Report Card: J. Alexander’s

One of the fine steaks and fries at J Alexander

One of the fine steaks and fries at J Alexander’s

J Alexander's on Urbanspoon

http://www.jalexanders.com

Overall GrubGrade A

 

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere:  Grade A:  Many people would look at J. Alexander’s and not pay too much attention.  With a nearby Hyde Park and Ruth Cris, it is easy to look past J’s when considering an upscale dining experience.  If you’re one of those people, then you’re making a huge mistake.  The décor is upscale but not pretentious – you know that you’re eating someplace really nice but aren’t embarrassed that you wore jeans.  This is our type of place.  The interior was very clean, and the booths had really nice, high-backed seats that allowed for some privacy even though other diners were seated nearby.  J. Alexander’s gives off a real comfy vibe.

High marks:  Upscale, comfy vibe, clean

Low marks:  Easy to miss or overlook because of bigger, more pretentious neighbors

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Service:  Grade A+:  On this visit to J. Alexander’s, our server’s name was Erin.  If we were on the fence about whether we liked the place or not (and we were most certainly NOT on the fence), then Erin pushed us over.  She was very personable and self-deprecating.  We felt like we had gone to college with her and we were being served by an old friend.  Erin was very engaging and had us laughing at some of her stories.  Plus, the service was quick, accurate, and flawless.  This is what we mean when we say we’re looking for some “umph” when it comes to this category.  If anyone in the management at J. Alexander’s happens to read this, Erin is a rare find and provided phenomenal service.

High marks:  Pretty much perfect service on all levels

Low marks:   None

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Food/Spirits:  Grade A-:  For the spirits portion of the meal, Katina started with a citrus mojito and finished with a drink called Centennial Kir Royale.  Katina, who is not a big mojito drinker, was overly impressed with the citrus mojito, but she really enjoyed the Kir Royale.  According to Katina, it tasted like “raspberry champagne.”  That actually does sound pretty good.  I ordered (with Erin’s stamp of approval) the New Holland Dragon’s Milk Stout, which was phenomenal.  Lightly hopped with a heavy malt and chocolaty finish, this dark brown beer is one that even those who aren’t fans of dark beer can enjoy.  It was very smooth and sessionable.   We decided to try the calamari for an appetizer.

the calamari at J. Alexander's

the calamari at J. Alexander’s

The breading was light and near perfect, and the sauce had a nice spicy kick.  The portion size for the appetizer was pretty generous, and it arrived a mere few minutes after we placed the order.  For entrees, Katina chose the Haddock with crab and I selected the Cajun Ribeye.

Haddock with crab topping

Haddock with crab topping

the Cajun Ribeye

the Cajun Ribeye

While Katina found the fish not to be bad, she thought there was little flavor to it and it was under seasoned.  She opted for the rice pilaf/orzo, which had a nice flavor but was served chilled, which took her off guard.  The Cajun Ribeye was supposed to be dusted with Cajun spices.  While I couldn’t detect any Cajun spices, I really couldn’t care less.  The steak was flavorful, and the butter it was basted with was heavenly.  Add perfectly cooked shoestring French fries and you get a dish that had one of the best prepared pieces of meat that I’ve ever had.

Now, if you’ve never been to J. Alexander’s, there is one vital piece of information that you need to know.  J. Alexander’s had a side named Not Your Ordinary Mac and Cheese.  If you visit and do not try this dish, then head to confession as soon as possible because it ought to be a mortal sin.  NYO Mac and Cheese has to be the BEST mac and cheese we’ve ever sampled.  We could visit and just eat bowl after bowl of the stuff and be completely content.  The cheese is creamy and rich, and the bread crumb topping is crispy and perfectly cooked.  And somehow there is a hearty, almost meaty taste to it.  Seriously…skip dessert and get extra mac and cheese.

High marks:  NYO mac and cheese not for those with addictive personalities, ribeye perfectly cooked, excellent beer    

Low marks:  Haddock a little bland, mojito good but not very memorable

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Value:  Grade B-:  We don’t weigh this category very much when it comes to the final grade, as good food usually had a cost to it.  The food at J. Alexander’s was excellent and worth the over $100 tab we racked up, but you shouldn’t if you’re trying to eat on a budget.  Otherwise, we highly recommend J. Alexander’s – we consider it to be one of the best in Columbus.

High marks:   Superior quality of food

Low marks:   Pricey – not for the budget constrained

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