Options abound for diverse dining in Lexington

Contributing Restaurant CriticSeptember 22, 2011 

You know that phrase "died and gone to heaven" when speaking of the amazing and the pleasurable? Suppose you had the chance to do the latter without having to take on the former?

In Central Kentucky, there are some restaurant experiences that are just too special to be corporeal. It is the out-of-body aspect, the unbelievable, the too-good-to-be-true quality that qualifies them to be sampled before the D-word.

Here are a smattering of culinary experiences to have while still in these ZIP codes and on this plane.

■ Learn the ways of kaiten at School (Schoolrestaurantlex.com), where the sushi is delivered to you on a winding conveyor belt, and izakaya dining at Yamaguchi's Sake and Tapas (Sakeandtapas.com), where Lexington's ultimate Japanese food is served complete with coordinated sake tastings.

■ Let a Southern chef cook you the unexpected. At Jonathan at Gratz Park (Jagp.info/default.aspx), taste "fries" made of grits, and hummus made of boiled peanuts. Or drive to Midway, where the evolving menu at charming Holly Hill Inn (Hollyhillinn.com) might include sliders using buttermilk biscuits and country ham.

■ Indulge in endless diversity. Eat scrumptious falafel wraps at Sahara (Sahara-lex.com) that cost $3.99 and require a good hour's nibbling to finish. Do Korean barbecue tableside at Arirang Garden (Ariranggarden.com). Or go to Cardinal Valley, where Aguascalientes ((859) 367-0059) serves the best guacamole in town for 99 cents. Eat spicy, footlong dosas at Lexington's only South Indian restaurant, Banana Leaf (Indianfoodinlexingtonky.com/Banana/index.html); nibble West African dishes at Sav's (Savsgrill.com); savor the unbeatable Nicaraguan salsas at Fritanga ((859) 225-3004); or slurp a huge bowl of Vietnamese noodles at PhoBC (859) 276-0557.

■ Get healthy, ethical and erudite. Good Foods Market and Café (Goodfoods.coop) nourishes the body and planet, and ditto for its Chapter Two satellite ((859) 422-6802) in the downtown public library. You can be a vegan or a vegetarian for an afternoon or a lifetime.

■ Don't go organic or vegan. Be carnivorous and order fine Chicago steak at Malone's. (Bluegrasshospitality.com).

■ Surround yourself with hip atmosphere while grazing the night away at Table Three Ten (Table310.com) or having a full meal at casually elegant Dudley's on Short (Dudleysrestaurant.com). Both have beautiful bars, and terrific bartenders to match.

■ Don't skip breakfast. The fine espresso at Sunrise Bakery (Valotta.com) will jolt you into appreciating the magnificent pastries, and the French press coffee at Doodles (Doodlesrestaurant.com) was roasted by Caffe Marco in neighboring Paris. On Saturday mornings, sample Bluegrass wares at the Lexington Farmers Market (Lexingtonfarmersmarket.com). You could make that breakfast, but don't — the idea is to buy, and you won't be able to resist anyway.

■ Meld the journey and the destination. Appreciate horse country while driving out to Windy Corner (Windycornermarket.com), or walk through a sampler of downtown dining with Bleu Plate Tours (Bleuplatetours.com).

■ Sit it out. If you are streaming a movie at home, order in. Yummy Yummy ((859) 288-0368) delivers great Chinese food right to your door with the freshest rice and generous vegetables accompanying meat entrees. While on your bar stool at Soundbar, order from Bombay Brazier (Indianfoodinlexingtonky.com/bombayhome.html) across the street. Think how good samosas would taste with your Skinnygirl margarita.

■ Music can make the meal. Sweet potato fries pair perfectly with the Bluegrass tunes at Al's Bar (Alsbarlexington.com), or relax to John Hedger's lute at The Julep Cup (Thejulepcup.com), which makes you feel as if you are really out to dinner.

More Central Kentucky bucket lists:

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