Restaurant offers classic, classy cuisine
Restaurant Review John Alexander's American Bar and Restaurant 315 Main Ave., Moorhead Cuisine: American Ratings (out of four stars): Food: Three and one half Service: Two and one half Ambiance: Three John Alexander's is an exciting concept in mo...
John Alexander's American Bar and Restaurant
315 Main Ave., Moorhead
Ratings (out of four stars):
Food: Three and one half
Service: Two and one half
John Alexander's is an exciting concept in modern dining. While the elegant and the provincial battle for supremacy in the minds of some diners, this restaurant is about comfort food making peace with haute cuisine.
The combo basket from the appetizer menu ($12) will be your first clue. It's an enormous mountain of deep-fried delights including french fries, onion rings and cheese curds. Though it lacks the paper dinnerware and is a lot fresher, it could be served at a state fair and feel quite at home.
Follow up with a New York City hot dog ($7) or grilled cheese made - unashamedly - with American cheese on white bread ($6), and you could replicate the quintessential American experience of sitting on a white-washed front porch, flag on the upright veranda posts and a dog at your feet.
These are not new takes on traditional American fare, but they are the real thing. And in today's competitive market, a restaurant specializing in classic Americana is refreshing.
The simplicity of these dishes is carried into the evening menu. Down to earth but well conceived, the signature Steak Alexander ($24.50) done rare is a highlight. Meanwhile the pan-fried walleye ($17) makes the evening menu suitably Midwestern. Once again, these aren't eye-popping interpretations but impressive and satisfying dishes that speak to the American palate.
Still not colonial enough for you? For a more reasonable $12.50, the meatloaf is extraordinary. Far from the gray matter one has come to expect, this is fresh-ground, filling-free, sauceless glory.
Is it high cuisine? No more or less than a really great burger. And perhaps this is where John Alexander's will find its niche. It's not about creative interpretations of classics. It's about classics. Some might say it's nothing special, but that's what makes it special. A straightforward burger served in a straightforward space.
The wine list reflects the restaurant's American flavor. Two are worth noting. Frei Brothers is Gallo's attempt to introduce truly regional California flavors into its wine list. And its Cabernet Sauvignon ($32) is as reliable as they come. For those looking for a really surprising white, Sokol Blosser Evolution ($23) is a blend that keeps you wondering what's in your glass. Guess the grapes and the loser buys the second bottle. Meanwhile, the martini list is awfully inviting.
John Alexander's ambience is pleasant with the feel of an uptown, side-street, warehouse bistro. The service is generally good, but more than once its new wait staff would let inexperience show. Having to ask for cutlery or a copy of the wine list can make everyone a little uncomfortable, and it's less forgivable than it once was, given the growing choices for dining in Fargo-Moorhead. Still, the people were friendly and the atmosphere warm.
Fargo-Moorhead has been waiting for a good restaurant that reflects honest American food, and this is it. With a little maturation, this restaurant could grow into one of the most unique and - at the same time - traditional diners in the area. It's well worth a visit when only an American-style bistro meal can satisfy the call of the heartland.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays; closed Mondays
Phone: (218) 287-5802
Reservations accepted: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Dress: As you like
Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. He can be reached at email@example.com