I was especially excited when a BJ’s Brewhouse opened in Culver City. Los Angeles is known as a city short on craft and microbrews, and although BJ’s is a big chain, I hoped it would fill a much-neglected gap in beer and microbrewery food.
To start out the meal I ordered their Harvest Hefeweizen. Hef has never let me down in the past, so I expected it wouldn’t again. I was wrong. This was the sweetest beer that has ever tried to pass for a real beer. Don’t get me wrong, I think a Strongbow Cider or a Leinenkugel’s Berryweiss can be very refreshing on a hot summer day, but those beers are composed of fruit and you know what you’re getting when you order them. Sure, hefeweizen isn’t the most bitter beer, but BJ’s attempt at it tasted like they accidentally spilled a carton of sugar into my beer.
Next came our appetizer. We didn’t go the conventional route with the appetizer and instead ordered a mini deep-dish pepperoni pizza. The waitress was gracious enough to ask us if we wanted tomatoes on the pizza, since they came on it despite the menu not saying so. We said no, of course, then waited for the pizza. I had read on the menu that BJ’s was originally founded as a Chicago-style deep dish pizzeria, so I was pretty excited at the prospect of getting that delicious pizza in LA. Once again, I was greeted with disappointment. The pizza seemed sloppily tossed together (which in and of itself I don’t have a problem with), but the only thing that made it deep dish was the fact that it had a lot of dough. That is no way to make a true deep dish pizza. It tasted fine enough, but I expected more.
Finally, for my main course, I ordered the BJ’s Burger. I have always expected microbreweries to have good burgers and I expected nothing less of BJ’s. The BJ’s Burger was on the menu under the heading, “Awesome Burgers,” so that was a good start. According to the menu, it was an Angus burger on a toasted garlic cheese French roll with pickles, tomatoes and lettuce. Of course, I ordered mine without those last three items and also got some bacon, cheddar and BBQ sauce. I was especially intrigued by their garlic cheese roll.
When my burger came, I found that my disappointment for the evening wasn’t quite over. The burger was overcooked and dry. And I couldn’t even rely on a good beer to wet my mouth after each bite, for fear of over-sweetening my palette.
The burger was really a microcosm of my overall experience with BJ’s. A great concept, but poorly executed. Had this been the first night, I wouldn’t have minded, but a few weeks into operations, they should have already figured out how to make some good beer and food.