Restaurant Review: BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Scott Joseph Sentinel Restaurant Critic
June 12, 2007
Orlando has a reputation of being the chain-restaurant capitol of the world. I'm not sure it's a sobriquet we deserve.
Oh, sure, we're the hometown of Darden, the chain-restaurant factory. And Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Cafe have corporate headquarters here. Ruth's Chris Steak House is housed in Lake Mary. E-Brands, with Timpano, Samba Room and others, calls Orlando home, too.
But to say we're the capitol of chain restaurants subsumes that we have representatives of more chains than any place else. And I don't think that's the case because new chains are coming to town all the time.
Oh, look, here's one now.
BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, a concept that originated in 1978 in California, opened recently in a large, freestanding building constructed near the Mall at Millenia. BJ's does many things -- and we'll discuss that in a moment -- but its stab at uniqueness is that it brews its own beers on site.
Now, here's another reason I don't think Orlando is the capitol of chains. If we were indeed the Mecca for mass produced restaurants, wouldn't you think anyone attempting to enter the pantheon would present their best effort? Wouldn't they assume that Central Floridians know a good chain when they eat at one? Because the fact is, we do know a lot about chain restaurants, and we do know what makes a good one. BJ's is not a good one. That's because the number one thing a chain restaurant should excel at is consistency. My three visits to the Brewhouse were a mishmash of ups and downs, with decidedly more of the latter. And the ups didn't go nearly high enough to make up for the downs.
As I mentioned, BJ's is a huge, 8,500 square feet building with 270 seats. Apparently a normal-sized menu wasn't deemed worthy. There are 22 appetizers leading the multi-page menu, with numerous sandwiches, salads, pastas (where you'll find jambalaya, served over rice pilaf!?), pizzas, giant stuffed potatoes, Brewhouse favorites and specialty entrees. It's exhausting. [snip]
<< As I mentioned, BJ's is a huge, 8,500 square feet building with 270 seats. Apparently a normal-sized menu wasn't deemed worthy. There are 22 appetizers leading the multi-page menu, with numerous sandwiches, salads, pastas (where you'll find jambalaya, served over rice pilaf!?), pizzas, giant stuffed potatoes, Brewhouse favorites and specialty entrees. It's exhausting.>>
This restaurant critic clearly likes to criticize. The size of the menu is exhausting? In any event, at least it gives management a chance to review what is going on at that restaurant and the other new restaurants and make improvements where needed.
Here is the link to see the whole review in context...
An interesting note about BJ's is that it is rumored to be one of the chain restaurants Darden is considering buying. I wonder if the shoddy consistency at this BJ's is meant to be throw Darden officals off the track. Or maybe it's a desperate cry for help.
I don't think it was used to throw them off track, doesn't work that way. I did read somewhere that Darden was looking to purchase a restaurant with less than 100 units - Can't remember if it was in a Darden conference call or where I read or heard it. This would be an interesting fit into the Darden portfolio, would eventually make a nice market for Bj's beer in other restaurants owned by Darden - not that this is why they would purchase the company but would be an idea worth looking into. Has anyone else heard this? If not then it might not have been Darden, I don't want to start a rumor here....
Have you visited a BJ's? I've eaten numerous times at the Brea and Irvine location. My experience has been pretty good. I hope they fix the Orlando location. Sounds like it is pretty busy at that location as well. Some one must like it.