Review of Gluten-free Menu and Pizza at BJ’s Brewhouse in California +

February 9th, 2011 yum Posted in Bay Area, Ca, Oregon, Restaurant Review, Travel, Washington State 5 Comments »

BJ’s Brewhouse
10690 N. De Anza Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014
408.865.6970 TEL
Gluten-free menu including Pizza
11am-12am Monday-Thursday
11am-1am Friday
10am-1am Saturday
10am-12am Sunday

You can also find Locations in California (51), Texas (20), Arizona (6), Florida (6), Nevada (4), Colorado (4), Oregon (2), Ohio (2), Oklahoma (2) Washington (2), Indiana (1), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), and possibly Lahaina Hawaii (with a limited menu).

The DH came back from a business trip to Israel and found himself in sunny California jet-lagged, starving, and awake on a certain Saturday morning. We decided the best course of action would be to take ourselves to a restaurant, post haste. But where to go? I have mentioned several times that a good friend of mine from our Gluten-free Support Group recently wrote an article recommending her favorite gluten-free pizza joints. One of her absolute favorites was the pizza at BJ Brewhouse. This is ironic. I’ve lived in Sunnyvale for several years and passed the BJ Brewhouse in Cupertino countless times and snubbed it. A microbrewery with a food menu? Those places usually have, at best, a salad or two that MIGHT be adaptable for a gluten-free vegetarian. Might, if they don’t coat the lettuce greens in breadcrumbs just so they match the rest of the menu. Every time the DH made noises about how it might be nice to stop and get a beer, I was less than enthused, so we’d always end up going to the nearby Outback Steakhouse, where at least I could get a Gluten-free Chocolate Thunder from Down Under and a hearty baked potato, not in that order but ordered by preference. But then my friend tells me, while our Gluten-free toddlers are toddling along on a playdate, that BJ Brewhouse has a fantastic gluten-free pizza baked on a Venice Bakery Crust. Who knew! They do, in fact, have a full gluten-free menu which includes salads, soups, omelettes (brunch menu) and protein bits in addition to pizza. The only thing they don’t have is a thrilling gluten-free dessert, unless root beer floats float your boat.

The atmosphere is a combination between a cleaner microbrewery and upscale family-style restaurant. The designers of the Cupertino location really like diverse lighting, as you will see if you just look up. Tract lighting, chandeliers, everyday lamps and hanging bistro lights add ambiance, as do the brewing vats behind glass in the corner. Ordering at BJ Brewhouse is remarkably painless. If you want just a pizza, the gluten-free option is listed on their regular menu. Otherwise you need to ask for their gluten-free menu. The first time we went we had a pizza with fresh basil and artichoke hearts. Excellent! The second time, I went with roasted red pepper and, yes, fresh basil. What can I say, I’m a basil girl. I also tried their highly tasty tomato soup, their California Omelet (which does not seem to include their gluten-containing potatoes), and most recently their Italian Market Salad. Everything has been good, and satisfying. And, while it isn’t exactly fine dining, the prices are quite decent. While I love going to unique family-owned restaurants, sometimes I really, really like the security of dining gluten-free with a chain; this is especially the case when they have gluten-free down to a science as they seem to at BJ Brewhouse.

The pizza has turned out to be my favorite, locally available pizza. I like Jina’s idea to order it with extra sauce, although we haven’t done so yet, and the pizza has been appropriately crispy both times I ordered it. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed their Italian Market Salad, ordered without salami to make it vegetarian. It had several kinds of lettuce, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, basil, artichoke hearts, olives, roasted red pepper, garbanzo beans, cucumbers, and more. Basically all my favorite things, in something that felt way too hearty to be a salad. Perfect!

BJ Brewhouse is a great place to go with Baby Yum. She loves the pizza, and the booths are very handy for babies and toddlers. She has tried and seemed to enjoy everything we ordered. And for our part, the DH and I are happy to have found another option where we can all eat safely and enjoy ourselves, without going bankrupt. I would definitely recommend BJ Brewhouse to others. I haven’t had so much as a tummy rumble after eating there, and that speaks for itself. Unless of course it was a tummy rumble for MORE PIZZA!

Have you eaten at BJ’s Brewhouse? What is your favorite thing on their gluten-free menu? Tell me in the comments!

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Gluten free Restaurants in San Francisco: Pica pica

November 7th, 2010 yum Posted in Bay Area, Ca, Fellow Food Bloggers, Gluten Free Blogs, Gluten Free Dining, Restaurant Review, Rice Free, San Francisco 5 Comments »

Pica Pica Maize Kitchen
401 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 415-400-5453
Can’t make it to San Francisco? Try Napa!
Oxbow Public Market
610 First Street, #5 Napa, CA 94559
Phone: 707-251-3757

Pica Pica Maize Kitchen is a delightful find for anyone on a gluten-free diet or who has developed an addiction to corn-based Venezuelan cuisine. I am almost embarrassed that in the over five years that I’ve lived in the Bay Area, I’ve never made it to their San Francisco location. Luckily, my gluten-free friends at BlogHer food were more motivated and planned a lunch there which I was very happy to attend. The entire menu is gluten-free. Those who can’t have corn will be out of luck, as pretty much everything contains corn. However, you can easily eat vegetarian or even vegan, and rice isn’t even on the menu if you are rice intolerant! Soy also can be avoided, although PAN, the base for their arepas, may be manufactured on lines with soy. If you thought you’d never eat a sandwich out again or have this much selection if you did, this place will prove you wrong and make you happy in the process. If you are like me, you’ll be a little overwhelmed by all the options, so let me tell you about the vegetarian dishes I tried. The most obvious vegetarian arepa choice is of course La Vegetariana Arepa with tofu, avocado, plantains, black beans and sauce. The ingredients sound perfect, but somehow it is just a bit bland for my taste, to be honest. I had it twice- once at the Napa location some time back, and both times I wasn’t all that excited. I love tofu, but this is quite a big, fairly plain slab of the stuff.
I didn’t order the Morena, or black bean, Empanada myself, but Ali of Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen did and generously shared some with me. Usually empanadas are made out of wheat flour, so it is a rare treat to find some that are made out of corn. These are light, flaky, probably deep fried, and have a delicious bean filling. I would definitely order them next time. Yummy! And I loved the spicy sauce with them. De-lish! The Queso Fresco empanada sounds good, too, but it would be hard to beat the savory bean filling.

Deep fried gluten-free goodies are always tempting, as it can be very hard to find them without cross contamination issues from a shared fryer. Pica Pica has two deep fried sides that are both good, but very different. One is a plantain chip. They are soft and sweet, with a thin, lightly fried exterior. If you are expecting intense crunch, this may not be the dish for you, but I like them because you can eat a bunch and not feel terribly guilty. If you’re in the camp that wants your fried food to taste like true deep fried goodness, then I recommend the Yucca fries. These amazingly crispy fries will satisfy all your Southern dreams and then some. I would want to share them with a friend because they are so rich and decadent. Bet you can’t eat just one!

I also tried their hot chocolate, but I am a picky-picky girl when it comes to my hot chocolate and I like it dark, rich, and thick. I wouldn’t order it again for myself but I bet my DH would enjoy it.

Of course the best thing about eating out is usually the company. I shared my meal with a wonderful group of gluten-free bloggers, most of whom I mentioned in this post about our gluten-free meal together at The Plant. *Link to blogs included for New friends not previously listed*

Shirley of Gluten-free Easily was a charming table companion, and we shared a batch of plantain fries. I just love her.

Counter-clockwise: Tia from Gluten Gluten-free, Alisa of Go Dairy Free, Diane from The Whole Gang, and just the eyes of Wendy of Celiacs in the House

Clockwise: Ellen of I am Gluten Free, GF Veg of Wheatless and Meatless, Kim of Cook it Allergy Free, Tom and Ali of Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen

And guess what? My friends wrote reviews of Pica Pica, too!
Wendy’s review and Arepas recipe
Diane’s review of Pica Pica and other gluten-free dining in San Francisco
GF Veg’s review of Pica Pica and photo slideshow
Alisa’s Dairy-free Review of Pica Pica Maize Kitchen
Know of any other Pica Pica blog reviews? Share in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

Want to make your own version of arepas?
My recipe for green chili cheese arepas
Cheese Arepas and Perico Scramble Recipe

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