic scale continues to their 15 page menu. Grab a cool beer or house-made cream soda while you peruse the brief novel in your hands. Try not to linger too long on the calorie counts next to each item.

Appetizers range from poké (Hawaiian style raw tuna) to all things fried. Gourmet salads, burgers, deep dish pizzas (their speciality) and heartier pastas and steak entrees make up the rest of the menu. Most of what we tried (fried jalapeno burger, poke, mango Thai salad, mushroom pizza) are good, hearty dishes that won’t leave you breathlessly impressed, but will certainly satisfy a crowd.

A Borg Spaceship with a Bolshevik poster. See?

The Pizookie™ is a monster dessert– a big-as-your-head cookie made in a pizza dish that’s made to order with two scoops of ice cream. You’ll likely be asked several times during your meal if you are “saving room for a Pizookie™”. Of course you are, and it’s worth doing at least once. Probably not twice.

Most waitstaff are still being “spotted”, meaning you’ll have two or three folks checking in and whispering instructions (“Take away the ketchup”, “Ask how they want their burger cooked”) in these early days, and service is a strong corporate mandate. I turned around to look at a television, and a staff member was immediately at the table asking if we needed anything. Nice.

There’s a cozy patio outside, a large bar (again, beer is a a big deal at BJ’s) and a kid-friendly Cheesecake Factory meets Applebees vibe that’s suitable for families.

The quick Bite: A major Western chain with outposts across California, Arizona, Texas and the Midwest seems out of scale with Sonoma County – both in terms of menu and physical size – but offers up reasonably-priced, family-friendly food and brews. Not to mention something called a Pizookie.

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Author: biteclub

Food Dining and Restaurants in Sonoma County and beyond, is Wine Country dining with Drive-Thru Sensibility.

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  1. A franchise doesnt mean anything really if it is independently owned and operated and its 5 locations hail in comparison to the 119 BJ locations. BJ’s is straight up chain.

  2. Five Guys is good if you like tasteless meat/ bacon PIECES and canned mushrooms at super burger prices….brutal

  3. Serious, TERRIBLE. I was excited to give it a try even though I try my best to eat locally only.. well, I can tell you this only confirmed that I will not be back..

    It took them 30 minutes to get me my lemonade, every time the waiter would come back and give a small chuckle and say wow, the bar really is taking a long time. Eventually I told him to just forget it (my food had already come and I was ready to leave) but he insisted on bringing it out and emphasized that it’d be free, but in a cocky tone, like he was doing me a favor. HELLO, I told you I didn’t even want it anymore! Before I even had time to complain to a manager he said he had already taken care of that for me..doubtful.

    The food was underwhelming, not that I was expecting it to be amazing, but decent..YES! I got the mahi tacos and they put one tiny sliver of cold mahi under a huge pile of what tastes like coleslaw, and the tortilla was hard as a rock. My boyfriend didn’t enjoy them either. We decided to share a main dish and try a few appetizers, the mushrooms were pretty good, about the only thing I actually enjoyed eating. The fried artichokes were hard and not stripped of the fibrous inedible part, spit at least 4 of them out. The mozzarella/tomato salad was bland and not proportional to each other.. Again, entirely underwhelmed by the food.

    My boyfriend ordered a “housemade” root beer, although the taste was good I think they forgot to carbonate it because it tasted like syrup..

    I will definitely not be returning, between the terrible food and the poor service (couldn’t get a refill on water once and was never asked how the food was) this place is a joke. Too bad they probably won’t go out of business because a much more deserving restaurant should be there. Don’t waste you’re money, you’re gonna pay just as much as you would for somewhere fresh and local and with hour and a half long wait. NOT EVEN CLOSE TO WORTH IT!

  4. We were not that impressed either. We also had major problems with the whole evening there. (see my post.)

    Just wanted to tell you I agree with you on going to Sam’s – we have NEVER had a bad meal there.

  5. I was really excited giving BJ’s a try. Took the wife and kid (4 yrs old) there last night. Service was fine, the Avocado Egg Rolls were very good. I order a black and tan, it was not poured correctly so it was black only and really was not that good. 3rd Street Alewerks or Russian River is way better.

    My wife and I always split our main courses to test them out. She ordered the rib eye steak, medium. I ordered the Scampi Pasta. Her steak came rare, the mashed potatoes tasted mashed though we were told they were fresh. It too the entire rest of the meal to get the steak back, then it was well done. Tasted OK, but Sam’s For Play does away better job on steaks and gets it right the first time out. My pasta came flavorless, they had not really tossed it together. The shrimp were not bad, but the Scampi at Carrows is way better, though I know it prepackaged. No one ever asked how our meal was or I would have told them. My kids pizza, was a puffy piece if dough with very little cheese, not impressed

    $70+ for 2 adults and 1 kids meal, one beer was not worth it. It will be a while before we try this place again. For my money we will not stray from locally owned restaurants like Sam’s.


  6. It’s actually a California original business, Santa Ana to be precise, but from what I hear, the corporate office is now in Texas – I’m sure for the tax break, no one can survive our with taxes.

  7. Large chains usually buy from the same food source, so that every location mirrors the others – every burger, pizza, etc taste just like the rest. Though, I’m not 100% if that is what they are doing, but it would make sense if they were.

  8. Sweet River isn’t local, it’s a franchise.

  9. Dude at best for there burgers they come in fourth,compared to …….super burger,in&out.five guys,and mine………

  10. Hey Suzanne,Sorry to hear you’ve got the “c” word.Keep up your great cent’s of humor.Dumb and dumber…… could just go to bj’s when you need a laugh and just ‘people and watch” and get full………..

  11. If you haven’t eaten there, it’s delicious. The Western Burger is amazing. They don’t offer pastas, it’s mostly burgers, chicken sandwiches, and stuff like that. If you are looking for a good burger it’s a great place to go. Went again to BJ’s last night for dessert. Dessert was good. I’m going to make it a mission to try every type of pizookie. I’ll skip on the dinner there though.

  12. lol, you’re right, we went to Hooter’s twice when they first opened for the novelty, enjoyed it for what it is but haven’t gone back since, ahaha!

  13. A lot of people complain on a daily bases about Best Buy, Walmart and Target along with the other handfuls of big box stores. As for local companies not being able to provide the value that a big box store can, completely untrue. People just assume that a big box store can provide better value and they are lazy. People dont want to put out the effort and try to find a local company that will compete or beat. A great example of a local Gem in Santa Rosa is Teevax and Asiens, 2 local appliance stores. The have just as good prices as Sears, Lowes and all those other faceless corps. People just need to realize that they are not fueling their county when they shop at these places. keep the dollars in Sonoma County and shop local whenever you can. We might learn once we all make minimum wage and can ONLY afford to shop at walmarts, just to POSSIBLY save a couple bucks pretty pathetic.

  14. I cant believe I missed the names. Well done.

  15. Having just been diagnosed with Cancer I have been enlightened about food and how in particular white flours, breads, sugars and preservatives actually help fuel cancer cells. Scary but true, you truly must watch what you eat. I don’t think after reading the reviews and looking at the pictures of the food I will ever eat at that place.

    On the other hand, I think it’s hilarious that the two newest restaurants in Sonoma County are called Hooters and BJ’s! It’s like an episode of Dumb and Dumber!

  16. Who cares if this is a gargantuan chain restaurant? I’m sorry, but even though we live in one of the most beautiful and sought-after places in the world doesn’t mean we can’t provide culinary alternatives to the organic, local food that is often paired with wine that we are known for. Do I see anyone complaining about us having a Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Staples, Subway, McDonalds, Burger King, etc here in Sonoma County?? Absolutely not, and the reason why is because as much as we’d like, local establishments can’t provide the value that some of these corporations provide. For those of you complaining about the fact that BJ’s isn’t local or organic, open up your kitchen cabinets, cleaning supply cabinets, refrigerator, etc and count how many items are produced locally. Exactly.

  17. How specific of you.

  18. I wasn’t too excited to go there, since the last time I went to a BJ’s I got sick. I decided to settle on something that probably wouldn’t get me sick, a cobb salad. It was delicious, but that night I got sick. I’m not allergic to anything that I know of, but something about the ingredients they use just don’t agree with me. They didn’t bring out our appetizer until we were almost done with our dinner and no real apologies or discounts for bringing our appetizer so late. The dessert was pretty good, although I was expecting the Pizookie to be a little less doughy and more cookie like, but regardless it was good. Service was okay, but next time I go there will be for dessert only. For an actual dinner I would prefer a more local business with great food like Shannon’s West Side Bar and Grill.

  19. Heather, i like your point, I had compleatly forgotten about Hooter’s until you just mentioned it.

  20. Um…Ausiello’s, Sweet River, Brodys Burgers, Carmens Burgers, The Ticket Sports Bar…..sometimes a wait at Ausiello’s or Carmens. Always killer places to chill. If you want to go there because you like it, thats one thing. But stuffing all local eateries into your unsavory box is BS. Sorry…

  21. Good good point, its one end of Coddingtown vs the other end. From the “looks” of it you won’t be seeing anyone at “the River” for much longer.

  22. Went to BJ’s last night, REALLY wanted to like it as I have never been to a BJ’s before…Arrived at 7:30 on Sunday night, hour wait for a table. The staff served little slices of pizza to those waiting (nice). Got seated, out of five of us that ordered one meal was good the others were not that great. One person ordered soup and salad for their dinner it was served 30 minutes prior to everyone elses food being served. Macaroni and cheese, just ok. Spaghetti, just ok. Panko fried shrimp with fries and closeslaw on the side, coleslaw was literally two small bites! The one meal at our table that was good..Chicken Marsala, hint ask to substitute the cheddar mashed potatoes (instead of pasta), very good! Our server was very smart allecky, she was not amusing, she thought it was cute. My meal was served with fries, had to ask for catsup and when I asked for it she said no. Also, when we asked for refills we saw her walking around after we had asked several times then look at us like oh yeah they asked for refills. Also, pet peeve, our food was just delivered and she was asking if we were saving room for dessert. Atmosphere is fun, we will try again but have to say I was a little disappointed.

  23. Dine at BJs all the time where I work on the Penninsula. I love the fish tacos. Best ever. The pizzas and salads are great too. I am thrilled they are in Santa Rosa. Sure it’s great to dine at a small local restaurant…and maybe wait for table forever, put up with so so service, and attitude. I am ok with that, but the price tag goes with that also. It’s nice to have an alternative when you just want to chill, watch the game and eat good food. Welcome BJs. Santa Rosa will love you.

  24. I get it, but honestly…Narsi’s is back open, and I think in a better spot. Coddingtown needed an infusion of new life, and I think BJ’s and Whole Foods are helping to do that. I’ve been to Narsi’s three times in the last two months, and I had NEVER been at Coddingtown. I honestly think its all for the best.

  25. I’m in total agreement HC. And I won’t say I wasn’t tempted to throw the kids in the car yesterday night (after gardening and painting all day) and just have a burger at BJ’s. We opted instead for breakfast for dinner at home. But damn, that rootbeer float is tempting me.

  26. BJ’s will serve it’s purpose in Santa Rosa and do it quite well, actually. I think too many people in Sonoma County become lost in their little bubble and actually believe that every living person in the area only cares to eat farm fresh organic food from a locally owned establishment. I’m probably guilty of this myself at times, but lets be honest, places like Chevy’s and Applebees are packed every night. It might be a chain but BJ’s is certainly a step up from the alternatives.

    Haven’t been to the SR spot yet but I have been to two other BJ’s and can say that I was more than impressed with their food and service. Highly recommend the fish tacos and whatever they call that rootbeer float with Jameson in it….ridiculous. Perfect for families or a night out with a large group.

  27. We went to BJ”s and we were all very pleased. My server was very nice and polite, we will go again.

  28. MudBugEddy, yes, the local Sysco truck. LOL . But, that doesn’t mean it won’t be good. Just not local. but then again, Whole Foods says some of their things are local. I wonder, maybe 1 or 2 % of their things are from local. Otherwise as far as Whole Foods goes, people who shop there are making a corp. in Texas wealthy.

  29. Buffalo Wild Wings RULES! One can only hope 😉

  30. I went and tried this out opening day. I had a couple of BJs brews (The Imperial Stout and their IPA). They were both just OK to below average. The good news is they have a good selection from other breweries, including a hard to find Lindemans Framboise Lambic ( fruit beer) on tap. Their Pizza was just OK as I think round table is better ( and cheap as well).

    Pros: I love the decor and the fantastic vegas style atmosphere. Santa Rosa needs a place like this. Plus the service was fantastic.

    Cons: Food and beer ( although they have a couple good choices from other breweries)

    Will BJs survive? I hope so. Beer Drinkers will go to Whole foods next door but maybe they can get just enough people to walk in. Its gonna be a challenge though. Cheesecake factory would have been a better choice for that location IMO

  31. Went there and was pleasantly surprised. You’d never know it was a “chain restaurant” foodwise. They were obsessive about the food looking AND tasting perfect. The food was really really good! We ordered the Chicken Parmesean with Alfredo, to die for and the portions were HUGE! Also had the skinny, crispy shoestring fries, BBQ Beef on French Roll, and of course the Chocolate Chunk Pizookie.
    All very good but rich.

    Appetizer was the most unusual: Wontons filled with Thai Curry Chicken, dipped in batter and fried!
    Served with a spicy dip sauce. Very very good.
    House made DIET Root Beer was excellant, no aftertaste, and beats A &W any day. They make their own sodas. The service was excellant. We will def go back!!

  32. Not impressed Dallas comes to Sonoma County. I will never forget what happened to Narsi’s

  33. A 15-page menu containing items with trademarked names: kiss of death. My question: is B J’s going to source their ingredients locally? Will they be organic? Seasonal?

  34. Thats was a bit harsh BUT they dont have good beer and they put teriyaki sauce on their calamari for crying out loud….just sayin. Their burgers are good though, real good…

  35. Thats right. Speak the truth!!!

  36. Honestly, though…after we all went to Hooter’s for the novelty, has anyone gone back? I’m sure there are still people going, but uh….yeah…I’m doubting it’s the Bistro 29 crowd.

  37. Good observations, all.

    Sonoma County is about great food, beer and wine. Those of here who really love that stuff are still going to patronize our favorite local spots. People who don’t care as much about that aren’t going to Cyrus or Willie’s Wine Bar anyway, so whatever…

    We have another dining choice in Santa Rosa, and that’s a good thing. I’m glad I got to check it out, and I’ll say I was pleasantly surprised for the most part. I’ll probably take my kids there for a Pizookie. But I don’t think there’s any danger that BJ’s pizza is going to come even close to NY Pie’s or Mombos. I don’t think I’m going to be thinking their burgers are better than, say, Jackson’s or Superburger.

    There is probably need for a bit more research, however. Which I’ll be glad to take on for the sake of The Truth. :)

  38. I weep for the future. Pizooking in the toilet right now, just go home and heat up some cookie dough in the microwave for 30 sec and stuff it in your mouth. Im all for new life in sonoma county but BJ’s and Hooters…Whats next? Buffalo Wild Wings? Pizza Kitchen? You all now what Chef Ramsey says about 15 page menus….Im a hater but at least I admit it.

  39. For it to be a threat to Ale Works, Ale Works would have to be a threat to begin with….

  40. I too went last night. 40 minute wait. Got in and had a beer and app quickly delivered to the table. Then waited about an hour for the main course. We had fun anyway and when the food arrived it was great. What really blew me away was even without asking the manager came to our table and comped the meal because of the wait. Yeah, the wait was long but he went well above any expectation I had.

    The food was very tasty, the beer and homemade soda’s were good. What will keep me coming back is the level of customer service we recieved. I’m interested in buying local when possible (especially beer), but don’t let that stop you from checking this place out. This is a very welcome addition in my book.

  41. Well, it’s super big. And I really like Star Trek TNG, so it wasn’t a diss. Just an observation.

  42. Went there last night. Food was far better than any other family restaurant chain in the County. The beer was excellent and I enjoyed the pizza and wedge salad. I think Sonoma County’s obsession with small and local has gotten in the way of this review. The Building does not look like Borg spaceship with soviet influence…and yes the ambitious 250 seat restaurant was full,full full.. The food is fine and Coddington was humming for a change. Not only does BJs offer families a great dining experience at a good price without pretense, it may also revive our second mall and bring in more retailers.

  43. Interesting, Captain. I actually see this as a potential threat to Third Street Aleworks. I recently dined at Third Street for the first time in a long time and I was underwhelmed at the least. I don’t see going back to Third Street any time soon, so this is an opportunity for BJ’s here.

  44. Ooops my math is off. 150k peeps in SR, not 50k. But still……

  45. 1,000 covers a day? Wow, that is a lot. So one in 50 SR residents will eat there on any given day? That’s a tall order. Say it’s half tourists, and make that one in 100 residents. It’s still a heck of a lot of covers. To make that number with any consistency, either a lot more people are going to have to make eating out part of their regular routine, and/or B.J.’s is going to turn into a black hole that sucks the life out of a lot of nearby restaurants.

    That said, B.J.s does a great job for a chain, from what I’ve seen, and families with kids love them. It’s just the kind of place that could thrive in what is basically a very conservative niche in the northbay dining ecosystem.

  46. Went in for lunch today to try out the new kid on the block. My expectations weren’t high.

    I’m a big fan of jambalaya, and have had various iterations of it through the years. Only one place, in San Jose, hit the mark. Until today.

    When I saw it on the menu, I had to try it. Like I said, my expectations weren’t high. Chain restaurants aren’t known for quality.

    It was amazing! The right amount of spice, fresh ingredients, and a very healthy portion. Except for when I make it at home, this is now my go to spot for jambalaya.

    The beer list is daunting, but they make it easy enough to understand.

    The servers are attentive, although there was one guy (obviously a trainer/supervisor-type) who was hovering a lot. It was disconcerting, almost to the point where I wanted to ask him “Can you stop pacing around while I eat?” He’s there for a purpose, to make sure the servers get it right. For the most part, they do.

    The one complaint I have is that a few workers were sweeping and mopping the floors around people’s feet. One of them accidentally hit my chair, apologized and continued on his way. C’mon guys…the floors weren’t dirty or wet. You can wait to mop under my table until I’m done and gone.

    On a 10 scale, I give them a 9. Point deduction for unnecessary and overly-intrusive floor cleaning.

  47. I just pizookied in my pants looking at photo #5. What in the fresh hell is that thing?

    bonus points for new use of pizookie as verb

  48. So long Sweet River it’s been nice knowing you, I guess this is the beginning of the end. Keeping everything the same since the 80’s has finally caught up to you..

  49. when i first heard about this place opening i was not excited. then, in the fall, i traveled to the dallas-area; a haven for chain restaurants. there is pretty much nothing else. so, seeing as i was choosing between logan’s roadhouse and arby’s, we stumbled into BJs.

    i was actually pleasantly surprised; since it was autumn BJs had their own pumpkin brew that was absolutely to die for. the menu was daunting in size, and we never had dessert…. but i can personally vouch for the ahi poke; it was quite good!

    this review is pretty much spot on from my experience. i’m still not thrilled that my hometown is hosting this type of gargantuan chain restaurant, but all in all not such a bad place.

    good beer.

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