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J. Alexander’s, the chain that doesn’t want to be seen as a chain, offers prime dining options

 

The main attraction, a 16-oz, bone-n prime rib.

Perfect prime rib and other tasty menu items are offered in the Boca Raton location of this national restaurant group.

By ALAN J. WAX

Recent news that J. Alexander’s has been sold sparked a visit to the restaurant group’s Boca Raton location.

In case you missed it, J. Alexander’s Holdings, parent company of J. Alexander’s Restaurant, Redlands Grill and other restaurants, announced on July 2 that it agreed to sell itself for $220 million to SPB Hospitality LLC, whose operations include Logan’s Roadhouse, Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, and a collection of specialty restaurant concepts. There are no indications that any changes are planned.

Founded in Nashville, Tenn. 50 years ago, J. Alexander’s is a chain that doesn’t want to be considered a chain, despite the fact it operates 46 restaurants in 16 states, according to a published report.  It claims each restaurant is unique, designed to fit its particular market. For example, its Florida restaurants offer more seafood than those in the Midwest and its farm-to-table vegetable program varies by region and by what’s in season. The menus are inspired by dining trends in New York City and Los Angeles.

It’s an upscale eatery, but not overly pricey (some may disagree) and fine for casual dress.

J. Alexander’s Boca Raton location in University Commons

The Saturday night bar scene at J. Alexander’s in Boca Raton.

The Boca Raton location, in University Commons on Glades Road, near Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble and PF Chang’s, is a sprawling high-ceilinged, dimly lit, warm-wood-decorated eatery with raised dining rooms that flank a large oval bar. Large screen TVs showing sports are behind the crowded bar area.

On a recent Saturday evening the place was bustling with mostly Boomers and Millennials, based on my observations. The bar area is obviously an attraction, and a noisy one at that with decibel levels reaching into the 80s, or about as loud as a vacuum cleaner, based on the sound meter app on my phone. After a while you get used to the noise, though from our table in the corner we could hear diners trying to speak across their tables above the din. There also are outdoor tables in front and on the side.

We were seated within 15 minutes of our reserved time. Not too shabby given some complaints I’d viewed online.  We were presented with a menu of daily specials with a QR code for the full menu. Fortunately, there are paper menus for technology challenged diners like my wife.

Chain or not, I’ve enjoyed my dining experiences at J. Alexander’s, in terms of tasty food and informed, attentive service. I admit, however, it’s not cheap. The tab for our recent dinner, which included one cocktail, two entrees and one dessert, was $122 before tax and tip.

This wasn’t our first visit to a J. Alexander’s. Back in the spring we visited the J. Alexander’s Redlands Grill in Oakland Park. I had what I consider one of the best hamburgers that I’d ever eaten, called here a steakburger ($16). This juicy round of beef was made with ground rib eye and filet mignon and topped with Tillamook cheddar cheese and Kiawah Island dressing, a spin on Thousand Island dressing.

The main reason for our visits to J. Alexander’s was its prime rib, one of my wife’s favorite dine-out choices. Oddly, the Oakland Park branch offered two size cuts.  In Boca Raton, there was but one, 16-ounces on the bone ($41). My wife’s buttery-soft slab was a beautifully crusted, perfectly rare-cooked, flavorful piece of beef. Before placing the order our server, Thor, negotiated with the kitchen over her request that no salt, pepper or other seasonings be added.  He explained the meat is coated with a dry rub. That wasn’t the problem, she explained. Simply, she didn’t want the food plated with an extra garnish of salt or pepper. No problem, he said.  It’s usually served with smashed potatoes, but a fluffy baked potato was subbed without qualms. She happily devoured almost the entire serving, leaving a few bites for me.

Lump crabcakes with mac & cheese side.

On our Boca visit, I opted for the Carolina Lump Crab Cakes. Thor informed me that the market price for the crustacean dish was $45. He said because of tight supplies they had been unavailable for the prior two weeks. I didn’t blink, but my spouse remarked about their apparent diminutive size after the crab cakes arrived. Each crab cake was about the size of a regulation hockey puck (3 inches across and an inch thick). They were composed of sweet crab meat and minimal breading and topped with squiggles of zesty chili aioli and pimento bits and plated atop a puddle of mustard sauce. Instead of the shoe-string fries listed as a side, I chose the Not Your Average Mac & Cheese, as many in the social media hive had recommended. I was happy with my choice, a rich mélange of small pasta shells with a creamy, tangy blend of gruyere and Parmasean cheeses, onions, garlic,

Warm carrot cake.No.1 dessert.

butter, cream, Tabasco and chicken broth and panko crumbs. It easily could have been a meal by itself.

A small nit: we had to ask for bread, though it is available. The chewy sourdough bread would have benefited from a bit of heat.

Though stuffed, I had to try the oft recommended warm carrot cake ($8), J.Alexander’s top-selling dessert.  I received a large deep-brown square topped with cream cheese icing. In simple vernacular, it was yummy, loaded with bits of carrots, pineapple, coconut, pecans and buttermilk — for extra moisture. Half of it went home and was equally delicious out of the refrigerator.

We left quite sated and hopeful that J. Alexander’s new owners don’t change a thing,

J. Alexander’s Restaurant

1400 Glades Rd, Boca Raton, FL 33431

561-347-9875

Jalexanders.com

 

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