Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pizza like Uno's used to make: B.J.'s Restaurant and Brewhouse

This is an easy review to write for one audience: the audience that grew up/lived in a city with a Pizzeria Uno. Uno's was a chain of restaurants that served as their specialty a deep-dish Chicago-style pizza, alongside a few burgers, pasta dishes, and soups and salads. I had one in Lawrence, Kansas that I used to visit with some regularity because their lunch special (small pizza, soup, drink, 30 minutes or less) was very convincing at about $8.

B.J.'s Restaurant and Brewhouse is about the same deal, except they focus on pizza and beer. It's got a functional not-quite-sports-bar atmosphere, a crowd that's usually a mix of parents with kids and parents out for a night without the kids, and some decent pizza choices. The deep dish pizzas are baked in heavy, well-oiled pans that should (and sometimes does) result in a crispy outside and bready interior; there's also a gluten-free and thin-crust option, but I admit to having never tried either of those. If you come to B.J.'s, it's probably for the real pizza -- and it should be.

And the pizza is pretty good. It's commercially good, I should say. The Mediterranean pizza (Kalamata olives, peperoncinis, feta cheese, roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes, chicken (optional), and pesto) is a satisfying mess of salty tastiness. Most of the pre-set pizzas offer an overwhelming pile of ingredients, ranging from the Southwestern (chipotle tomato sauce, blackened chicken, green chilies, cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, fresh cilantro) to a three-meat variety or a pizza-like take on Buffalo chicken wings. You can also make your own pizza from a list of ingredients, with each one costing you up to $1.50 more.

The red sauce on the pizzas is usually nicely done, with a few chunks of stewed tomato popping through the cheesy toppings. You can get most of what you'd want on a pizza here -- standard meats, usual veggies, and a few café outliers, like meatballs or the above-mentioned olives in place of the standard canned black.

That said, this isn't a great value for dinner. One medium pizza has about six slices and feeds about 1.25 C and Jenn combinations, and it costs right at $20. Yeah, $20, for a pizza in what's essentially a quieter Applebee's -- that's a hard sell for me, and it's the main reason that I rarely remember B.J.'s when I'm hungry for pizza. However, if you're free for lunch, and already somewhere over the Ferry Street Bridge, B.J.'s does offer some good lunch specials: pasta with soup or salad for about $10; a gigantic baked potato with pizza toppings (I like the veggie Alfredo combination) with soup or salad for about $9; mini pizzas starting around $6 or $7; and an unlimited salad-and-soup combo vaguely reminiscent of the Olive Garden (though without the tasty breadsticks). There are also burgers (real and veggie), main-dish salads, and a few dressed-up fish dishes like Thai Salmon and Shrimp Tacos.

While you eat, you can enjoy one of B.J.'s brews -- though I have to admit, I never have. I've ordered them, sure, but they're mostly unmemorable, with the exception of B.J.'s Jeremiah Red. C has ordered that beer at least three times on the strength of its description and ended up not finishing it on the strength of its bitter taste. The Tatonka Stout pales in comparison to Oakshire's offering, and you're better off with a Widmere than with B.J.'s special Brewhouse Blonde. What can I say? It's chain beer, and it tastes like it.

If you have any room left, try a Pizookie, which is a cookie or brownie baked in a pizza pan and topped with ice cream (and, possibly, Lipitor).

So yeah: it's a mix of food that seems indigenous to the Commercial Upscale Pizza Chain, like Uno's or Old Chicago. The taste is about the same; the service is about the same; and the prices are about the same. Still, if you're a) not from Chicago and b) craving a deep dish pizza, this is about the only place you can turn to in Eugene, and they'll consistently do a good job of curing that craving for you.

A bit of perhaps telling trivia: Pizzeria Uno, now Uno's Chicago Grill, just exited bankruptcy yesterday. Is the Chicago Chain doomed?

B J's Restaurant & Brewhouse on Urbanspoon


  1. A nit: I think those pans are aluminum.

  2. You know, that's a fair point, now that I think about it. I may have been dreaming of old pizza. I'll change it.