A new steakhouse by seasoned pros
Jack Jackson launches another winning entry
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.