Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Vacaville Welcomes BJ's Brewhouse

Vacaville Welcomes BJ's Brewhouse
By Christine Cube

From left, bartender Lauren Gonzales, general manager Julie Weinman, bartender Scott Moyle and manager Nicholas Walker make a toast. (Photo by Gary Goldsmith/Daily Republic)

VACAVILLE - They come in various forms: Red, blond - even a nutty brunette.

But while BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse offers everything from pale ales to a Russian Imperial Stout to a full list of Belgian beer, the facility packs more than fine, frothy brew. It's got a menu of more than 100 items, starting with its signature Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

In fact, the brewhouse doesn't actually even brew beer in Vacaville. The suds come from the BJ's Restaurant and Brewery in Roseville.

"It comes fresh from Roseville and we have delivery a couple times a week," said Julie Weinman, general manager of the BJ's in Vacaville. "We brew almost any style people could want . . . we also make our own handcrafted root beer."

BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse opened Feb. 15.

The new Vacaville eatery - which falls somewhere between a Chili's Grill & Bar and a Cheesecake Factory - serves up to 300 diners at a time.

The restaurant carries a full slate of edible options, from hot and cold salads and sandwiches to loaded baked potatoes and entrees including salmon, pot roast, meatloaf and steak. The BJ's menu also features the famous Pizookie, a cookie run through the pizza oven and topped with vanilla ice cream.
The average menu item is $8.75 to $9.75; average check is about $11 a person.

The cost to eat ranges from $5.75 for a lunch special to BJ's most expensive item, the New York steak, which is priced at $18.95.

The day before its opening, managers and associates for the 15,000-square-foot restaurant held their kick-off meeting and topped it off with a sparkling cider toast. BJ's Restaurants chairman Paul Motenko participated in the festivities.

Weinman said the Huntington Beach-based BJ's Restaurants chose to open in Vacaville because it's a growing community that's not yet overcrowded with restaurants.

"It's the type of community we want to be in with lots of families, people new to the area and people who are coming that might be familiar with other BJ's restaurants," she said.

Weinman has been with the company for more than a year, opening the Roseville location in April 2005. Since then, she's worked in BJ's locations in Cupertino, Las Vegas and Folsom.

The company has an aggressive plan to open more new restaurants, including an Elk Grove location in May and Natomas restaurant in June, she said. The company plans to open between 10 to 15 locations a year, Weinman said.

The Vacaville location will have 240 employees. The restaurant began the hiring process around the holidays.

"We look for attitude over experience," Weinman said. "We figure we can train them to be busers or servers but we can't train someone to have a good attitude. You either have one or you don't."

BJ's Restaurants Inc. (NASDAQ: BJRI) owns and operates 44 casual dining restaurants under the BJ's Restaurant and Brewery, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, or BJ's Pizza & Grill brand names. The company's restaurants are located in California, Texas, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado and Nevada.

Next month, the company plans to open a new restaurant in Desert Ridge, Ariz.

Reach Christine Cube at 427-6934 or ccube@dailyrepublic.net.

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