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The chain capital of the world just keeps getting richer, doesn't it? In recent weeks, our privileged little hamlet has seen a string of chain restaurants, particularly of the swank-and-swagger variety, open their doors to diners with prosaic palates and bulging wallets. J. Alexander's, a Nashville-based chain, is one such restaurant, and along with the newly opened Ocean Prime (another upscale chain) anchors the Rialto, a 350,000-square-foot mixed-use development complex on the corner of Turkey Lake and Sand Lake roads. If you've dined at places like the Village Tavern, Houston's or Stonewood Grill, you'll be familiar with what J. Alexander's has to tender ' a consistent offering of quality fare dished up in comfortably modern environs. In fact, the décor is a notch above the others; not only does its minimalist, polished cherrywood interior fuse nicely with the hushed lighting, it also ties into the restaurant's credo of simplicity, that being a vow to serve 'straightforward American food.â?�

Sides feature prominently on their menu, and one can make a meal from small plates alone, as a group of friends and I did on one occasion. Glistening wedges of comforting iron-skillet cornbread ($4) will have you coming back for more. 'Not-your-ordinaryâ?� mac and cheese ($4), with gruyère and bacon, lives up to its name, as do the 'colossalâ?� buttermilk onion rings ($7) resembling deep-fried gaskets from an aircraft engine. Salads here are more than just an afterthought. I enjoyed Alex's salad ($9), a simple yet stimulating assemblage of field greens, grape tomatoes, cukes, cheese, bacon and croutons draped with an invigorating cilantro vinaigrette. Bursts of blue cheese in the Palm Beach salad ($10) were balanced out by a house-made basil vinaigrette, but if you're talking about 'straightforwardâ?� and 'American,â?� the old-fashioned cheeseburger ($10) with Tillamook cheddar best exemplifies the restaurant's motto. If you opt for the roti chicken dip ($12), don't expect any Indian flatbread. The 'rotiâ?� here refers to pulled rotisserie chicken stuffed in a baguette and served with a dunk-worthy chicken jus.

Mains place the focus on steak and seafood, and on this particular evening, the two specials proved irresistible. The peppery rub of the perfectly grilled Cajun grouper ($26) made it a little easier to digest the price tag, as did an attractive heaping of Israeli couscous (minuscule pasta orbs, not grains of semolina). Filet kebabs ($25) featured a fleshy foursome of melt-in-your-mouth morsels glazed in a Maui marinade of pineapple, garlic, brown sugar and soy. Jasmine rice and a variety of thick-cut veggies rounded out the meat-lover's feast.

The sugary finales won't astound you, but won't disappoint you either. The circle of hot fudge surrounding a scoop of vanilla ice cream was just eye candy compared to the enormous wedge of chocolate cake ($7), served warm with a molten chocolate center. A mascarpone cheese finish made mush of the crème brûlée's ($7) custardy filling, while carrot cake ($6) was a slice, rather than a slab, of life.

Service can't exactly be described as 'straightforwardâ?� when a cadre of white-shirted waiters serve, pick up, clean, refill and tend to your table. It's pretty clear that customer service is of the utmost importance here, though the wait staff's coordinated performance, while impressive, can be distracting at times.

J. Alexander's doesn't wholly segregate itself from the stigma associated with corporate eateries, but that doesn't warrant a negation of their efforts in the front and back of the house. What they do, they do well. Here in the city of chains, that's enough to set them apart from the rest.

It's a great temptation to spend too-much time describing the fun of J.B.'s Fish Camp or the pleasure of eating fresh seafood along the Indian River with boats docking and pelicans flying overhead. This is not exactly the type of place to reel in hordes of yuppies. This is a real fish camp, where you can buy bait and tackle. Look elsewhere for architectural monuments or fancy atmosphere.

The restaurant itself is simply a medium-sized wood shack with a tin roof. You park your car on a dirt road that may have a few hungry dogs hanging around. When you get inside J.B.'s, it gets a little spiffier; Tiffany-ish lamps hang from the ceiling -- but they're actually beer ads.

The restaurant itself is simply a medium-sized wood shack with a tin roof. You park your car on a dirt road that may have a few hungry dogs hanging around. When you get inside J.B.'s, it gets a little spiffier; Tiffany-ish lamps hang from the ceiling -- but they're actually beer ads.

Apparently the place is not too friendly to kids. A sign warns that "unattended children will be used as crab bait." Not likely, because you don't generally see a lot of children around J.B.'s. What you do see is a lot of locals and bikers and others who are fishing for fresh seafood, well-prepared and well-served.

Apparently the place is not too friendly to kids. A sign warns that "unattended children will be used as crab bait." Not likely, because you don't generally see a lot of children around J.B.'s. What you do see is a lot of locals and bikers and others who are fishing for fresh seafood, well-prepared and well-served.

On several visits, the lightly breaded crabcake sandwich ($5.25) has never disappointed me. The apparently home-made tartar sauce in large bottles is subtle enough not to overwhelm the tender crabmeat.

On several visits, the lightly breaded crabcake sandwich ($5.25) has never disappointed me. The apparently home-made tartar sauce in large bottles is subtle enough not to overwhelm the tender crabmeat.

One evening for dinner, I tried the pompano fillet ($14.95) which was a fine piece of perfectly grilled fish. Corn on the cob was not available, but sweet corn served as a side dish was fine, if not very unusual. The rice came with red peppers that gave it just the right sort of peppery taste. And the crunchy, slightly sweet hush puppies were among the best I've ever had.

One evening for dinner, I tried the pompano fillet ($14.95) which was a fine piece of perfectly grilled fish. Corn on the cob was not available, but sweet corn served as a side dish was fine, if not very unusual. The rice came with red peppers that gave it just the right sort of peppery taste. And the crunchy, slightly sweet hush puppies were among the best I've ever had.

One time, to test the waters you might say, I decided to try one of J.B.'s two steak offerings. The 8-ounce sirloin ($8.95) was a perfectly good piece of lean, juicy meat, well-cooked as ordered.

One time, to test the waters you might say, I decided to try one of J.B.'s two steak offerings. The 8-ounce sirloin ($8.95) was a perfectly good piece of lean, juicy meat, well-cooked as ordered.

The only criticism I had that night was that the "Cajun onion strings" ($2.50 as a side-order) were limp, flabby and unappetizing.

The only criticism I had that night was that the "Cajun onion strings" ($2.50 as a side-order) were limp, flabby and unappetizing.

The only dessert offered is Key lime pie ($3). This home-made pie was a pale yellow, had a great crust and wasn't sickeningly sweet.

The only dessert offered is Key lime pie ($3). This home-made pie was a pale yellow, had a great crust and wasn't sickeningly sweet.

Service here has always been brisk and efficient. Good Canadian Molson beer is on draft ($1.60 a glass or $6.50 a pitcher).

Service here has always been brisk and efficient. Good Canadian Molson beer is on draft ($1.60 a glass or $6.50 a pitcher).

Cold beer and simply prepared fish, briskly served in a fun atmosphere -- some may prefer something fancier and it's admittedly not to everyone's taste, but it's enough for me to take the bait anytime.

One of my favorite manhattan restaurants is Sardi's where celebrity caricatures on the walls are fun to study, and the food is good, too. On a recent visit to Jack's Place in the Clarion Plaza Hotel on International Drive, I discovered an establishment with a remarkably similar ambience.

Soft light from wrought-iron chandeliers enhance dark woods, marble room dividers and shadowy archways. Tables are draped with linen and feature brass oil lamps.

Soft light from wrought-iron chandeliers enhance dark woods, marble room dividers and shadowy archways. Tables are draped with linen and feature brass oil lamps.

Upon our arrival for dinner, we were promptly seated in a cozy corner surrounded by sketches of world-class luminaries, many of whom autographed the works. The art was created by Jack Rosen during his 30-year tenure with the Waldorf Astoria and is believed to be the largest collection of its kind. (Jack's son, Harris, owns the Clarion.)

Upon our arrival for dinner, we were promptly seated in a cozy corner surrounded by sketches of world-class luminaries, many of whom autographed the works. The art was created by Jack Rosen during his 30-year tenure with the Waldorf Astoria and is believed to be the largest collection of its kind. (Jack's son, Harris, owns the Clarion.)

Entrees range from steak and seafood to pasta and chicken. All come with baked potato, vegetable and a basket of garlic French bread, with whipped butter and "Texas caviar" -- a novel accoutrement of cold (and undercooked) black-eyed peas, cilantro, onion and bell peppers in a mild vinaigrette. Although the mixture was refreshing, we found it impossible to keep the concoction on the bread.

Entrees range from steak and seafood to pasta and chicken. All come with baked potato, vegetable and a basket of garlic French bread, with whipped butter and "Texas caviar" -- a novel accoutrement of cold (and undercooked) black-eyed peas, cilantro, onion and bell peppers in a mild vinaigrette. Although the mixture was refreshing, we found it impossible to keep the concoction on the bread.

The escargot ($6.95) ordered by my guest was served with angel-hair pasta and a delicious roasted-red pepper sauce.

The escargot ($6.95) ordered by my guest was served with angel-hair pasta and a delicious roasted-red pepper sauce.

I found the house salad ($2.95) of mixed greens to be nice and fresh; the lovely presentation included diced tomatoes and cucumbers, plus a nest of bean sprouts. The creamy peppercorn house dressing, however, was pretty bland.

I found the house salad ($2.95) of mixed greens to be nice and fresh; the lovely presentation included diced tomatoes and cucumbers, plus a nest of bean sprouts. The creamy peppercorn house dressing, however, was pretty bland.

The 10-ounce filet mignon ($18.95) that my guest chose was an excellent cut, perfectly prepared. It was delicately topped with a pat of seasoned butter (we suspected rosemary).

The 10-ounce filet mignon ($18.95) that my guest chose was an excellent cut, perfectly prepared. It was delicately topped with a pat of seasoned butter (we suspected rosemary).

My grilled yellowfin tuna ($14.95) was fresh, though disappointingly overcooked. The generous portion was crowned with an adequate béarnaise sauce, which helped mask the fillet's dryness.

My grilled yellowfin tuna ($14.95) was fresh, though disappointingly overcooked. The generous portion was crowned with an adequate béarnaise sauce, which helped mask the fillet's dryness.

Large baked potatoes came wrapped in gold foil, along with a lazy Susan bearing scallions, fresh bacon bits and shredded cheddar cheese. Sour cream and butter were included. Generous squares of corn soufflé were flavorful, light and airy.

Large baked potatoes came wrapped in gold foil, along with a lazy Susan bearing scallions, fresh bacon bits and shredded cheddar cheese. Sour cream and butter were included. Generous squares of corn soufflé were flavorful, light and airy.

The server promoted Jack's fried ice cream ($4.25) for dessert. A fried pastry jacket hid a relatively small scoop of ice cream that was just enough to share. Sprinkled with confectioner's sugar and cinnamon, the dish was complemented by sliced strawberries and plenty of whipped cream.

The server promoted Jack's fried ice cream ($4.25) for dessert. A fried pastry jacket hid a relatively small scoop of ice cream that was just enough to share. Sprinkled with confectioner's sugar and cinnamon, the dish was complemented by sliced strawberries and plenty of whipped cream.

Be forewarned that an 18 percent gratuity is included in the bill rather than allowing diners the right to tip in direct correlation to the service rendered. But, all in all, it was a pleasant evening that was worth the expense.

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