Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse

418spotlightThe BJ’s chain of restaurants and breweries expanded into Northern Virginia last fall by opening one of its brewhouses in Tysons Corner.
The new location has all the hallmarks of similar casual restaurant chains. There’s a massive dining room lined with flat-screen TVs. There’s a glossy spiral-bound menu, with pictures, with ample options for pub-style eats – pizzas, burgers, deep-fried appetizers, and more. And the restaurant appeals to the same wide variety of diners as other chain spots. On a recent weekday visit, a post-work happy hour crowd gathered at the wrap-around bar, its centerpiece a 100+inch TV framed in liquor bottles. Soccer fans cheered on their favorite teams in World Cup competition. Families sat down to meals together. It’s a familiar dining experience that’s offered here, but with a few unique touches. The restaurant, in addition to recognizable beers and some craft selections, serves a wide range of drinks by BJ’s breweries. A porter, an imperial stout, and an IPA are some of the many beer styles brewed by BJ’s and served in the restaurant. They even have their own gluten-free berry cider. In addition to ordering by the pint, diners can make their own flight and sample small portions of four different beers.

Beverage options are numerous, but food options are more. The restaurant serves not just appetizers, but also “snacks” and “small bites” plates to accompany an entrée. Chicken wings (boneless or traditional, available in several sauces), potato skins, and sliders are just some of the game-day favorite appetizers served here. Order the Best Beginnings Appetizer Combo ($17.50) for an ample assortment of the top house appetizers, such as Santa Fe Spring Rolls stuffed with chicken, black beans, sweet corn, and cheese, with a smoky dip on the side; crumbling fried mozzarella cheese sticks with marinara; a warm and creamy dip spotted with spinach and artichoke and served with multicolor tortilla chips; and Avocado Egg Rolls, a surprising take on the starter as the fried wonton is filled with warm avocado chunks and served with a syrupy tamarind sauce.

For the main course, the restaurant serves a number of pizzas – their signature deep-dish variety, but also flatbread and hand-tossed styles. The menu includes pastas, entrée-sized salads, and rib and steak platters. The Specialty Entrées menu selections lean toward comfort food – think pork chops and fried chicken. Among them, the BJ’s Brewhouse Blonde Fish ‘n’ Chips ($13.75) offers cod fillets that are mild against the big crunch and flavor of their fried shell – the batter is made with the BJ’s German-style Kolsch. For the “chips” part of the entrée, you have your pick of crispy thin-cut fries or wedge-cut seasoned fries. When it comes to casual dining, burgers and sandwiches are go-to entrée picks. There are plenty of each here. The BJ’s Brewhouse Burger ($7.50) is a basic burger with some nice touches. Here, a seasoned and grilled five-ounce Angus beef patty sits on a Parmesan-crusted bun with classic toppings – pickle slices, lettuce, and tomato. The bun isn’t as overwhelming as the name makes it sound; the bun is buttery, thin enough to not overwhelm the burger but big enough to hold up to a juicy patty. For a dollar more, you can add some cheese and a few slices of Applewood smoked bacon.

If you believe in saving the best for last, then dessert at BJ’s won’t disappoint. This spot is home to the Pizookie, an ice-cream topped cookie treat available in a half dozen varieties. Can’t decide? With the Pizookie Trio ($9.75), you get your pick of three miniature versions of the signature dessert. You could get the original chocolate chunk, crispy at the edges of its round tin and warm and gooey at the center, with vanilla bean ice cream melting in. You could also get one of the more inventive varieties, like the Salted Caramel with crunchy pretzel chunks or the Oreo-fashioned Cookies ‘n’ Cream.

There’s a reason why such casual restaurant chains are ubiquitous. They offer familiar food in a fun atmosphere at the right price. But BJ’s, with its range of house brews, a few menu surprises, and delightful Pizookies, does enough to add excitement to the tried-and-true concept.

BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse is located at 8027 Leesburg Pike, Tysons Corner. For more information, call 703-356-7305 or visit Restaurant hours are Sunday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – midnight and Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.