The Black Napkin Review
Being a huge fan of Houston's Restaurants, I was disappointed when J Alexander's occupied the Westheimer/Wilcrest location some years back. Even though the current menu has remained reminiscent of the original Houston's menu, over time, they have developed two distinct offerings. J Alexander’s is a national restaurant chain, but only has one location in Houston, Texas. The menu is very American, catering to the taste buds of those who prefer simplistic yet delicious entrees; like their house made salads, juicy burgers, and freshly grilled seafood.
Upon entering, J Alexander's reminds you of a traditional steakhouse. Its dark lighting with majority booth seating lends itself to a truly intimate dining experience. If booths are not your thing, they also have dining tables, but the booths can seat up to four. The kitchen is on display for all to see and the bar is not that far behind. Created in a manner that allows for ultimate socialization, you can dine directly at the bar or take a seat at the surrounding booths. J Alexander's hits the mark in the ambiance category. I have never visited J Alexander's without feeling welcomed. As you enter, you are always greeted with a smiling face and a held door. On your way out, and as the door is opened for you, you are left with a pleasant goodbye. The bartenders are knowledgeable and really seem to enjoy what they do. This holds the same in the dining room where any waiter will assist with your service and questions throughout your meal.
I have been known to visit J Alexander's for dinner just as often as I visit for lunch. Recently, their lunch specials have made their way to a cute "daily specials" rectangular display. Here you will find selections like, fish tacos, gumbo, or a specialty appetizer. Although provided verbally by your waiter, you will find the same during dinner as their options change nightly. Depending on the evening, you will most likely be presented with a "catch of the day" and a "vegetable of the day". You will never go wrong with ordering any of their fresh fish entrees. Always cooked to perfection, they are one of the few places in Houston where you can get Salmon that is not cooked to death! One item that is not on the menu that I will kill for is their house made, buttered croissants! They are a must try and you will become addicted so taste at your own risk! Also, their cheese bread, also not on the menu, is sinfully good and is a great addition to their fresh salads (for lunch or dinner).
I have tried just about everything on this menu, but here are some of my favorites...
For appetizers, you must try the Smoked Salmon. It is fresh, with a hint of spice to give it that extra kick. It is smoked in house and served with toasted bread and a great aioli. If you love salads, J Alexander's will be your new fave. I recommend the Cypress Salad. It has all the ingredients you love in a salad...chopped chicken fingers, tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced avocado, bacon and cheese. The chicken can be ordered battered or rotisserie style and I always exchange the ranch dressing for their honey mustard. I am STILL trying to get the recipe for that one! Any one of the burgers will give you a run for your money and the Steak Maui (their 12 oz marinated ribeye) will surely seal the deal. Another favorite is their BBQ Danish Baby Back Ribs. Yes, they fall off the bone, which is always a sure fire way to make certain you are in for a treat. Oh, and let's not forget the incredible flavor :-). Quite frankly, you can't go wrong with anything on the menu.
With wonderful food and great customer service, I hate to bring up "the bad". Fortunately in this case, "the bad" is a reflection of either the corporate office or the management. With that said, the kitchen and waiters are exempt. Drum roll please!!!
1. Get a menu on your website! I do not understand why I have to use a third party website just to view your menu. This can't be best practice and should be looked down upon in the industry (#imjustsayin'). There have been many times where I have not ordered (for pickup) because I wanted to try something different and could not find a menu. If you are a restaurant, your website should at least provide a listing of your everyday items. OMG!
2. I was very disturbed to find that I could not order food for pick up during certain times of the day. For example, you can't order lunch or dinner during "prime" hours. I understand your food is not made for takeout, but come on! Seriously? I even went in one day to order a single salad from the bar and was told I could not and that I had to wait until 2:00 p.m.! I am at a lost as I was the only person in the bar area. You are turning down customers now?...wow!
Okay, now that I've had the opportunity to get that off my chest, I can get back to the business at hand. Overall, J Alexander's is a great restaurant that does everything well (except for those listed above; hey, is anyone perfect?). If you are looking for a great place to dine where you can enjoy good drinks and an equally good meal, this is the place for you. Honestly...If you love Houston's, you will love J Alexander's. I haven't let the small annoying things keep me from enjoying this place. Fortunately, they are not a reflection of the food or the service. However, I hope they correct these nuances soon! Remember, it’s not just about the food; it’s about the experience. Now go eat something!