Minton's at 760 opened quietly last year to no great fanfare, but it quickly became known through fast-traveling word of mouth and social media. This is probably just as well, since the little café would have been overrun by a grand event.
Scale is part of the charm here. You'll be remembered upon return visits, served with gentle care, and quite possibly get on speaking terms with the neighboring table.
Size also permits chef Ashley Minton — whose specialty is pastry, and it shows — to take time with the savory entrées. The result is slow cooking and leisurely eating at its best.
Minton displays her talents in traditional country fare with long-simmered soup beans, sweet and tangy pulled pork, and a stunning rendition of chicken pot pie that has become my favorite in Lexington.
She is equally skilled, however, with more elaborate fare, including the dinner entree of gigli, a cone-shaped pasta, tossed in a light tomato sauce — not marinara — with ribbons of sweet onions, melt-in-your mouth stewed chicken, chunks of red bell peppers and deep-green sautéed spinach.
But the twains are really not that distinct, and they often meet. For example, simple sweet corn cakes and tangy fried green tomatoes — perhaps in need of a bit more frying on my visits — are modernized as open-faced appetizers. The first is built up with a pile of the lightly glazed pulled pork and creamy coleslaw, liberally sprinkled with scallions. The tart tomatoes, almost crunchy, are topped with ham salad and are finished with a little spoonful of orange marmalade, a sweeter alternative to what might have been chutney.
If you're here for brunch or lunch, the sandwiches are good but, apart from the unique Little Brother — pan-fried sausage on a roll topped with macaroni and cheese that I am overdue to sample — there are more interesting things to try.
One highlight is the "omelet" — really a frittata — that's golden brown and buttery, with stir-fried mushrooms and spinach. Add the spring mix salad with grainy mustard vinaigrette, bright-red tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers, and the midday meal becomes still-life.
Dinners are generous; plan for leftovers that reheat beautifully. Get the tender turkey meatloaf. It's accompanied by garlic smashed potatoes and spinach that, again, was sautéed to perfection, with the leaves firm and still crinkly. Creamy herb sauce and dots of feta cheese pulled this lovely dish together.
Beans and jasmine rice are big here. Vegans can have the lentils, while omnivores will love the spicy black beans with four slabs of pork belly, burnished to a deep brown and scattered with refreshing chopped cilantro.
Baking is done with expertise and passion, so save room for sweets. The moist signature banana-walnut cake is layered with caramel, covered with thick cream cheese icing and dusted with toasted coconut.
Minton's also serves an exceptional molten chocolate cake. Yes, we've seen this a million times before, but I have never witnessed lavalike bubbles as the dark chocolate center oozed onto the plate.
Doughnuts are used in the bread pudding. They keep their texture, not a soggy bit among them, standing up to the hot, buttery caramel sauce.
My favorite dessert, though, was the apple galette. Its pastry was tender and flaky, the fruit softly sweet. The dollop of whipped cream supplied the right amount of richness, so it didn't really need that extra drizzle of caramel. But, then again, does one really need four desserts?
My inner gourmand deeply wishes that Minton's served alcohol. But the lack of wine with such fresh and cozy food doesn't spoil the experience. I honestly can't imagine what could.
Minton's at 760
Where: 760 N. Limestone
Phone: (859) 948-1874
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tue., Wed.; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thu.-Sat.
Other: Limited parking. No alcohol served. Vegan options available. Brunch items: $3-$9.50. Dinner: appetizers, $5.95-$6.95; salads, $3.50; entrees, $10.95-$14.95; desserts, $4.95-$5.95.
Wendy Miller is a Lexington-based food and spirits writer and critic.