It’s common for me (and maybe for you) to go to Folsom to go shopping or, as was the case last week, to drive to a medical appointment. After my appointment, I decided to order a take-out lunch from BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse in Folsom to see how well BJ’s is doing after the pandemic and how BJ’s compares to local restaurants that serve similar fare.

I’ve eaten at BJ’s at least twice a year for many years, so I already have the BJ’s mobile app on my iPhone and I’m also a member of their rewards program. I hadn’t taken out a meal from BJ’s before, so I was looking forward to using the app to do that. I ordered from the Lunch Specials, which are available from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and it wasn’t hard to customize my lunch order within the app.

I ordered an Enlightened Barbecue Bison Burger. Instead of the standard mixed green salad, I ordered a side of steamed broccoli instead. My mother ordered Chicken Tenders with Fries. We also ordered two of BJ’s famous Pizookies for dessert: a Strawberry Shortcake Pizookie for my mother and a Hot Fudge Brownie Pizookie for me. (I’ll explain how I transported those Pizookies later.)

Before I submitted my order, the app told me I could stop at the restaurant and park in one of the spaces reserved for pickup orders and asked me to type the make and model of the car I drive so the staff could find me easily. After I did that, the app said my order would be ready in about 25 minutes.

A text message appeared on my phone a few minutes before I arrived at the restaurant, though I didn’t see the message until after I parked in one of the pickup stalls. The message told me to tap a link to let the staff know that I was parked and ready to pick up. Less than a minute after I tapped the link, I saw a woman with a large plastic bag walk out to my car window. 30 seconds after she gave me the bag and I thanked her, I was pulling out of the parking lot and heading for home.

Our entrées were stored in lidded plastic boxes. Each Pizookie was placed within a metal pan and wrapped with plastic. The toppings for the Pizookies were kept in lidded cups. Our plastic bag also included plastic-wrapped packets with each packet containing a small napkin and plastic silverware.

My Meal

The Enlightened Barbecue Bison Burger contains a bison meat patty cooked medium, barbecue sauce, diced mild chiles, pico de gallo, what BJ’s calls Santa Fe dressing, red onions, and lettuce. All those ingredients fit in between a Parker House bun that looks and tastes like a brioche bun.

All the ingredients on the burger were fresh and the bison meat patty was cooked thoroughly and stayed warm during the trip home, so it was nice not to have to put the burger in the microwave. My biggest problem with the bison burger is that BJ’s puts too much barbecue sauce on the burger, and combined with the pico de gallo and dressing, eating the burger is a messy experience that requires multiple napkins.

Discolored broccoli from BJs Restaurant and Brewhouse

There were plenty of broccoli florets that came with the burger, but I immediately noticed that many florets were discolored. (See the example in the photo above.) With the first bite of a floret, I discovered the broccoli was stale and needed more effort to chew. Only one of the florets was green, flavorful, and easy to eat, so the quality of the broccoli, not the cooking time, was the issue.

Mom’s Meal

The Chicken Tenders with Fries included five large pieces of boneless fried chicken as well as a good helping of medium-sized fries that had the skins and breading on them. When my mother opened the lid of the plastic container and looked at her chicken, she expressed amazement that she seemed to have received half a chicken and vowed to save some tenders for later.

My mother hadn’t had chicken tenders in many moons, and she said the breading was crispy and the taste reminded her a bit of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The chicken itself was juicy and tender. She also enjoyed the fries, which had soft potato surrounded by a crispy shell and had the right amount of salt.

Chicken Tenders and Fries from BJs Restaurant and Brewhouse

Our Desserts

Pizookies normally come with ice cream and whipped cream. How do you get two Pizookies from Folsom to Jackson? Customize each Pizookie when you order so you don’t include ice cream or whipped cream. All you get is the cookies in the pan and their associated condiments.

In my mother’s case, her Strawberry Shortcake Pizookie had a sugar cookie at the bottom of a nine-inch circular metal pan as well as strawberries and strawberry puree in a medium-sized lidded cup. She liked her Pizookie just fine and said that it tasted like any strawberry shortcake she’s made with angel food cake (or cups) from Raley’s.

The Hot Fudge Brownie Pizookie included the brownie at the bottom of the circular metal pan. This Pizookie came with four small lidded cups, and each cup contained what looked like fudge, pecan slices, what looked like chocolate chips, and a maraschino cherry. There was even a medium-sized lidded cup with raspberry sauce inside, and that wasn’t on the menu.

After I ate the cherry and put the raspberry sauce aside, I poured what looked like the fudge and the pecans on top of the brownie. Most of the chocolate chips had melted in the cup, so I had to scoop out the chocolate with my fork and eat the congealed chips with a forkful of brownie.

I discovered what I thought was fudge was chocolate sauce, which wasn’t on the menu and added a bitter taste to the brownie. Fortunately, the taste of the chocolate sauce was quickly overwhelmed by the taste of the congealed chocolate chips and the brownie. In no time, I had a congealed mass of chocolate on my forkfuls of brownie that resembled a glob of hot fudge. It was still good, and I still finished my Pizookie.

Hot Fudge Brownie Pizookie from BJs Restaurant and Brewhouse

The Verdict

BJ’s does a good job with its bison burger to make sure the burger isn’t too hot to overwhelm the meat or any taste buds. The bison meat patty also helps keep the meal light at 670 calories with the salad, which is good if you don’t want to feel weighed down for the rest of the day. I suspect the total calorie count of the meal was roughly the same with broccoli instead of salad.

My mother placed her leftover chicken and fries in the microwave for dinner a few nights later, and as you probably guessed, it didn’t turn out well. She kept some of the fries for lunch sometime this week, and I wonder if she’ll use the toaster oven next time.

I also had an unexpected reaction to the Hot Fudge Brownie Pizookie. That is, I had a stomachache and my brain was overstimulated, and the latter was a big problem because I have migraines. I discovered the reason for my reactions the next day when I searched for the sugar content of that Pizookie on Google and found it has about 100 to 112 grams of sugar in it. (The amount differs between nutritional websites.)

I figure that even without the ice cream, the Hot Fudge Brownie Pizookie has about 100 grams of sugar, which a friend of mine likened to Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs cereal in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. If I knew about the sugar content, I never would have ordered it. Fortunately, I recovered after a few days. Lesson learned.

In sum, we bring out our flashing yellow light for BJ’s. Though most of their food is good, the state of their broccoli and using chocolate sauce instead of the fudge on the menu show their standards are slipping. Learning what a national chain like BJs is doing makes me more appreciative of the care that many county restaurants put into their food.

The price for our lunch was just short of $45.00.

Want to Try Them?

BJs Restaurant and Brewhouse is a national family restaurant that serves pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads, tacos, pasta, and desserts. They also offer beer, wine, and cocktails.

BJs has five locations in the Sacramento area and one in Stockton. The closest one to Amador County is in Folsom at 2730 East Bidwell Street at the southeast corner of East Bidwell Street and Power Center Drive. They’re open Mondays through Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Visit the BJs website to view their menu and get more information. Call them to ask questions and/or order your meal at 916-404-2000.

Amador Business Ticker food reviews are adventures in local dining with Editor Eric Butow and his mom.