Restaurants & Bars


Not my list of recommendations for Lexington, KY (LONG)


Restaurants & Bars 4

Not my list of recommendations for Lexington, KY (LONG)

Chris VR | Dec 2, 2004 08:57 PM

My in-laws are relocating to Lexington, KY. I went through the past year or so of posts on Lexington, and pulled together the following list of recommendations (Sorry for any inadvertent manglingin editing the list together). Any comments, suggestions, updates, other places to add? They're not fancy eaters- Dad-in-law likes meat, plain, no sauce (although BBQ is allowed). We'll be visiting them fairly often and we're more adventurous, so all types of suggestions are welcomed. Thanks for your help, hounds!


There are quite a few nice ethnic places near the university. India Palace on Limestone is very good. Natasha's Cafe on Esplanade, downtown, is great. very eclectic. Rincon de Mexicano in Chevy Chase is about as authentic as I've seen anywhere.


Ramsey's at Woodland and Maxwell is a good place for a home-cooked meal, and the pies (from Missy's, next door) can't be beat. There are other Ramsey's locations around town, but this is the original and the best.

(JE Allread)

348 Southland Dr., Lexington
I feel like I need to put in a word for this place after the best lunch I've had in a long time: grilled smoked sausage over fried cabbage. I've become a regular and really like:
1. The friendly service.
2. Salads that are prepared with a variety of fresh greens.
3. Homemade salad dressings.
4. CIA trained chef/owners that visit with the customers.
5. Great hot wings.
6. Excellent value.
Not much in the way of ambiance, but a good place to stop for high quality, unpretentious food. Draws a big crowd for soccer matches on TV.

>Specialty Grocer
Does Wild Oats market qualify? Liquor Barn (Harrodsburg Rd.) has a nice selection.
The correct answer is Jungle Jim's north of Cincinnati.
Critchfield's Meats, Zandale shopping center
>Cheese Shop
No superb cheese shop. Liquor Barn has a good selection, although much is shrink wrapped.
I've never purchased cheese at Zuni Cafe/ Le Matin Bakery, but it looks good and the Gallic owner knows what he's doing with the pasteries.
The Mousetrap in Lansdowne shops supposedly has good cheese.
>Wine Shop
I don't buy too much wine, but...
Le Matin has a wine store in Chevy Chase. Good shops in nearby Nicholasville and Midway. And the aforementioned Liquor Barn (better selection on Richmond Rd., I think)
>Italian food
I've heard mixed reviews of Bellini's on Main St.
>French Bistro
Le Deauville on Limestone can be heavenly (or not so much, according to some.) Looks the part.
Brand new "Le Tolouse." Just opened.
Joe Bologna's is the local favorite. Good sausage.
This is a doughnut town. Offer to send doughnuts from Spalding's in return for bialys from NYC.
Also, check out Wallace Station deli on Old Frankfort (owned by proprietors of Holly Hill Inn in Midway.)

The Spalding's donuts are the best, if they are closed, a good plan B is McGee's Bakery on Main St.
Wheeler Pharmacy at 338 Romany Rd. has a full lunch counter for breakfast. The food isn't outstanding, but the prices and ambiance are. A flashback from 1960.
I'm a big fan of Ed and Fred's Desert Moon. Eclectic fare.


BBQ: Billy's has been there for a lot of years and was as close to w. Ky style as available.
Capitol barbecue, in Frankfort,has a pretty good pitmaster.

Columbia Steakhouse has been a locals' hangout for over 40 years.


I have been to Columbia Steakhouse twice & the first time was bad and the second time was awful. The service was abysmal in both cases & the food was mediocre (Longhorn's is actually better) and that is being kind.

(Elisa Hirth)

I used to like going to Hall's on the River down in Winchester (south of Lex on 75) for a nice change of pace. There is a nice dining deck out on the riverfront. Their beer cheese appetizer is pretty good too.


We got into town on Friday a lot later than we anticipated, and had had a late lunch, so we ended up going to Annabelle's for some drinks, appetizers, and dessert. We had the caprese salad (tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil w/ balsamic reduction), surf and turf quesadilla with some sort of aioli on the side, and the Kentucky egg rolls. All were really quite good -- the egg rolls probably a little more basic than you'd anticipate from something called "Kentucky egg rolls"! One friend was more hungry than the rest of us and had the steak, which he said was perfectly cooked, mashed potatoes and asparagus, which were somewhat underseasoned according to our culinary school graduate. All had gone well until dessert . . . hubby and I ordered a slice of pound cake with some sort of sauce (have forgotten the specific fruits/flavorings involved). The cake was very dry and the "sauce" had pretty much crystallized on the cake. Seemed like it had been sitting around on a plate all night. Not a happy note to end on. The service was good, though, as was the ambience -- love the giant red lampshades and the cool circular booth in the front of the restaurant.
Saturday night we went to the Holly Hill Inn for dinner. Here's a link to April's menu if you're interested:
Among our group of seven, we managed to try everything except for the rabbit, which my mom's friend at another table had and said was great. Most everything was wonderful, although most of our group who ordered the salad were underwhelmed. Some highlights: the crab cake with a salad of cucumber, jalapeno and sweet & sour vinaigrette (so refreshing to get such a fresh, light accompaniment to a crab cake instead of something mayo-based), the chowder of scallops, leeks and wild celery (light and velvety), the homemade noodles and sauce that came with the veal (couldn't stop eating them, much to Dr. Atkin's chagrin), and the chocolate bourbon pecan torte (so simple, yet so good). I also added the $20 wine flight, which matched wines to the soup/salad, entree and dessert courses. Unfortunately didn't write down the names, but all were very nice wines. Service was great -- helpful and friendly without being intrusive -- and the restaurant itself is beautiful, although the room we were seated in was too brightly lit for such a nice, romantic, white tablecloth kind of environment. The room my parents and their friends were seated in was much dimmer (probably should have switched so they could read the menu!). Overall, the Holly Hill Inn was a great experience.


A good bet for lunch would be one of the Ramsey's located throughout town. The most lively one is on the campus of UK on at 496 E. High Street (502) 259-2708. They have a great menu of southern favorites with tons of sides.
For a more rugged down-home experience try the Louden Square Buffet on the corner of Louden and Broadway on the east side of town. For around 7$ its all you can eat southern cooking: stewed tomatoes, okra, butter beans...fried catfish, fried chicken...peach cobbler. Its not the prettiest place in the world but you get a great meal for a great price.
If your adventourous, you can go to Roger's Restaurant on the 800 Block of Broadway near downtown, Lex. There you can sample a farmer's delicacy, lamb fries, or you can just enjoy some good home cooking. This place has great homecooking and is known for their desserts.
If you are going to Keeneland during your trip I highly reccommend trying some burgoo at the racetrack.
Also, due to the fact that there is a major Toyota plant nearby, Lexington also has some of the best sushi restaurants outside of NYC so keep your eyes open if you are in the mood for sushi.

Also, donuts from Spalding's bakery downtown are the best.


Holly Hill will be the best meal you'll have here. Downtown I'd have recommended Harvest but our last visit there was very disappointing. Since you say "downtown" the only thing worth going to there is Natasha's on Main street, which has good fresh food and a nice list of drinks. AVOID Le Deauville and Bellini's and a la lucie, they're not very good and pricey; we haven't yet been to Annabelle's but I hear good things. Buddy's is also close to downtown but I wouldn't call it great, either. A Japanese place next door-Tomo--is a better bet.
Lex actually has three Asian restaurants not downtown but good enough to drive to: a place with very good Thai curries (Planet Thai) and chicken Potstickers; a sushi restaurant that is very very good (Sugano); and a good Taiwanese restaurant, Panda Garden, whose Chinese Menu you need to ask for as it's more authentically, well, Chinese. Any of these would be inexpensive and definitely worth the trip.


LeDeauville was a complete waste of $80 and an anniversary. TOMO is a wonderful Japanese restarant near downtown. For a local place that feels like a "dive" and has the best steak around try Columbia's. It's been there for at least 40 years and I don't think they've cleaned the grills once- makes the steaks perfect.

(Karen Fein)

We've tried Portofino's twice (is that downtown?) and it was great both times. A definite keeper.


I would suggest Joe Bolonga's in downtown.Great food and affordable.More low key.


I really wanted to like Metropol but unfortunately, it didn't live up to all the hype. Overall, the food was decent. Most of the menu has an Italian theme. There are lots of pastas to choose from as well as fish, duck and other types of dishes. Our food was hit and miss. My boyfriend had duck which was very good but his side items which included a rositto did not complement his meal very well. I had a torte with nuts for dessert that was very dry. I guess even if the meal had been outstanding the part that lingers most was the terrible service. Our waiter disappeared for 20 minutes at time and this is highly cumbersome when all you want is more water. It was so bad that one couple left before their entrees arrived. The restaurant is also in an old post office and dining rooms are very small. It makes for a very noisy experience. Actually, the noise was piercing at times. Our bill was about $80 for an appetizer, 2 cocktails, 2 entrees, 2 desserts, a coffee, and an iced tea. Unfortunately, what could have been a nice experience turned into we couldn't get out of there fast enough. If you do plan on going anyway, I'd suggest going on a week night. I'll considering giving it another chance, but not for awhile.
Now for I Ching. It's an Asian themed restaurant that's more like trendy fast food. It just opened in the Hamburg pavillion. You pick out what you want and then order it at the counter and they'll deliver it to you. The menu includes some noodle dishes and cuisine from Thailand, Korea, and Japan. I had drunken noodles which was their spin on pad thai. It had shrimp (frozen), chicken, tofu, wide noodles, and green beans. It didn't really taste anything like pad thai and it was pretty greasy. My boyfriend had the Dan Dan Noodles which was advertised as braised pork and noodles in a spicy peanut sauce. It turned out to be ground pork in some ramen that wasn't spicy or peanuty at all. We spent about $23 for 2 dishes, 2 drinks and an appetizer for lunch. I can see this being popular with the Applebee's crowd. If you're into true Asian cuisine, go to Panda Garden (Chinese) and skip this all together.

(Dien Ho)

IMHO, the best Thai food in Lexington is Planet Thai on Nicholasville. Good food and good people.

(1) Le Deauville: As I posted earlier, Le Deauville is a good place serving up some very competent and very standard bistro cuisine. The atmosphere is classic. On a fine autumn day, with the folding glass doors opened, a glass of chablis with some steamed mussels will convince you that the French are onto something good.
(2) Bellini: It looks so promising from the outside but the food was a major disappointment. My wife's raviolis were so badly put together that the inside was still partly frozen when served. Ouch. My pesto risotto was a messier than the expected usual goo. For $50 per person, we expected so much more.
(3) Harvest: My latest favorite place in Lexington. John Foster, their head chef who traces his lineage back to the French Culinary Institute, uses only the freshest local ingredients (whenever he can) and the results are well worth the effort. The duck entree is wonderful: just juicy enough to warm your heart. Their wine list is smart and very reasonable. As a self-proclaimed seafood snob, it was music to hear that Foster Fed-Exs in his seafood in order to avoid frozen varieties. The bouillabaisse is to die for. My only complaint: get some decent wine glasses.
(4) Bombay Brazier: The new Indian place in town. Bombay Brazier offers an extensive menu of some rarer Indian fare. Unlike some of the local Indian joints that put way too much salt in their food (do they think chronic smoking has killed all of our taste buds?), Bombay Brazier lets the spices speak for themselves. The food is gentler and more complex.

(Dien Ho)

BBQ in Lexington is a tough request. Jonathan at Gratz Park serves up some tasty Southern fare. Check out their menu at:
Prices are moderate to high but they do a nice job. The staff is friendly, professional and low key. Although it has the appearance of a conservative old school restaurant, it is a comfortable and relaxing place to dine.
Otherwise, Lexington also has a great Japanese food scene (thanks to the local Toyota plant). Sugano's, tucked between a sleazy bar and a Latino grocery, is a fabulous place. I highly recommend it. They offer probably some of the best moderately priced sushi I have made this side of the Pacific. As previously noted, you should also check out Spaulding bakery. Their hours are weird (I think W-Saturday 7 to 9:00am). Food Network calls them the best donut place in the country. I had them, they are divine.

Oh yes, don't miss the the Farmer's Market (held in their lot at Maxwell and Broadway on Tuesday and Thursday then on Vine on Saturdays) "The place to see and to be seen." Great atmosphere and find place to pick up a quick bit.

I am not a big fan of Desert Moon. I think Emmett's is better. For lunch, Dudley's near UK has probably the best deal in town. Very good food at a reasonable price. I also love the fish sandwishes at Charlie's. It is a hole-in-a-wall joint that makes the biggest fish sandwish you will ever see. Lots of charm and very old school. Fried chicken and fries at Indy's are wonderful too. Take-out only at both places.

(Whitney Pannell)

I love emmett's. Best steaks in town...If you go ,get the filet prepared the same way they do the new york strip,which is blackened with blue cheesegravy served medium rare.

(Food Lover)

I have to disagree with the assessment of Harvest. I had the crab cakes there and I would say tasteless!!! Plus the cheve chaud was not chaud. It was more like a lump of goat cheese served from an icecream scoop on top of greens.

I love Pacific Pearl---pan seared tuna and a cheve chaud to die for and with a ginger vinegerette. Absolutely my favorite salad in Lexington.


The Springs Inn. Old style motel dining room with a Kentucky buffet - excellent burgoo, roast beef with gravy like grandma used to make, fried catfish, country ham slices, spoonbread, and killer bread pudding. Sort of like stepping back in to the '60s, food was good and very reasonably priced, and it was a pleasant way to sample some traditional regional dishes.
Keeneland's Track Kitchen. Not much activity since the fall season doesn't begin until October 3, but Keeneland itself was beautiful. The Track Kitchen has numerous interesting photos of past great thoroughbreds, a few colorful locals hanging around, and decent food. Certainly more entertaining than my hotel dining room.
Business took me to Frankfort that day and I discovered a real find for lunch, the White Line Diner on Bridge Street. Tasty pulled pork barbecue, good fried chicken and horseradish flavored slaw, and excellent bourbon pecan pie. The owner, Rick Paul I believe, is quite a character and very interesting to talk with. Very chowhoundish experience!
downtown: a la lucie. I started with a fried oyster appetizer, then moved on to the bourbon and Tabasco marinated pork chops with corn pudding for the entree. The food was excellent and the atmosphere was both stylish and fun.
The original Ramsey's on High Street. Since I had not tried a Hot Brown and had heard theirs was good, I bit on that - unique but tasty and very filling. The waitress talked me into a slice of butterscotch pie which was also very good (excellent meringue) but I had to give up before finishing it.
Malone's on Tates Creek Road. Had a small filet (still not completely recovered from lunch) which was quite good. Very popular spot judging from the crowd, good service, and a good choice (though a good bit pricier than Columbia would have been).
Billy's Bar-B-Q on Cochran just off Tates Creek Road. As has been previously mentioned by others, Billy's serves Western Kentucky style 'cue, including mutton. I had the pulled pork platter with slaw and blackeyed peas (all excellent), plus a small serving of mutton since I'd never tried that before (quite tasty and not as gamey as I expected). Finished up with some blackberry cobbler topped with local vanilla ice cream - yummy! Must note that the staff and atmosphere at Billy's are great, too, really a fun spot.

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