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.
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.