7970 Washington Village Dr.
Dayton, OH 45459
The recent explosion of full service contemporary restaurants has meant a lot of new restaurants are being peppered all over the country. J. Alexander’s has been a pioneer of this idea in the Midwest, with its well-rounded take on casual American fare. This spot has an appeal as a nicer concept where quality versions of the classic American bar fare can be enjoyed. The chain, founded in Nashville in 1971, was an early adopter to the idea that people will pay for quality takes on common food. But the prices here aren’t competitive with what you’ll find elsewhere.
The spot specializes in classic American fare but it never backs down from a chance to experiment with some new dishes. Some of the things on the menu that I tried:
- Steak Burger: A classic American burger topped with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. The delight of the basic burger is its simplicity. The beef speaks for itself, it’s juicy and savory and really doesn’t need a lot of extra stuff to make it really good.
- Steak tacos: Three tacos with seared strips of steak and topped with veggies and cheese. Again, the meat really makes the whole thing pop well; again, quality ingredients really make the difference here.
The concept of the place is great, J. Alexander’s tends to locate itself around commercial centers, likely close to a lot of office buildings. It’s got a dark interior with a nice wood finish on the bar and wait staff that focus on quality.
The real challenge I have with the place, though, is the price. At the end of the day, we’re talking about a chain, and one with an idea that isn’t exclusive to most of the markets where you’ll find it. There are a lot of chains that are essentially jack-of-all-trade kitchens looking to do quality food. So the place would be great, for example, on a business lunch or on a first date. When you’re looking for something safe that everyone will find a thing they like.
But the foodie push for more interesting food in recent years will be a tough nut to crack here. Just about every dish on the menu is served at scores of other restaurants, and in all of them there is a niche or local dive that does the food better. In that way it can be hard not to come off as forgettable. Take that above-average price, and I don’t see much of a reason to come back.
All told, this is an experience that generally seeks not to offend you. Beyond that, I don’t feel like it stands out.
- This spot tends to be located around malls and office districts. The menu is perfect for a first date or a business meeting when you don’t know the other person’s tastes very well and just want a safe meal.
- The steak burger is a good first item to try.
- The prices here are high, a bit too high to stand often.