What About Them:
BJ’s was founded in 1978 in Santa Ana, CA as BJ’s Chicago Pizzeria by Mike Phillips and Bill Cunningham. The founders sold the company to their accountants, Paul Motenko and Jerry Hennessy in 1991.
The parent company is BJ’s Restaurants, Inc and as of March 2019, they own and operate 202 locations across 28 states*. The locations we will be discussing are located in Fort Worth, TX at Hulen Mall, and in Arlington, TX.
*Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
Walking into BJ’s is its own experience. The low lighting and comfortable table spacing make for a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere that encourages diners to take their time and enjoy.
The first time I ever went to BJ’s was with my husband. We were out on a Date Night and were not quite ready to go home after our movie. We stopped in for a drink at the Hulen Mall location in Fort Worth.
After sitting a while, decided to have a small bite to eat. Looking over the menu, I noticed they had several gluten-free options. As is my habit, I questioned the bartender about their process.
I have a son who is a Celiac*, and it is almost impossible to take him out to eat. I learned that BJ’s has dedicated prep and cook stations for gluten-free meals and even crafts root beer on-site -which is also gluten-free.
*Celiac disease, sometimes called celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in your small intestine. https://gig-that.com/whatisceliac
BJ’s is not just a restaurant. They have 11 locations across the country that have microbreweries inside that supply all of their craft beers and signature root beer.
Our location in Hulen has an enormous window into the brewery where you can see the vats of fermenting goodness. It is a marvelous little quirk that no one else can lay claim to.
A lot of places will claim to have gluten-free items on their menu, but they do not have the facilities or knowledge to ensure as little gluten as possible in those items. Some of them are actually very conscious of cross-contamination, which is the fear of anyone with any level of gluten intolerance when eating out.
BJ’s actually has dedicated prep sites, utensils and cookware used only for their gluten-free menu items. I learned from our server on one visit that one of the owner’s wives is a Celiac. As such, the GF choices and procedures at BJ’s are strict enough to allow a full-blown Celiac like my son to eat there practically worry-free.
I do not drink beer, but BJ’s options are extensive and -I have heard- delicious. The drinks I have had there were exceptional and beautifully presented.
The menu is packed full of items that can suit pretty much any palate. My favorite appetizer is the Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms. The menu describes them as:
Plump, juicy mushrooms | Spinach and Artichoke Dip | feta cheese | red onions | parmesan cheese | a drizzle of lemon pesto sauce
They are so good, I have ordered an extra helping to take home.
At the Hulen Mall location, we have always gotten quick, attentive service. Our food came out hot and tasty, and the drinks never got or stayed empty for long.
BJ’s is also kid-friendly. If there is a child at your table, they bring out a little plate with strawberries and one of their garlic knots for the little one to chomp on. In our case, I had to turn down the strawberries because my little guy (not the Celiac) is allergic to them. But he demolished the garlic knot.
Other perks include:
- A rewards program that allows you to collect points on every visit that can be applied toward free menu items.
- Casual to dressy atmosphere. Nobody thinks twice about wearing jeans or Prada here. We all fit in.
- In some locations, on-site micro-brewery offering, award-winning craft beers you will not find anywhere else.
- A free pizookie on your birthday! It is a deep-dish cookie in a small tin topped with ice cream.
As with any eatery, it is not always an optimal experience. We took our daughter out for her birthday to the Arlington location off I-20 & Cooper.
We had our small son with us but did not get the plate of strawberries and bread for him. I ordered their 2-bone pork chop (which does not appear to be on the menu any longer) and so did my daughter’s boyfriend. We were both disappointed.
It was big, but it was tough and not nearly as savory as we both hoped it would be.
My husband ordered the Southern Fried Chicken and ended up sending it back. The gravy was scorched, and the chicken was overcooked.
Our server left unused dishes on the table until we asked her to take them and seemed either distracted or overloaded. She did take my husband’s chicken off our bill, but we also ordered a pizookie to take home to our (Celiac) son. She put it on a separate ticket even though we did not tell her to. As I said, she seemed distracted.
This is the only negative experience I ever had at any BJ’s and it appears to be a fluke rather than a regular occurrence.
We have to discuss the pizookie. It is delicious, decadent and fun.
As mentioned, it comes in its own little pizza pan with your choice of one or two scoops of ice cream. The regular-size pizookie comes with multiple spoons. It is just far too gooey to eat on your own. The mini-pizookie is a good size for kids.
We usually order one to go, even if we get one for dessert. Once you’ve had it, you will always want it. It is just that good. If you eat nothing else here, you have to have the pizookie. And a root beer. And the mushrooms.
BJ’s is what I would call pricey. You can eat here for about $25-$40 for one. As we usually go as a couple or a group, our bill can run over the $100 mark, but the food and the atmosphere is so good, it is worth it.
Take it or Leave it
Take it! Take it as often as you can afford it. BJ’s is an excellent place to eat and enjoy some time with friends and family. If you don’t have a location near you, I weep for your misfortune.
BJ’s Brewhouse is one of my Top 3 favorite places to eat. I especially enjoy it because I can take my Celiac son there and he has a wide selection of items to choose from as well as dessert. The relaxed ambiance and (usually) excellent service make this one of the few places I do not mind spending the money.
Have you been to a BJ’s in your area? Share your experience with me!