Saturday, Elizabeth and I headed up to Lancaster/Palmdale for the afternoon. We were going to visit the California Poppy Reserve, play some miniature golf, and see a minor league baseball game in the evening. I wasn't sure what our food options were going to be; I don't think I've ever exited the highway in Palmdale.
Not surprisingly for a city that has multiplied in size in the last couple decades, there was the usual collection of shopping centers, all clustered around the same two streets that basically become parking lots on a Saturday afternoon. The same collection of Best Buy/Target/Bed Bath and Beyond/Pet Smart shopping centers that you see in several dozen cities in California these days. We idled at an intersection for a few minutes while people had a difficult time dealing with the whole red-means-stop-green-means-go concept, and from where we sat I could see no fewer than six chain restaurants, none of which I plan to ever eat at again. I was getting hungry, and a couple blocks away we drove by a BJ's, so I suggested we try it. Elizabeth had never been and she agreed.
Other people had the same idea. It was packed and we had to wait for a table. (Given the other nearby restaurant choices, this did not surprise me.) After being seated it took quite a few minutes - and three different servers - just to get a couple iced teas. But at least the wait gave us time to study the menu. The pulled pork sandwich sounded good to me. Elizabeth decided to get two small plates after I promised to have a couple bites: Santa Fe spring rolls and a tomato and mozzarella salad.
Compared to how long we had to wait to get our iced teas, it did not take long for the waiter to appear with the salad. He sat it down in front of Elizabeth and asked "Did you want this first or at the same time as the spring rolls?" This seemed to me an example of closing of the barn door after the horse has gotten out and I let out a small laugh, but the server caught himself and said "Sorry, I guess I should have asked first." At any rate, we didn't care and we dug in. Although I did not try any tomatoes, the cheese was nice and soft and the balsamic glaze - which is something I often find too sweet - was very tasty.
The rest of our food arrived a short while later. I first scarfed down a few shoestring fries. These were just as good as the ones I had last summer. I took a spring roll before I tried the sandwich. They were good. They weren't great and after the egg rolls I ate the previous weekend they seemed awfully bland, but the chicken and peppers were a nice combination and the spicy sauce was indeed spicy.
Zach was right about the sandwich: it was surprisingly good. It is roasted pork, not barbecue by any means, but for what it is, it's good. The cripsy onions are a nice touch and the red cabbage slaw, which was served on the side (although I spooned a lot of it into the sandwich), was tasty. The barbecue sauce was much too sweet for me; I would have preferred something with a vinegar bite to it, but then again it was exactly the kind of sauce I was expecting a place like BJ's to serve, so I was prepared.
We were both pleased with our meal, although neither of us thought it was anything more than slightly better-than-average. I would not recommend anyone go out of their way to try BJ's, but if you find yourself in a similar situation to us, at a shopping mall somewhere in America where your options are BJ's, Olive Garden, Chili's or Red Lobster, I certainly think you should check out BJ's.