When you're tired and hungry, you often don't put much thought into where you'll eat, and you might end up at the same places over and over and over again. But with a copy of "Beyond Grits" in your car or purse, you can enjoy great food every time you eat out, and support local restaurateurs.
The pocket-size culinary guide was designed by Connie Jo Miller, owner of Group CJ, for the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"The idea for the guide happened almost simultaneously, as Group CJ was in the midst of doing some pro bono work for Downtown Lexington Corp. to spiff up their downtown restaurant listings," Miller said.
Jim Browder, executive director of the visitors bureau, asked Miller to do a more comprehensive guide of all locally owned dining spots, and "Beyond Grits" was born.
"The title is my baby, and we hope it expresses that the culinary scene in Lexington is more sophisticated than one might imagine. We go way beyond grits (Not that we don't love grits mind you)," Miller said.
The motivation: "The huge explosion of really innovative restaurants."
The guide was created with visitors in mind, but residents will want it, too. It lists 106 locally owned restaurants. You've probably eaten at these places at least once, but if they're not in your neighborhood, the restaurants might not pop into your head when making the decision where to eat.
Restaurants are not categorized by cuisines but by themes: uptown ambiance; new hot spots; Southern comfort food; world cuisine; patios, porches and sidewalk cafés; singular sensations, rise and shine; off the beaten track and neighborhood favorites; pub grub and suds; and giddy up and go.
The booklet is available at the Visitors Center in Victorian Square, 401 West Main Street, or at Beyondgrits.com.
Helping God's Pantry
Kristin Ingwell-Goode is always on the lookout for ways to generate awareness and money for God's Pantry Food Bank. While visiting a San Diego restaurant in May, the development coordinator for the food bank noticed a symbol on the menu that told customers if they ordered a particular dish, the restaurant would donate money to the local food bank.
Ingwell-Goode was sure the same idea would work in Lexington. She and other staff members approached restaurateurs and asked if they would be willing to help with this new project, Extra Helpings. The program was launched at Minton's at 760 in December.
Now there are eight restaurants participating. Each restaurant partner designates the menu item, and proceeds, either a set price or a percentage, will be donated to the food bank.
"Each restaurant is a little bit different, but we're finding a way for it to work," Ingwell-Goode said.
Bourbon n' Toulouse, 829 Euclid Avenue, has decided on a one-day event. On March 22, it will donate 20 percent of its proceeds that day. West Sixth Brewery, 501 West Sixth Street, has designated God's Pantry as beneficiary of its Sixth for a Cause event on April 6.
"We also are working with food trucks, who on Food Truck Fridays, will also donate to Extra Helpings," she said.
Participating restaurants and the designated items are:
■ Azur Restaurant, 3070 Lakecrest Circle, bourbon fried chicken.
■ Good Foods Market and Café, 455 Southland Drive, grilled cheese avocado sandwich.
■ Holly Hill Inn, 426 North Winter Street, Midway, cheese plate.
■ I Ching, 2312 Sir Barton Way, the monthly special.
■ Minton's at 760, 760 North Limestone, biscuits and gravy.
■ Mi Pequeña Hacienda, 3501 Lansdowne Drive, and Brannon Crossing, cabo steak and shrimp.
■ Wallace Station, 3854 Old Frankfort Pike, Versailles, soup beans and corn bread.
■ Windy Corner, 4595 Bryan Station Road, soup beans and corn bread.
Call Susie Basham at (859) 288-5332 or go to Godspantryfoodbank.org.
Derby party dining ideas
Barbara Harper-Bach's newest cookbook, The Derby Party Cooking Clinic, arrives in time for the racing season. The book has recipes from several Central Kentucky Derby party hostesses and her personal collection. Harper-Bach will sign books at Unique Gifts and More, 149 East Main Street in Georgetown, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 23; 2 to 4 p.m. April 14 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Lexington Green; and 1 to 3 p.m. April 27 at The Morris Book Shop, 882 East High Street. The book is $25.
Wes Berry, author of The Kentucky Barbecue Book, will sign copies from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at The Morris Book Shop, 882 East High Street. Call (859) 276-0494.
Additionally, he'll be at Mary Lou's BBQ, 226 Walton Avenue, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday. Call (859) 252-4227.
Bourbon Trail a top 10 trip
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour has been designated one of National Geographic's top 10 Best Spring Trips for 2013.
Kentucky Distillers' Association president Eric Gregory said the "international publicity reinforces what we've seen at our visitor centers and distilleries in the past few years — skyrocketing numbers with travelers from dozens of different countries, all making the pilgrimage to Kentucky for the one, true, authentic bourbon experience."
The Bourbon Trail attracted more than 500,000 visitors in 2012. Read the article at On.natgeo.com/gLsCT9.
The tour features Four Roses and Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg; Heaven Hill in Bardstown; Jim Beam in Clermont; Maker's Mark in Loretto; Town Branch in Lexington, and Woodford Reserve in Versailles.
Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com.