Like the rest of his team at J. Alexander’s, General Manager Harry Whitsell was drawn to the company because of their high operating standards. “Our goal is to provide guests with the highest possible quality dining experience,” he said. And indeed, those standards are apparent throughout the restaurant—from its sleek, modern bar to the fine dining room furniture and original art on the walls, to the carefully shelved ingredients in the exhibition kitchen.
The contemporary American restaurant features prime rib, hand cut steaks and fresh, wood-fired seafood. A full-service bar includes a selection of wines by the glass and bottle, plus unique hand-crafted cocktails (bartender Cherry Rodgers’ picks are the barrel-aged Manhattan and the Fleur de Lis – a refreshing blend of grapefruit, vodka and champagne). “We strive to become a part of our local communities. One way we do this is by sourcing products from local purveyors when possible. For example, we currently source our produce from Elmwood Stock Farm,” said Whitsell.
Whitsell pointed out that J. Alexander’s also offers a quick business lunch.
“We pride ourselves on our speed,” he said, “There aren’t many of restaurants where you can have a 10-ounce filet mignon or a 16-ounce New York strip steak in 45 minutes.”
Executive Chef CJ Gabrielson added, “For people who work Monday through Friday, it’s really taking that one-hour lunch and getting the best lunch in the city, if not the state.”
The restaurant is operated by J. Alexander’s Holdings—a collection of boutique restaurants including J. Alexander’s, Redlands Grill, Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill and Lyndhurst Grill. The group operates over forty establishments nationwide, but due to their commitment to perfect service and quality, they describe themselves as “unchained”. “We are not going to put something on the menu just to say we have it,” said Whitsell. “If we’re going to serve something, it’s going to be the best in town.”
Q&A with Manager, Harry Whitsell, and Chef, CJ Gabrielson
What is your hometown?
Harry: Dallas, by way of Houston.
CJ: Columbus, Georgia.
What is one of your favorite ingredients / flavor boosters?
Harry: Coarse Kosher salt and black pepper.
If you were dining out at J. Alexander’s, what would you order?
Harry: NY Strip steak with mac and cheese and a big cabernet!
CJ: Strip steak rare and a bourbon, neat.
Something people would be surprised to know about you?
Harry: I have access to the best North Atlantic Salmon, Ahi Tuna, and hand cut steaks…but I crave fast food all day.
CJ: I enjoy musicals.
Do you pay attention to food trends? What is your favorite and least favorite?
Harry: Not particularly, but quality food from scratch will always prevail.
CJ: I’m glad to see simple, fast vegan food popping up. I have always looked at molecular gastronomy as a sin.
Food-wise, what is your guilty pleasure?
Harry: Any diet I attempt can easily be derailed with ice cream. If it’s Blue Bell from Texas, consider the tub gone!
CJ: French fries.
Any tips for at-home steak chefs?
Harry: Get your grill good and hot before loading your steaks. Cook with the heat, not the flames!
CJ: Choose your meat wisely while in the market and don’t over complicate it.