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Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

Famous Dave's on Rosedale Highway.

Famous Dave's has a new menu and recently had a P.I.G. (Pretty Important Guest) Club tasting on a Tuesday evening to offer samples to their email group fans. Being a pig myself, I had to go. The new items include the return of the brisket burger, which we wrote about in the past when it was a temporary menu item. There are now five different brisket burgers with the ground beef blended with pieces of the restaurant's Texas beef brisket. Devil's Spit ($12.99) returns, made with pepper jack cheese and jalapeno bacon, but we sampled two other new versions: smoked cheddar ($11.99) and Jacked-N-Stacked ($12.99).

I've always been a sucker for smoked cheddar, with its oily, concentrated flavor and density, and this adds a lot to the smoky patty, but the Jacked-N-Stacked with crispy onion rings and jack cheese is a more satisfying choice. (A cheeseburger made with a regular patty also is available, as are two other new brisket burgers that weren't sampled.)

Famous Dave's is also adding turkey and ham sandwiches to the lunch menu. The turkey is made from unprocessed meat, but the ham lacks the pizzazz that so much of their barbecued selections offer. The real star of the new menu, and the center of the restaurant's promotions, is the new "burnt ends." These are offered as an appetizer ($9.99), a sandwich ($10.99) and in one of the combo meals with one-third slab of St. Louis ribs ($18.99). They basically cut up a brisket and coat the chunks with one of their sweet barbecue sauces in the cooking process, giving it a caramelized texture and taste, more than the real burnt ends you may run across in other places.

Can't say why, but I've always been a fan of the "debris" sandwiches found in New Orleans (made, ostensibly, from the bits of beef in the pan drippings) and when I attend a catered event with, say, pit-style beef, I'm always willing to volunteer for the hard, dark, burned ends. The Famous Dave's version is even better because only some parts are really burned, and most are still tender and quite good. My companion had to go back for seconds and thirds, and if you're a fan of barbecued beef, this is a must try.

New and different

BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse has a menu with low-calorie "EnLIGHTened" entrees, all under 575 calories, starting at $9.95. The choices include a barbecue bison burger, a seared ahi salad and Moroccan spiced salmon. The restaurant is also having a special beer tasting and dinner featuring craft beers from Anchor Brewing in San Francisco on Tuesday, May 28, at 7 p.m. Cost is $30, plus tax and tip ... Del Taco has three new items: a bacon ranch grilled chicken taco, a chili cheese fries burrito (wow!) and a "fiery 6 layer" burrito. They're also heavily promoting a "buck & under" menu with 11 different items, including two drinks ... New at Trader Joe's : cilantro jalapeno hummus ($2.99), feta cheese cubes in brine from Denmark ($2.99 for 7.1 ounces drained weight) and Blue Fin chardonnays and pinot noirs from an unnamed Napa winery for only $3.99 a bottle. The blueberry pomegranate green tea is a health fanatic's delight at $1.49 for a 33.8 ounce bottle ... Popeye's has a temporary "3 for $3.99" promotion offering three wings, three tenders or a leg, wing and a thigh at that price with a biscuit ... Valentien Restaurant & Wine Bar is adding a new twist on comfort food, using spaghetti squash instead of pasta in a "macaroni and cheese." The cheese mix includes Parmesan, Gruyere and ricotta. The John Hughes classic "The Breakfast Club" will be the movie on the patio this Saturday ...

More news on Flame Broiler

Got an email from Andrew Kim , the man opening up the first Flame Broiler restaurant in Bakersfield just north of Rosedale Highway. Though he has been operating one of their franchises in West Covina, he grew up in Bakersfield (from age 4 to 18) and is looking forward to coming back to town. "I am extremely excited to bring this great concept to our city and I believe the people will enjoy this delicious and healthy product," he wrote. "We are also planning to give away 300 free bowls and drinks on our first day of business." He expects to open in late June or early July.