BJ’s serves quality, but isn’t innovative

Posted March 7, 2013


Inside The Falls shopping mall’s busy plaza stands a brand new brown building with an impressively lit sign that reads BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.

The restaurant, which opened in October, serves as the national chain’s first restaurant in Miami, and promises to serve innovative takes on classic American cuisine such as deep dish pizzas, burgers, and the regular lunch fare of soups and salads. While BJ’s serves up some pretty good deep dish pizza, using the words innovative could be a stretch.

The “Great White” deep dish pizza is actually very good and one of the more innovative creations on the menu. Besides coming with a witty name, the thick crust is slathered in a creamy Alfredo sauce and is then topped with mushrooms, seasoned tomatoes, grilled chicken breast, roasted garlic and Parmesan cheese. Thankfully, the deep dish pizza dough is thick enough to support the cornucopia of toppings with which each “signature deep dish pizza” comes.

Unfortunately, beside the “Great White” deep dish pizza and the “Bacon Cheese Burger” deep dish pizza, the innovation BJ’s claims to have ends there. The rest of the pizzas, whether they’re hand tossed or a flatbread appetizer pizza, hold the same ho-hum ingredients featured on the menus of Papa John’s and Pizza Hut.

Familiar pizza ideas such as five meat, Hawaiian pineapple and barbecue chicken are hidden behind dressed up names and a handful of “gourmet” ingredients such as diced tomatoes and “signature” sauces.

While the pizza is of good quality and frankly delicious innovation is not a top priority. Even the “Build Your Own Deep Dish Pizza” option is limited. When our group ordered an Alfredo sauce pizza with spinach topping, a common pizza combination, the waiter informed us that spinach was not an option. After perusing the list of toppings, it could be concluded that the restaurant offered a variety of unimaginative toppings.

The dessert menu is mainly dedicated to BJ’s “ Signature Pizookie.” It is essentially a cookie baked in a pan and served with a generous helping of vanilla ice-cream. The cookie options range from white chocolate raspberry, which was a very good- but a bit too sweet, to a decadent chocolate cookie topped with Oreo ice cream, surprisingly very good.

Yet, the all-time favorite is the simplest. The original Pizookie, which is comprised of a deliciously warm chocolate chip cookie and a large scoop of vanilla ice-cream is hands down a winner.  Yet, be warned it’s so much of a favorite they are known to run out, leaving slightly dejected diners frowning at their tables.

While the menu also features a strawberry-topped baked beignet, which is actually very delicious; it seems like a random after-thought addition to the menu. This could be improved by offering a variety of beignets, but that seems to be just out of the scope of BJ’s originality.

What diners pay for at BJ’s is a chance to dine at a new restaurant in an area of Miami where restaurant openings are few and far-between. The atmosphere is lively, loud and a bit chaotic. Waiters dash between the aisles in an especially frantic manner. The wait time can reach as long as 80 minutes to be seated on Friday or Saturday night. The best night to visit is a weekday; waiters are more relaxed, the wait time is shorter and there are fewer chances that they’ll run out of a favorite dish.

Overall, the food is good, but the innovation that is promised at the beginning is not delivered upon and is frankly not very possible at the level of a national chain unless massive amounts of work and marketing are put forth. BJ’s joins the long list of Miami restaurants that are good, but honestly nothing special.

  • BJ’s Restaurant and Brew House
  • Address: 8888 SW 136th St., Miami, Fla. 33176
  • Telephone: 305-251-7550
  • Prices: $15-$25
  • Hours of operation: 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays
  • Cuisine: American
  • Attire: Casual
  • Reservations: No
  • Call Ahead Service: Yes (reduces wait time to about 30 minutes)
  • Reviewer’s rating: Three out of five stars