First Bite: BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse at Arden Fair Mall

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 If you haven’t been to Arden Fair Mall recently, you may be surprised to discover that a brand new BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse has sprung up in the location once occupied by California Cafe. We checked it out last weekend, and the visit reminded me of why it’s not a good idea to try and dine at a restaurant the first week it’s open. The wait for a table was maddeningly lengthy, our servers were switched several times during the meal, and the food took a very (very) long time to arrive. However, staff were extremely friendly (albeit confused), portions were – in true BJ’s style – enormous; and the highlight of the evening was the beer sampler, which showcased eight delectable brews. My favorites included the malty, enticingly sweet Jeremiah Red Ale; and the intense, super-dark Tatonka Stout, which left lingering flavors of roasted coffee and dark chocolate on my palate. The Classic Burger, prepared with a plump half-pound Angus beef patty, was juicy and satisfying; and my daughter whooped with joy when her “Pizookie” (a hot, flat cookie topped with two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream) arrived. This is a great dining option for hungry mall shoppers – but I might suggest you give the restaurant a few weeks to practice before you drop in for a visit.

1689 Arden Way, Sacramento, (916) 570-1920; www.bjsrestaurants.com/locations/ca/arden-fair