BJ's Brewhouse struggles to compete | Rock Candy

BJ's Brewhouse struggles to compete


SIMPLY RESISTABLE: Fish tacos at BJ's leave a lot to be desired. - JESS ROBERTS
  • Jess Roberts
  • SIMPLY RESISTABLE: Fish tacos at BJ's leave a lot to be desired.
We've been talking a lot about brewpubs lately — mostly because there are a lot of brewpubs in Arkansas these days, most of them local. One of the non-local ones is BJ's Brewhouse at Shackleford Crossing, a chain restaurant that I favorably reviewed for the Times back last August. At that time, I thought that BJ's was a cut above places like Chili's, Applebee's, or Ruby Tuesday, and I was pleased by my meal there.

I must have gotten lucky on that initial visit, because every subsequent visit has been rather awful.

First, service. I've never seen a group of more unenthusiastic hostesses in my life. Listless, uninterested, and seemingly annoyed when customers come in, the hostesses at BJ's got my last meal off there to a confusing, disheartening start. They wander around the hostess station, and each seems to try and avoid seating customers. The wait can be long, even with a half-empty restaurant.

Servers aren't much better. The wife and I played a game on our last visit called "Pass the Glass." The rules of the game are simple: you place your empty glass at the edge of the table in plain sight, then count the number of times the server passes it up without a glance. We hit a high score of five last time before I got a refill on my water. 

And lastly, the food: An order of Mahi Mahi fish tacos. The fish was as soggy and listless as the hostess station, and the tortillas were toasted to a strange cracker-crisp consistency that shattered into crumbs at the first bite. I've left packages of flour tortillas open by accident — these reminded me of the results of that mistake. The wife's chicken Caesar salad was wilted and strange, with spongy chicken and bland dressing. There was literally nothing positive about the entire experience.

With the opening of Lost 40 Brewpub, the coming Damgoode brewpub, the excellent Diamond Bear Alehouse, and superb local options like Stone's Throw, it's going to be tough for BJ's to compete. The beer at BJ's is nothing to brag about, and certainly not on the level of our local options. Will it go the way of Boscos? If they don't improve the food and service, it deserves to.

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