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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.

    You can quibble and kvetch all you want about how Jason's isn't a real deli ' where's the matzo ball soup, you'll ask? The nova lox? Fair enough. I'll cede that this chain based out of Beaumont, Texas, doesn't conform to Delancey Street standards, but it's pretty much unrivaled on Colonial Drive. In fact, not since the days when Schlotzky's occupied a small space across from the Fashion Square Mall has there been a deli worth visiting in the area.

    And no matter what time you go, you're sure to witness some sweaty gym-rat spillage from the L.A. Fitness next door. But you can't blame them, considering Jason's guarantee of a trans fat'free dining experience, highlighted by a section of the menu devoted to 'healthy heart slimwichesâ?� ' wraps and sandwiches low in calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium. A decent salad bar ($6.59), properly attended to and always stocked with fresh vegetables, is another popular option for the health- conscious, not that the rest of the menu, with its paninis, wraps, salads, soups, po'boys, traditional sandwiches and muffulettas, is an artery-clogging affair. Muffulettas, by the way, are waggishly referred to as 'muffâ?� sandwiches, and those of you with enough gumption to order the 'whole muffâ?� ($10.99) with a straight face will be rewarded with an enormous 9-inch muffuletta filled with layers of provolone, olive mix and your choice of ham, salami or oven-roasted turkey (half- and quarter-muff sandwiches are also offered).

    I opted for the slightly less obscene-sounding Reuben the Great ($7.29). The corned beef wasn't hot, as advertised, but it was warm and piled high on Swiss-laid, doughy rye. What I really liked was that the sauerkraut was still crunchy and not overly sharp, likely because of a shorter fermentation cycle. My only complaint, and it's a small one, is that the soft bread ultimately succumbed to the beefiness and tore. The cup of chili-thick vegetable soup ($2.59) felt particularly comforting on this rainy evening with its heart-healthy broth of plump lima beans, corn and carrot wedges. The Sergeant Pepper po'boy ($6.59), a Texas take on the French dip sandwich layered with thin slices of roast beef, sauteed onions, bell peppers and a provolone smother, had a surprising kick, and a dunk in the jus made it all the more mouthwatering. Again, the only complaint was the texture of the bread; it could've used a bit more toasting. The barbecue brisket sandwich ($6.99), one of their daily specials, wasn't anywhere near as enjoyable as the others, primarily because of the overwhelmingly sweet sauce. Of course, you're free to custom-build your own sandwich from the assortment of meats, breads, fillers and dressings available.

    The gargantuan baked potatoes seem like byproducts of a nuclear accident, but the secret of their girth, I later found out, is the fusion of two large spuds to create an Atkins nightmare. Potatoes are baked for an hour, then microwaved when your order is placed. The spud au broc ($5.79), a meal in itself, is loaded with broccoli heads, green onions, bacon and gooey cheddar, though a petite half-size is available for $1 less.

    The sizable dining space is accoutred with ceiling fans and photographs of European cityscapes (which I thought slightly odd), and is designed to handle large numbers of patrons. Their system ' place your order, take a number, have a seat and wait for your food to be brought out ' isn't without its flaws. My strawberry shortcake ($2.99) failed to materialize, so I had to retrieve it myself from the counter. And I'm glad I did. The two layers of cake filled with cream, flavored with vanilla and topped with strawberry slices was a light and not-too-sweet capper.

    But there's no harm in saving your cash and settling for a cup or two of complimentary low-fat ice cream. Like most of the offerings here, it's a suitable antidote to guilty consciences.

    Maitland-area lounge attracts gastronomes and jazzmongers alike with an interesting selection of well-executed small plates and live music nightly Tuesday through Sunday. The pan-seared scallops on chorizo-plantain fritters and the panko-crusted chicken & waffles make jazzy scatting bearable. Tournedos of beef are worth consideration, but if pairing with a cabernet, be wary of the wine-list markup. To end: bourbon-pecan bread pudding, no question.

    When you want to soak up the flavor of Key West -- the last link in the archipelago that reaches from south Miami to the open seas -- but don't want to travel, a visit to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville might satisfy at least the drink-and-be-merry craving. Some tricky navigation is necessary, though, to find the way through the maze of parking garages and electronic people-movers at Universal Studios Escape. Just when you're ready to give up, you arrive in the heart of glitzy CityWalk, where the Jimmy Buffet-inspired party house fits right in.

    For another paradigm shift, step inside the re-created Margaritaville, which is steeped in the icons of Key West. If you could accuse this restaurant of any one thing, it would be the cartoonish, commercialization of the romanticized hideaway Buffet paid homage to in his '70s song. Witness the margarita volcano that erupts over the bar periodically and the well-stocked gift shop. The sherbet shades of gingerbread houses are perfectly refabricated here, minus the morning-after stench of Duval Street and the stray pop-tops underfoot. Safe, clean and wholesome, it's certainly not the real Key West, but then we went there for the food.

    For another paradigm shift, step inside the re-created Margaritaville, which is steeped in the icons of Key West. If you could accuse this restaurant of any one thing, it would be the cartoonish, commercialization of the romanticized hideaway Buffet paid homage to in his '70s song. Witness the margarita volcano that erupts over the bar periodically and the well-stocked gift shop. The sherbet shades of gingerbread houses are perfectly refabricated here, minus the morning-after stench of Duval Street and the stray pop-tops underfoot. Safe, clean and wholesome, it's certainly not the real Key West, but then we went there for the food.

    On a previous visit, the conch fritters ($6.45) were in top form: sizzling, sweet, meaty and blissfully free of chewy, unidentified objects. This time, they were a disappointment -- overly battered and weak on the conch. Fortunately, the "pink crustaceans" crab cakes ($16.95) were loaded with blue crabmeat, pan-sautéed with spices, fresh mixed vegetables and potatoes to perfection.

    On a previous visit, the conch fritters ($6.45) were in top form: sizzling, sweet, meaty and blissfully free of chewy, unidentified objects. This time, they were a disappointment -- overly battered and weak on the conch. Fortunately, the "pink crustaceans" crab cakes ($16.95) were loaded with blue crabmeat, pan-sautéed with spices, fresh mixed vegetables and potatoes to perfection.

    While my guest loved "Jimmy's jammin' jambalaya" ($12.95), I thought the spices were far too tame. Still, there were generous amounts of shrimp, chicken, andouille sausage and Cajun rice.

    While my guest loved "Jimmy's jammin' jambalaya" ($12.95), I thought the spices were far too tame. Still, there were generous amounts of shrimp, chicken, andouille sausage and Cajun rice.

    When dessert arrived, my guest was skeptical. True Key lime pie ($4.95) should never be weighed down with a cream-based preparation, she said, as was the case here -- it makes it too heavy and oily. This version was prepared with a 100-year-old lime-juice recipe from the famed Joe & Nellie's factory in Key West, and it was properly tart and tangy without too much of the pucker factor. It sported a fluffy meringue and crisp graham-cracker crust, but I had to admit it didn't pass the ultimate dessert test, which is to say, I probably would not order it next time.

    When dessert arrived, my guest was skeptical. True Key lime pie ($4.95) should never be weighed down with a cream-based preparation, she said, as was the case here -- it makes it too heavy and oily. This version was prepared with a 100-year-old lime-juice recipe from the famed Joe & Nellie's factory in Key West, and it was properly tart and tangy without too much of the pucker factor. It sported a fluffy meringue and crisp graham-cracker crust, but I had to admit it didn't pass the ultimate dessert test, which is to say, I probably would not order it next time.

    Our waiter was knowledgeable about the menu, and he had a casual, friendly efficiency without interfering. In the end, our trip to the theme-park Margaritaville was all flash with just a little substance. It was noisy. It was crowded. The food was OK. But there was an ocean of margarita varieties. What more could a Parrothead want?

    Sometimes it seems like beef lovers might end up with smokers and cell phone users -- out on the sidewalk (the cell phone part is wishful thinking). But there is at least one place where the burger connoisseur can indulge without fear of vegan reprisal.

    Johnny's Fillin' Station (2631 S. Fern Creek Ave., 407-894-6900) has been serving beer, burgers and baseball for over a decade. And those who throw oaths at such things swear by the half-pound bombers that come off Johnny's grill. Everything from patties plain and bacon-laden, to those served on Texas toast or grilled rye bread, to "The Roy," complete with sour cream, jalapeños and cheese, is on the menu.

    Johnny's Fillin' Station (2631 S. Fern Creek Ave., 407-894-6900) has been serving beer, burgers and baseball for over a decade. And those who throw oaths at such things swear by the half-pound bombers that come off Johnny's grill. Everything from patties plain and bacon-laden, to those served on Texas toast or grilled rye bread, to "The Roy," complete with sour cream, jalapeños and cheese, is on the menu.

    The odd few customers not accustomed to beef on a roll can order the Philly-cheesesteak-like "Station chicken," salads or nachos. But eight beers on tap should keep everyone happy.

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