Jeff and I chose to have our "going out" anniversary dinner at J. Alexander's. It isn't new, super fancy, or especially expensive. It is, however, very tasty and not a place we frequent, which made it great as a "special occasion" place.
The atmosphere is a really neat mix of rustic, almost lodge-feeling and trendy/modern. The food can really be defined in the same way. It's very unique and has to be experienced to be fully understood. I can honestly say I have no idea how they do it, but their service is really hard to beat. This particular time we probably saw "our" waitress about half the time someone was at our table. There were lots of different people delivering food, clearing plates, refilling drinks, and generally providing us with fantastic service.
As far as the food is concerned, I can honestly say I have never had anything I didn't like. Actually, I think I can safely say I haven't ever had anything I didn't love! The menu has changed a little over the years, and it has always been for the better. We started this particular dinner with the Mexico City Spinach Queso Dip which was really awesome. It was served with a small cup of their salsa (which is no longer available on its own) which is amazing. They put cucumber in it, which seems odd, but gives it a really good, refreshing quality and makes it perfect for summer. I may have to try putting cucumber in my salsa this summer!
For dinner Jeff got the Rattlesnake Pasta and a house salad with ranch dressing. He's had it before and it's good, but not as spicy as he would like. I tried it and think it's really good. Their house salad is probably one of his favorite restaurant salads anywhere. I got the pork tenderloin and it was absolutely amazing. It was grilled perfectly, sliced beautifully, and topped with a really great but VERY spicy sauce. Once I made sure I wasn't getting a fist-full of red pepper flakes in each bite, I really enjoyed it. It was served with an enormous pile of mashed potatoes. Their mashed potatoes aren't my favorite because I don't like the skins in them, but if that's your thing you are in luck! The flavor is still really fantastic.
The only thing I have never tried is dessert. Nothing has ever grabbed me as a "must try" on their dessert menu, but given the wonderful quality of everything else on their menu, I have no doubt that dessert would be the same. Other things I have tried and really enjoyed include the onion rings, chicken fingers, prime rib sandwich, and the steak and fries. Like I said before, I love it all!
J. Alexander's is a chain. It actually started in Nashville in 1991 and now has 33 locations in 13 states. It's definitely not everywhere, but it's also not specific to a particular geographic area. Although the different restaurants are similar, they are not identical, which is refreshing. The menu is also not identical from location to location. One of my favorite things at the Nashville-West End location was a version of a french dip made with their rotisserie chicken. Sadly, this isn't on the menu at the Birmingham location, but there are plenty of other fabulous things to keep my belly very happy!