Well, I was in already in Henderson. I was done with my business errands and happened to note that it was 5:02pm. Did I want to join in on rush hour traffic all the way to my home in the Northwest? I think not.
So I decided to go to a restaurant and have a quick meal. What better place, I thought gleefully, than to go to where the late, not so great Sweet Water and Steeles once resided. Cackling all the way, I made my way along Eastern Avenue to get there. And was in for a shock. Sort of.
To be fair, I already knew that the property had changed hands several times, and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store from the current occupant.
I saw the letters painted in an arch over the door; the large original letters had left their mark in the badly repaired stucco above. Oh well.
I went to the door of what is now called the Churrascaria, and the door was locked. The door sign indicated that their restaurant hours began at five, and by this time it was nearly five-fifteen. There was no activity going on inside to indicate that there was any staff running a little late and hurrying to open for business. Is this place cursed?? (This, by the way, is the reason for the recent archives posts I did a few days ago).
The traffic was still bad and I was still hungry. I drove across the parking lot and saw a restaurant called BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse.
What the heck. I’ll give it go.
The first thing I noticed when I entered the restaurant was that it was spacious and softly lit. The seating was vaguely similar to King’s Fish House in The District. Sorta. Large booths, smaller booths, two- and four-top tables and larger areas for groups. The bar area is somewhat elevated from the restaurant section. There’s a huge, six-panel television behind the bar. On it was a variety of sporting events – primarily football and baseball – along with that annoying Progressive Insurance woman.
I was directed to a two-top table and given a menu and a beer list. Yes, a beer list.
As it turned out, this is a national chain of restaurants that I’d never heard of before, and they make their own beer. More on that later.
The menu was large – lots of different pizzas, pasta, comfort food, burgers, sandwiches, specialty salads and more. Mind-boggling.
Besides the eight beers that they make, they have 40+ beers available as well, draft and bottle. They have their own “Signature Margaritas” and a Martini Bar. Their wine list is made up mostly of what I call “drinkers.” Nobilo, La Crema, Estancia, and J. Lohr – those wines I pop and pour whether or not I have guests.
I decided, of course, to try their beers. They have a sampler tray available, five ounces of each for $11.95. I was served the beer, each occupying its own spot on a colorful printout of the description of each one.
Lightswitch – their lightest pale beer, similar to what you’d expect from any “lite” beer. It was pleasant enough, but for those of you who know me, you know it barely tickled my tongue. Barely. At the same time, its 3.5% alcohol content means that you can get that second glass with little concern. I’m not a “lite” beer fan. This didn’t change my mind.
Brewhouse Blonde (4.7%). They tag this one as their “German Style Kolsch,” and it is their best seller. It’s crisp and refreshing, and malty with some hoppiness.
Harvest Hefeweizen, their Bavarian-style hefeweizen (4.9%). Surprisingly good. One day I’ll tell you about my journey trying to find a good hefeweizen that didn’t taste like something had decayed in it. Let’s just say that the early attempts at making hefeweizen were less than impressive. But this is a good one, with fruit and spice, and is much, much better without the lemon. In fact, my wonderful server, Donna, brought me a small sample to try with a slice of fresh orange. Wow.
Piranha Pale Ale – American Pale Ale (5.7%). Award-winning pale ale with good mouthfeel, great bite from generous hops, and very, very refreshing. In fact, when I was taking notes, I almost called this a great food wine! It was a perfect match with my Pot Roast sandwich.
BJ’s Jeremiah Red (7.3%), called an Irish Style Strong Ale. The crystal-clear, reddish-brown color caught my attention. Beautiful looking ale. Much less hoppy than the Piranha, it is made with five different malts. Smooth and more complex on the finish than I would have expected.
Nutty Brewnette (5.9%) and billed as an American Brown Ale. Also as clear as the Jeremiah, but more brown than red. Of course. Four different malts, less hops, creamy-ish texture.
BJ’s P.M. Porter (6.4%), a Robust Porter. Creamy texture, almost like a stout. It has a long dry finish, with hints of cocoa and molasses.
Tatonka Stout (8.5%), described as an Imperial Stout, is amazing. I’m not a Stout drinker, and I was surprised that I liked this so much. It is intense and sweet. It’s not sugary sweet, but fruity sweet the way that Syrah and Zinfandel can be. It has nuances of chocolate and coffee along with a great balance of malt and hops. The mouthfeel? Kind of like drinking half and half. Smooth and rich.
I had an Angus Pot Roast sandwich, one of their “Knife and Fork” sandwiches. In a word, delicious. The white cheddar mashed potatoes that came with it were amazing. And I don’t even like mashed potatoes that much! The dish was also nicely plated and presented – a real surprise.
Apparently their specialty is their pizzas. They have lots!
Here’s the summary:
- Good to great beers. For my palate, the Piranha Pale Ale with its food-friendly hops and the Harvest Hefeweizen with its fruity character were tops. The Stout surprised me, but it’s definitely a dessert beer.
- Food – my sandwich was delicious, but with so many things on the menu, I’m sure there’s a swing in quality with the other items. I was happy with my meal. Your mileage may vary.
- Service – well, I’d call it leisurely. I waited a long time from the time of request to actual execution, but the service was attentive and polite when I received it. My server was very well trained in all aspects of their offerings, which is always a good thing.
- My primary complaint (such as it is) is the size of the menu. There are so many items that it would take a year or more of going every weekend with a group to sample each one, I’m sure.
Overall, it’s a nice place to go after work, take the kids, grab a beer and a pizza, or other casual reason. Don’t expect haute cuisine. For my part, the prices were decent, the beers cold and refreshing, and the food was hot, cheap, good, and filling. I did not expect to get a dish of locally sourced vegetables and organic beef, but I have no complaints. It’s a *chain* restaurant!
Will I be back? Sure. For all the reasons that I gave. When I want a good and filling meal that I don’t have to think about, BJ’s may very well be one of the first places that comes to mind. I didn’t finish all of the beer samples, but I already know what I’m going to have when I go back. Next time with a group!
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse is located at 9520 S. Eastern Ave., in Henderson. They have another location at 10840 W. Charleston in Summerlin.
They also have a great website with a lot more information than I have here: BJ’s Website
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- This chain makes links (mysanantonio.com)
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