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"Baby on Board" Restaurant Review: J. Alexander's

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 15, 2007 2:30PM

2007_03_ja1.jpgThis Friday night (parents, remember those?), with your cranky kid in tow, will you waste the evening pining over the date nights you wish you still had, or just go out anyway, dammit? When you opt for the latter, run to J. Alexander’s. This place is scrumptious food and considerate service in a chain restaurant’s clothing. Our family had a leisurely two-course meal in 40 minutes flat. We were home before our kid even began to whimper.

At 5:30 p.m. (aka "family happy hour") the dimly lit restaurant is packed. If you look closely, there are kids everywhere; with the restaurant buzz and the big, cushy booths sucking in sound, you can barely hear them. We were seated close to the front and not hidden in the back, a metaphor for how well J. Alexander’s treats families with small kids. We don’t just have a waiter, we have a wait staff: no fewer than four people took care of our table over the course of the night. Empty plates are taken away before our kid can swat them off the table, and the check appears instantly. Our glass was always full, nearly running over.

2007_03_ja2.jpgOur main waiter, nonplussed at our son chewing on the massive menu, quipped that the food actually tastes better than the paper it’s printed on. He was right. We ordered a piquant Caesar salad ($5), fresh and authentic down to a whiff of anchovies in the dressing. We paired this with a grilled salmon sandwich and macaroni and cheese ($14). The salmon, grill-seasoned and flavorful without being fishy, was inhaled. The macaroni and cheese put the boxed type to shame. The cheese, rich and smoky, nestled the pasta and bacon crumbled under a bread crumb crust.

What’s better than a restaurant that serves good food quickly? How about a bathroom that houses the Cadillac of changing tables? Chromed and sleek, you almost convince yourself that diaper duty is classy. Parents of Chicago: take back your Friday nights! When you do, head out to J. Alexander’s. Located at 1832 N. Clybourn Ave., 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. - 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Thanks, Elizabeth.