Help with Lexington KY and surrounding areas
My family is planning a reunion in Lexington KY towards the end of September. I'd be surprised if there are more than 10 of us present. We'd be interested in a a variety of good eating: from expensive fine dining to cheap (but good) hole-in-the-wall, from international to local cuisine, to KY's version of al fresco.
Mighty obliged beforehand for all'ya'all's help!
Ramsey's has great comfort food. There are a number of great sushi restaurants (my favorite probably Tomo). Decent Indian food in town including CurryHouse (not much for scenery though). Malone's is great for a nice meal in an old restored mansion. Many others to choose from. Try Grotto for local version of al fresco.
A very fine time can be had at Dudley's on S.Mill St in Lexington.
It's an Old South style restaurant with an inviting courtyard and a nicely appointed bar dining area[the main dining room is a bit stuffy for my taste but popular with the blue hair crowd].
I only get to eat in Lexington once a year and Dudley's has never let me down.I order the Bacon Bleu Cheeseburger[medium rare],good quality bacon,Stilton Bleu and tomatoes that grew from the rich Kentucky soil.I strongarm my dining companion[mom and/or dad] into getting one of the Bluegrass's signature dishes:Hot Brown...layers of Turkey,Country Ham,Bacon and Tomatoes in a luscious cream sauce...so I can have a few nibbles,ok a lot of nibbles.The Cobb Salad is a careful execution of the classic and is a hoss portion.Warm bread and cow's butter arrive as you're seated and the bartenders know how to mix a good cocktail.This is happy eating in a lovely,comfortable setting.
Over the last several months, I have searched on chowhound and other boards for local restaurants in Lexington. I’ll list the restaurants below that seem to come up frequently (and add a few notes if I have been there). My two favorites would be Stella’s Kentucky Deli for lunch and Portofino for dinner. After your reunion, please post your experiences…I am still on the hunt for great food in the Bluegrass!
Portofino (www.portofinolexington.com): I have never had a bad meal here, lunch or dinner. Best filet mignon I have had in town (even better than Malone’s in my opinion). Good house salad, service, and a great cheesecake. Their website should have their menu, but at dinner I think we typically spend around $40-50 per person…it’s worth it.
Stella’s Kentucky Deli (www.stellaskentuckydeli.com): I found out about this place on the chowhound boards…it is now my favorite lunch spot in Lexington. Not only does Stella’s have a menu that tastes farm fresh, but the staff remembers you. It’s the kind of personal attention you could imagine in a Mayberry diner. They remember what table you sat at (I sat at the bar my second visit and was offered a seat “at your table in the corner” when it became vacant) and what kind of bread you order with your sandwich (“you like 7-grain, right?”). Aside from the personal attention, the food is lip-smacking good. They make soda from fruit juice, fresh salads from local farms, use organic beef in their hamburgers, and offer homemade desserts. I’d recommend the cranberry soda, the side salad with strawberries and balsamic vinaigrette, and the grilled veg and cheese sandwich (order it without the dijon, it adds a little too much “kick” and detracts from the fresh vegetables) or the chicken salad sandwich. All this will run about $8, before tip. The desserts look tempting, especially the chocolate bourbon brownie, but I am too full by the end of my meal to try one. A few notes: While they do remember you, service can be a bit slow at times depending on who is waiting on your party. Also, if you have a group of 10, you may want to call ahead or go before the lunch rush, as their seating is limited.
Pazzo’s (near UK): My favorite pizza in town. I am not a beer fan, so I can’t personally attest to this, but everyone I know seems to enjoy their on-tap beer selection.
Flag Fork Herb Farm www.flagforkherbfarm.com (859) 252-6837: They serve lunch Wednesday through Saturday. Definitely a “girly” atmosphere, though my husband has been before. I like it; he thought it was overpriced for the quality. I really enjoyed the flavored tea, chicken salad sandwich, and shaker tomato soup. If the girls in your group are having a lunch out, this might be a great stop. The guys probably wouldn’t enjoy it!
Giuseppe’s: I have tried Giuseppe's twice, only because I felt I should give it a second chance since it seems to get rave reviews from other locals. The atmosphere is nice, but the food is pricey for what you get and the quality can be beat elsewhere in town. Salad was average: mixed greens with salad vegetables, the dressing was the best part - the balsamic vinaigrette was excellent. The bread was average, it tasted similar to french baguettes found at any local grocery bakery. The pasta entree I had wasn't anything special. It was not bad, but definitely not on par with other “nice” places in town.
Billy's Bar-B-Q 101 Cochran Road (859) 269-9593: Nice BBQ atmosphere, but both my husband and I found the food to just to be your average BBQ. Not bad, not great. We have no plans to go back.
Joseph-Beth Booksellers www.josephbeth.com (859) 273-2911: They have a café in the bookstore that is hit or miss. I have had some great visits for lunch, coffee, or dessert, but I have also had some visits with slow, absent service, and mediocre food. I’d recommend it for conversation, coffee, or dessert, but I’d probably go elsewhere for a meal.
Ramsey’s: Locals seem to really enjoy Ramsey’s for southern comfort food. They have several locations around town. Not bad, but it’s not something I’d necessarily seek out either. I usually order the barbeque chicken and cream corn.
Jonathan’s at Gratz Park 120 West 2nd Street (859)252-4949: We went here for lunch, okay food, poor service. Even though lunch was nothing special, I have heard it is a nice place for dinner.
Dudley's www.dudleysrestaurant.com 380 South Mill Street (859) 252-1010: Dudley’s has a great atmosphere, consistent food and service. I have been there three times, the food hasn’t “wowed” me any of the times I have been there, but it is good enough to go back.
Tachibana 785 Newtown Court (859) 254-1911: My favorite Japanese restaurant in town, a nice hibachi experience (I recommend the filet). Soup, salad, and fresh vegetables rounded out a great meal. I have heard they have special rates early in the evening.
Alfalfa's 141 East Main Street (859) 253-0014 www.alfalfarestaurant.com: Large lunch portions with average taste. I have heard good things about their Sunday brunch, but I have never been. The fruit cup is extremely small: 3 thin apple slices, 1 kiwi slice, 3 grapes, 1 banana bite, and 1 orange slice. When I say slice, I don’t mean a wedge…I mean a true sliver/slice that one might use for garnish. It would be better named a “taste of fruit” cup. That said, the dessert was above average and I would highly recommend the raspberry chocolate mousse cheesecake.
Natasha's Cafe www.beetnik.com (859)259-2754: I have enjoyed their lunch buffet on several occasions. Nothing extraordinary, but a good, quick, downtown meal.
Murrays’ and Merrick Inn (www.murrays-merrick.com): A bit more upscale, both Murrays’ and Merrick Inn are owned by the same family. We found a better experience at Murray’s, but both are nice places for a special dinner. Murray’s has great sauces; we especially enjoy the house-made steak sauce (great on anything).
Woodland Grill (www.woodlandgrill.com): Clean, nice atmosphere. I ordered the vegetable plate for lunch, but it was brought out in courses instead of one plate (small green salad, then soup, then smoked cheddar mac and cheese, then broccoli). Service was poor, no bread or crackers with soup, though the table next to me had a bread “basket” (it looked more like a silver bread vase with nice presentation). Someone dropped off my food, but left before I could point out that I didn’t have any silverware. The waitress was no where to be found and never stopped by to refill my drink or see if I needed anything; so it took a bit to flag someone else down so that I could eat my meal. Based on the table next to me, I think they had a completely different experience with their waitress. My meal was decent (not bad, not great), though I’d pass on the tomato-basil soup in the future.
Holly Hill Inn (Midway, near Lexington) www.hollyhillinn.com (859) 846-4732: After reading so many glowing reviews, we made a visit to the Holly Hill Inn for Mother’s Day brunch and sadly we were all disappointed. That said, the drive to Holly Hill Inn and the atmosphere are fabulous; the restaurant is in a historic home that has been wonderfully maintained. We found the food to be very average. Three of us had the crab and jalsburg cheese omelet and one had the Kentucky Scramble. Presentation was absent (my dad's Kentucky Scramble looked like one large spoonful of eggs next to three lone sausages, with no garnish or anything). The sides, other than the potatoes, were very mediocre. The "tomato salad” tasted like tomatoes out of a can with some parmesan cheese on top (my mom’s description). Dessert, a cream cake, was dry. I didn’t take a second bite, and I normally love desserts! The service also was a huge disappointment. Our table was not ready until 15-20 minutes after our reservation time (and it was empty the entire time, just not ready/set). After we received our meal, my husband asked for salt and pepper. Shortly after our waiter brought him a set, another waitress (not ours) asked him if she could “borrow” his pepper. She proceeded to take the pepper to the table next to ours and said to a gentleman, “Sir, here is your pepper.” She never returned it to my husband or came back with another pepper. Very strange! I repeatedly apologized to everyone in our party; the meal was such a disappointment on a special occasion. The food was way below average for the reputation and price. With such a beautiful setting and glowing reviews, maybe we just caught them on a really bad day. Given our visit, I doubt I could convince anyone in my family to give it another try. I'd love to know if anyone else found brunch to be average and later went for lunch or dinner and had a completely different experience.
Other places I have read about but haven’t yet tried: Greentree Tea Room, Spaulding Bakery (known for their donuts), Metropol, Bistro at 147, Annabelle's, a la lucie's, Atomic Café, Grotto, Bellini’s, and Le Toulouse French bistro.
I hope you have a great reunion!
I find it interesting you had a bad experience at Holly Hill Inn. We visit every time we are in the area and have never had any thing but wonderful food and excellent service. Of course Mothers' Day Brunch every thing goes out the window (years of restaurant experience allows me to know that)
We were very disappointed w/ Black Tulip. The food was good but overly salty--to the point where every one at the table commented about it so it was not just my meal. They have a very good wine list but that does not matter when the restaurant is out of half the items listed (& on a Friday night at that). I finally asked the waiter what they had IN stock to keep him fr/ running back and forth to ask as he did for the first twenty minutes we were there.
Lan4Dawg, Thanks for the info on Black Tulip and good to know that maybe we just caught Holly Hill Inn on a bad day.
HickTownBarnaby, we just returned from lunch at Heirloom in Midway...I can see why you like it! One of the best restaurant burgers I have ever had (definitely a homemade, backyard grill taste) with white cheddar, bacon, and fresh tomato. Fries and peppered chips were both tasty, and the dessert was the perfect end to a great lunch (homemade apple crisp). Thanks for the recommendation!
KY ex-pat here.. but I go back 3 or 4 times a year for weeks at a time to visit family - which are all still there.. of course. Family lives in Versailles, so we tend to go out to Midway a lot, as well, I work in the culinary machine and tend to desire to go out to eat more often...
Agreed on Black Tulip, tho, you MUST try Heirloom. I think, hands down, the best "higher" dining experience in the new-ol' town of Midway (where in the hell did this revitalization come from?) and even Lexington.
Also think experience at Holly Hill was odd - usually food and service exceeds expectations. HOWEVER, have you tried the deli that is associated with Holly Hill just down Old Pisgah Pike towards Lexington from Midway - Wallace Station? You must. Best sandwiches in the region. All nestled in lovely horse country, can't beat that for scenery.
Having lived in Lexington fro 20 years - I could go on about the food, but I am more enamored with Midway right now, anyways.
Other notables would be Stanly Js, Tolly Ho, Metropol, Afalfa's, Ramsey's, Jozos, Bourbon&Toulouse, and really - that might be it. I don't really find myself craving much food from the area - save for a hot brown from Ramsey's, a Ho burger, anything from Jozo's, the pimento cheese spread from Stanley Js, or.. well, an Ale-8-One?