by Damon Noisette // photo by Agnes Lopez
There are more options for a fine steak in Jacksonville than ever before, with establishments such as III Forks on the Southside and Ruth’s Chris on the river, but one would be remiss if Mandarin mainstay The Tree Steakhouse isn’t on the shortlist.
The Tree is a locally owned, independent steakhouse that has been in business since 1969, opening its San Jose Boulevard location in 1988. It changed ownership, underwent a renovation and menu update in 2015, and in March announced it was bringing on a new executive chef, Byron Harrel. Harrel’s name might be familiar; he got his start at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island many years ago and most recently worked as executive sous chef at One Ocean Resort & Spa’s Azurea Restaurant in Atlantic Beach.
In its newest incarnation, the classic steakhouse atmosphere is still in place, with wood paneling, soft lighting and a brick treatment throughout the restaurant. Gone are the days that ribeye steaks would be carved tableside for diners to choose, which I’m sure was a fun bit of dinner theater. The Tree now serves only USDA Prime beef and the show part of the meal has moved to the large charcoal-fired grill at the front of the restaurant, where entrées are prepared within view of passing guests.
Like many steakhouse menus, entrées are ordered individually and sides are sold a la carte. The overall experience of a night at the Tree for a couple is comparable to an upscale restaurant in both quality and on the bill. The fried Maryland crab cakes ($13) appetizer is actually a single, large crab cake with a healthy amount of lump crabmeat. It’s shareable, as is the grilled Caesar ($9), which can be served chopped and split upon request.
It only makes sense to top the 14-ounce ribeye ($32) with blue cheese butter ($4), though an Oscar ($9) or au Poivre ($6) would also be an excellent choice. For lighter appetites, the mixed grill ($32) is a fantastic option. It’s a four-ounce petite filet with shrimp and scallop skewers lightly covered with a creamy champagne sauce.
The crispy Brussels sprouts ($7) might not stand out on the list of sides but they should. They are prepared in a three-step process, first steamed, pan sautéed, then finished in the broiler and served with savory bacon lardons. The Parmesan herb risotto ($7) and lobster mac & cheese ($11) also complement any entrée selection well.
Getting down a dessert after a ribeye and sides was a bit of a challenge, but the warm chocolate torte ($8) and white chocolate bread pudding ($8) are deserving finishers. The torte would have been a dream with a glass of milk.
Sunday Funday The Tree serves up a Sunday brunch with a prime rib carving station ($32) from 10 AM-2 PM. Brunch also features $5 bloody Marys and champagne cocktails.
Privacy Please Two private rooms are available for events, with special plated dinner banquet menus and buffets ranging from $18-$68.
Hit the Bar The Oak Bar is full-service with signature cocktails, local craft beer and a large wine list, and live music Fridays and Saturdays. Happy Hour is every weekday from 4-7 PM.
The Tree Steakhouse 11362 San Jose Blvd. 262-0006 treesteakhouse.com