A new steak­house by sea­soned pros

Jack Jack­son launches an­other win­ning en­try

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - DINING - By Michael Mayo

In a restau­rant world in­creas­ingly filled with chains, clones and fast-ca­sual queues, it is nice to walk into a place that feels grownup, so­phis­ti­cated and dis­tinct. Jack­son’s Prime is such a restau­rant. It is ele­gant with­out be­ing stuffy, pol­ished with­out be­ing pre­ten­tious. Twelve chan­de­liers hang from the ceil­ing, cast­ing a warm and twin­kling glow af­ter dark. Vases with pur­ple or­chids bring a splash of color to ta­bles draped in white linen. The food — clas­sic Amer­i­can steaks and seafood — is straight­for­ward and very good. The bar is lively, the cock­tails are ex­cel­lent and the wine is fairly priced.

I’m not usu­ally one to fall head over heels for an ex­pen­sive steak­house — the top cut here, a suc­cu­lent 20-ounce USDA Prime porter­house, goes for $65 — but the mood of my group af­ter a re­cent meal was pos­i­tively ebul­lient. We walked out feel­ing ful­filled and not fleeced. Given its off­beat lo­ca­tion and hid­den-gem qual­ity, Jack­son’s Prime re­minds me of the orig­i­nal Bistro Mez­za­luna when that restau­rant first opened more than two decades ago. Jack­son’s Prime is stylish and mostly de­li­cious, a place that seems more Man­hat­tan than South Florida store­front. It is a restau­rant that should be pack­ing in Fort Lauderdale’s well-heeled for years to come.

Jack­son’s Prime opened in Au­gust with­out much fan­fare on a quiet Fort Lauderdale side street near Galt Ocean Mile. Vet­eran restau­ra­teur Jack Jack­son wanted it that way. No press re­leases, PR agen­cies or splashy me­dia din­ners. He fig­ured he would build the old-fash­ioned way, by word of mouth, and that the 150-seat restau­rant would hit its stride in time for the annual Fort Lauderdale In­ter­na­tional Boat Show and win­ter sea­son. Also qui­etly, Jack­son hired ac­claimed South Florida chef Johnny Vinczencz to helm the kitchen.

Long­time South Florid­i­ans should know both names. Jack­son is back in the restau­rant game af­ter an eight-year ab­sence. He ran Burt & Jack’s at Port Ever­glades with part­ner Burt Reynolds from 1984 to 2002, and Jack­son’s Steak­house on Las Olas Boule­vard from 1997 to 2009. Vinczencz, a Nor­man van Aken dis­ci­ple once known as the “Caribbean Cow­boy” for his bold fla­vors, was chef-part­ner at Johnnny V on Las Olas Boule­vard from 2004 to 2016 af­ter his star turn at the Ho­tel As­tor in Mi­ami Beach from1996 to 2002.

Jack­son con­verted an Ital­ian restau­rant into Jack­son’s Prime, and when Vinczencz saw the gor­geous open kitchen, fea­tur­ing a $165,000 Euro­pean-style Mon­tague cook­ing suite and $25,000 Ter­raluxe gas-fired pizza oven, he came aboard.

“I think we’ve cre­ated some­thing very spe­cial,” Jack­son says in a fol­lowup in­ter­view af­ter my meal. “I don’t look at it as a come­back be­cause I don’t think I have to come back from any­thing. It’s do­ing more of some­thing I love.”

Any as­tute diner at Jack­son’s Prime should rec­og­nize that old pros are run­ning the show. The place ex­udes mind­ful­ness. The but­ter served with a gen­er­ous bread bas­ket was soft. Our waiter poured wine in rea­son­able amounts so that one bot­tle lasted four peo­ple the en­tire meal. Ex­cel­lent conch chow­der was served with a shaker bot­tle of dry sherry, and the lemons that ac­com­pa­nied the sig­na­ture stuffed baked lob­ster were cov­ered with squeeze nets.

That lob­ster dish ($49) is reprised from the Burt & Jack’s menu, fin­ished to golden crispy

The porter­house steak at Jack­son’s Prime.

The Burt and Jack’s baked stuffed Maine lob­ster.

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