The signs still say J Alexanders. But this isn't a J Alex anymore. It's now the Redlands Grill. What is Redlands Grill, you ask? Nobody knows. J Alexanders is well known for their lack of marketing prowess; they don't have menus online, nor do they have functional social media. There is NO MENTION whatsoever of Redlands on their website, nor can I find a press release.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I was surprised that all of the signs still say J Alexanders. Something else that hasn't changed is the outdoor patio, which gets no use during the day. This is one of the few major restaurants that don't have a covered outdoor space.
Redlands Grill Patio
Approaching the building, the first sign of the transition emerged.
Redlands Grill Sign
Inside it's exactly the same. The bar still has the too-high bar that I find very uncomfortable. Still the same TVs as 5 years ago.
Redlands Grill Bar
The place was pretty dead at 2pm, perhaps a reason for choosing this location for the cutover.
Redlands Grill Interior
The have a fantastic iced tea service here; lots of lemon and they bring you another glass when you're about half done. And then another. Nice big lemon wedges also.
The specials are almost always the same, which slight modifications. They don't print up a fancy menu for something that's just a daily special. So the specials aren't really that special.
Redlands Grill (J Alexanders) Specials
No bargains. The prices just keep going up, up, up. It's really quite ridiculous.
All of these places have big open kitchens, although the dining room is very dark. They could use shades over the windows during the day.
Redlands Grill Kitchen
Looking at the menu, I though about a salad but they didn't really have anything I wanted. I used to think that they didn't have a lunch menu, but this IS the lunch menu. The menu we have here is for the lunch portion sizes. Expect largely the same menu with higher prices for dinner. I used to like the prime rib, but it's $28 and they give you a cub cut for lunch; it's totally not worth the price. Something else that bugs me is that they used to have Certified Angus Beef, and then they went to Harris Ranch, and now they're just serving regular choice beef, all while raising prices. So the perceived quality is down, but prices continue to escalate.
I decided on the scottish salmon, and ordered a side of cole slaw. I love the cole slaw here and it pairs well with fish.
No WiFi for customers, and I wasn't getting a good Cell signal. With Verizon right next door; go figure. I asked my server about Redlands, and she explained that it's some harebrained idea of the CEO, or at least that's what they've been told. A different concept with flatbreads and sushi. They're gradually changing the signage and the menu so as not to shock anything. What we have is a company stuck in the 90s who don't understand that re-branding a restaurant is very risky.
Another peeve I have is that with the prices they're charging, there's no bread. So you're just sitting at a big, empty table for 15 minutes.
Redland's Grill Lonely Table
When the salmon was put in front of me I had to hold back my laughter. Are you KIDDING me?
Redlands Lunch Scottish Salmon ($22)
This is what I get for $22? A mini portion of salmon and cole slaw. You get twice this amount at Il Mulino with 2 sides for lunch for like $14.
I'm not sure what the sauce was supposed to be, but it tasted like mayonnaise. A nice dill sauce is better; or maybe even horseradish. In retrospect, I should have asked for horseradish.
Redlands Grill Salmon
The salmon was good, properly cooked, although the crappy salt grinder again came into play. It doesn't do a good job of grinding, so you get big salt crystals which are really no fun to bite into.
I wasn't really full when I left; not a good thing after a $30 lunch.
I used to really like J Alexanders, but the prices keep going up and the portions are insulting for the prices that they charge. Combine that with no bread, no wifi and no usable outside space and I have to wonder why I'd come here again. Service is excellent, but it's not enough. This place makes Capital Grille seem like a bargain.
I'm not sure what the deal is with rebranding the restaurant. I'm assuming that this store doesn't do well enough; I thought they might be doing it to offer more reasonable prices without having to drop them at restaurants that are doing better, but that's obviously not the case.
I think they could be signing their death certificate with this move; with zero marketing and no brand recognition, how many people are going to just wander in and pay $35 for a small choice filet? I think they're probably losing their regulars little by little now, because the place is just too expensive. Houston's is expensive also, but they give you a boatload of food. Here they don't give you enough.
Review of J Alexander's 10/3/14
I had to go to Whole Foods, and just a bit down the road is J Alexanders and I was feeling like some Prime Rib. Lots of people lunching on a Friday, but I've yet to ever see any one dining on the Patio. Nor has anyone ever asked me "Inside or Out". I think that the patio is just for show.
As I've mentioned many times before, the bar here is built for Giants. The bar is just too high, and it's uncomfortable for anyone under 6'3". So I got a table.
Ice Tea comes with big wedges of lemon, and extra is given cheerfully. I'm off Splenda, but they have it.
J Alexanders Iced Tea
Their specials seem to be the same all of the time now, or at least similar. I went for the prime rib. They don't commit to a size and it's $27. I didn't want mashed potatoes, so I sub'ed Cole Slaw.
The music here is mood music, which is fine with me. Weird lighting with bright sun coming in the windows. I can't never get a decent picture in here.
The prime rib is pre-cooked, so it always comes out quickly.
J Alexanders Prime Rib 10/14
They give you "Au Jus" that tastes like bouillon; you have to ask for the horseradish sauce. It's not a great version, but I like it a lot more than the Jus.
J Alexanders Horseradish Sauce
This is a smaller cut than they used to give you; it's the same size, but not as thick. >They did give me quite a load of cole slaw. It's not great slaw but it's edible. I pepper it to make it less sweet.
Surprisingly, the thing that disappointed me the most was the salt. They have these big salt grinders, but it doesn't do a very good job of grinding, no matter how I adjusted it. The result was larger than ideal chunks of salt. I don't really want to chew on salt; it should disappear into the meat.
J Alexander's is a pleasant dining experience. I'm comfortable saying that they have the best service in Fort Lauderdale. Places like Lobster Bar and Capital Grille seems forced. Here they are just a lot of people flying around. At one point a girl was walking by, noticed my almost empty glass, and she turned around and went and got one for me; not even my server.
The place is pricey, and I don't like shrinking portions. For $12 less you get almost as much Prime Rib at J Marks. And that's just too much of a difference to me.
J Alexander's is a go-to lunch spot in Fort Lauderdale; Houston's pulled out of town years ago and J Alex is the closest thing to it. Dark, clubby, good service. I don't like the bar here; and today there were some dudes with backwards baseball caps, so I got a booth inside.
J Alexander's Interior
One negative is that there is no bread, so you're stuck sitting at a table for 15 minutes with your beverage waiting for your food.
J Alexanders Iced Tea
They have a "bistro steak" which sounded like it might be a skirt; but it's a 12oz strip. I ordered a special, which was described as "redfish in a lemon/butter sauce". It's served with quinoa by default (Really?); I subbed it out for broccoli.
Some ladies next to me were having a big day out; bottles of wine, dessert. This is a special occasion venue for the off-Las Olas crowd.
A runner brought out the food.
J Alexanders Redfish Special, sub Broccoli
My initial reaction was "What is this?". For a moment I thought I was in Bonefish grill; another exercise in overreach; the stuff on the broccoli was cheese. The sauce on the fish was incredibly bland; how can lemon butter sauce be bland? This was some bad corporate concoction that saved them 3 cents per dish; luckily I had the extra lemon, but it took me a while to get it to taste like something. "Redfish" is usually some sort of snapper; this was like a grouper. Not a lot of taste, unseasoned. A lot of salt and sauce.
J Alexanders Redfish Special
The broccoli was properly cooked, which is the only good thing I can say.
I usually like J Alexanders, but this dish was a loser.
Once in a while, when you're looking for a sure thing, you can always count on J Alexander's. J Alex is a chain modeled after Houston's; it's as close to a Houston's clone as you'll find. It's a nice, classy place, and the food is consistently above average. It's a few dollars less than Houston's; still a bit pricey, but I never feel cheated here. Like Houston's, they dropped the Certified Angus Beef Program; I guess they found that it's really not worth the extra price.
One thing you need to know is that this place was designed by Giants in Norway or something; the tables and the bar are too high for anyone under 6' tall. I don't like eating at the bar here for that reason; and the service at tables is excellent so I prefer to do that. The dining room has lots of big leather booths and they've never been packed during lunch when I've been here.
J Alexanders Fort Lauderdale Dining Room
Iced tea comes out in succession; as soon as one is finished another appears on the table. Extra lemon is no problem.
J Alexanders Iced Tea
They had more specials than I remember; unfortunately they had Arctic Char and Scottish Salmon which are substantially similar; I could have gone for some whitefish. Another special was Beef Carpaccio; so I decided to get that with a side of the Mac & Cheese.
There's no bread at J Alexanders. They play jazzy music: Bud Shank and Sade and Istalacao Do Samba. The food came out together.
4oz of sliced raw beef, not great or poor quality. It was served with greens that had caramelized onions mixed in. The bread was completely useless; a nice piece of garlic bread would have been nice. Chefs always have to try some fancy useless stuff. I left all of the bread.
The Mac & Cheese is more creamy than cheesy; this was soupier than I've ever had before. It wasn't as good as I remember it. I prefer more cheese and less milk or cream.
J Alexanders Mac & Cheese
My server today wasn't as good as I've had before, but she was efficient nonetheless. Not the best meal I've ever had at J Alexanders; but a comfortable time. They say good-bye as you leave. Very professional.
J Alexander's, one of the oldest and best Houston's rip-off restaurants, has 33 locations nationwide and 7 in Florida. It's a nice restaurant with a clubby feel, with leather upholstered booths and a large bar area. They have a large parking lot and a convenient location on US1.
The bar seating here is uncomfortable for me; the bar seems too high. I've confirmed this with others, so I don't think it's just me, so for eating I prefer a booth.
J Alexanders Fort Lauderdale Bar
Like Houston's but unlike most other chains, J Alexander's is not cheap. Prices lean towards expensive. There is no lunch menu, at least not with lunch portions or prices, and most of the entries are $20+, so unless you're up for a burger or a salad its an expensive lunch. Meat entrees come with 1 side, usually a starch, which you can sub out for a vegetable side but you'll pay extra if you want both.
This place is known for its prime rib; they have a 12oz Prime Rib for $24. They used to have a thick cut; or maybe they have a separate lunch menu now, but there was no thick cut option on the menu this time. J Alexander's doesn't make their menus available, but their menu is about the same as it was the last time I was here over 2 years ago. The menu we have here is about a year old.
Since my last visit, they've moved to the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) program, which is beef that is graded higher than Supermarket and lower than Prime. The last prime rib I had here was Select grade, which is very lean, but also not very good. Unlike J Marks, which advertises CAB but only their strip steak is CAB; all of J Alexander's beef is CAB, including the prime rib. So I decided to order it again, subbing out the mashed potatoes for a special side of Haricot Verts, which are green beans to us common folk.
J Alexanders Prime Rib with Haricot Vert
It's a modest sized cut; normally I'd pay extra for the thick cut and take home a chunk for breakfast, but I ate this entire thing. Once you trim off the fat, it's about 10oz of beef. It was a very good piece of meat; the beans could have been cooked another minute but they weren't raw. I liked that they have grinders for both salt and pepper, but the salt grinder output grains that were too large and I found myself biting into a chunk of salt more than once.
If you're a lighter eater, you could get a prime rib sandwich, which is basically an 8oz prime rib slapped between bread for $18, and discard the bread for a smaller, proportionately priced option.
Service here is very professional; iced teas were delivered before finishing the previous one; I had 3 in all.
Since we don't have a Houston's in Fort Lauderdale, J Alexander's is a formidable alternative. The food and service is much better than the other J restaurant, and while it's not cheap, it's nice enough to consider for a special occasion lunch. If I wasn't dieting, I'd go for the Mac N Cheese here; the kids will love it, and so will you.