A couple weeks ago, I was in the Franklin area visiting Haley after work. Since it was close to dinner, she made the suggestion that we try J. Alexander’s. The last time I experienced J. Alexander’s was over a decade ago in Louisville and I barely even remember that visit because I was too young to appreciate food like I do now.
Before arriving to J. Alexander’s, all I knew was that it is an upscale restaurant on par with Stoney River. Although J. Alexander’s doesn’t advertise themselves as being a steakhouse like Stoney River does, they do have steaks that seem to rival their competitor’s. After doing a little research, I found out that J. Alexander’s was founded & headquartered in Nashville, TN. So in a sense, despite it being an American restaurant chain, it is a local restaurant.
From the outside, J. Alexander’s looks relatively tame and doesn’t indicate anything being “fancy” but that all changes when you walk in the door. Inside, J. Alexander’s opens up into a vast restaurant with open spacing, tall ceilings, warm lightning, tall brick columns and walls, and large wooden beams running across the restaurant. The kitchen directly behind the hostess stand is open for all to see. A closer look shows a pile of split wood logs that are a key component to J. Alexander’s wood-fired cuisine. The atmosphere here emanates a feeling that this isn’t your run of the mill American restaurant.
After being seated close to the bar, our waitress came by to introduce herself within under a minute. Here is where I will commend our waitress on some of the best service we could have ever imagined. She was very cordial and attentive throughout our visit. Her knowledge of the menu was excellent and she answered all our questions with the utmost politeness.
As for the food, it was great from start to finish. For an appetizer, Haley and I ordered the “Mexico City Spinach con Queso” ($10), which is a mixture of queso and chopped spinach that is served with tortilla chips. The queso came in a large bowl (easily able to feed 3-4 people) with a side of pico de gallo. I liked that the queso actually tasted like queso you get at authentic Mexican restaurants. It was creamy, smooth and most importantly, not too salty. The bits of spinach within the queso gave it a nice texture. The tortilla chips were very light and thin without any greasiness.
Next came our house salads (Alex’s Salad) that we added to our entrées as a side salad for $5 each. However when we got them, they were presented in a huge portion that I would have assumed were full-sized. The salads were made up of mixed greens, red cabbage, red onions, diced tomatoes, diced cucumbers, shredded cheese, bacon bits, and homemade croutons. For dressings, I noticed that J. Alexander’s had two vinaigrettes that intrigued me: champagne vinaigrette and cilantro vinaigrette. Since I couldn’t decide, our waitress offered to bring me a ramekin of both to try out.
What surprised me about the salad other than the large portion size was the freshness. There wasn’t a single piece of wilted greens, nor were the tomatoes mushy. Even the croutons seemed homemade with a great buttery seasoning. As for the dressings, I liked both very much and actually used half of each on my salad. The champagne vinaigrette was a mix of earthy herbs and tartness while the cilantro vinaigrette had flavors of cilantro and a slight sweetness with a faint flavor that reminded me of honey mustard.
For my entrée, I ordered the 16 oz. New York Strip steak ($27) which comes with a dollop of maître d’ butter and “Not Your Ordinary” Mac and Cheese. The NYO Mac and Cheese was definitely different, but in a good way. Presented on a side dish with a nice bubbly golden crust made from the cheese sauce and bread crumbs, each bite presented provided a mix of heavy, creamy cheese flavors and textures.
My steak was ordered “medium rare” and it came out cooked perfectly. Accompanying the grill marks was a light dusting of seasoning and a pool of melted butter. Each bite into the steak resulted in a savory and juicy morsel of beef with the perfect amount of seasoning and a nice infusion of smoky flavors from J. Alexander’s wood-fired grill. It was so good in fact; I think I might have found my new favorite sub-$30 steak with a taste that rivals steakhouses that cost $30+.
Last but not least, Haley ordered the “Mr. Jack’s Crispy Chicken Fingers” ($12, appetizer portion) and substituted her fries for a side of sautéed spinach. I was equally impressed with her meal. The chicken tenders were coated in a breading that was not too thick yet still provided a crunchy shell. Tearing it into pieces resulted in deliciously moist white meat chicken. The all-star of her meal however was the sautéed spinach. I love spinach and hers was unlike any I’ve tasted particularly because it was seasoned with lemon juice.
I really have to say that J. Alexander’s has made quite a lasting impression. Ever since my meal there a few weeks ago, I’ve been planning on having another meal there soon. The service and food are impeccable and the price is worth every penny.
1721 Galleria Blvd
Franklin, TN 37064
Bill Total: $67.19 For Two (With Tax)