Limestone Blue has quickly made its mark on the downtown casual dining scene.
Taking over the tomblike space that Giacomo's deli occupied on — you guessed it — North Limestone, across from the courthouses, the owners have created a light, lively welcoming space with food that makes it worth a visit.
Lunch, when downtown is most fully populated, seems to be Limestone Blue's strong suit. During a couple of recent visits, downtown workers filled the tables, seated on wildly blue chairs, to chat over an array of generous appetizers, salads and sandwiches, and daily specials.
First the good news: You can eat well and inexpensively here. The bacon and tomato flatbread appetizer is really a big, open-faced sandwich for $7 that, with a salad, could reasonably provide lunch for two people with average appetites. Served on crispy, fresh focaccia, it's a rich combination of quality ingredients: provolone, bacon, tomato and green onions with a distinctive, tangy buttermilk dressing made on site.
The Josephine, one of the sandwiches a companion tried, was in the same vein: a tasty mixture of bacon, turkey, avocado and locally made Cheddar cheese, also served on foccacia.
The sandwiches have some enticing names — Hot Mama, Geez Louise and Achy Breaky Heart among them — but I settled for a more descriptive if less literary title, the Bluegrass chevre and pesto. Served on grilled seven-grain bread, this is a subtle and tasty vegetarian option with goat cheese, avocado, provolone and spinach set off by the pesto's fresh basil flavor.
The Anthony, a vegetarian wrap, was less successful. The ingredients were all fresh and crisp, but there was not enough hummus to make it seem like anything other than a nice selection of raw vegetables wrapped up together. Anyone can make bacon alluring, but vegetables are another matter; it takes a bit more subtlety to create a mouth-watering experience. This sandwich is not quite there yet.
Neither, in my opinion, were two of the signature offerings at Limestone Blue. The restaurant features macaroni and cheese, with a daily special. It was Buffalo chicken mac 'n' cheese day on one of my visits. The dish was spicy comfort food, but that's kind of where it ended. With a limited range of ingredients and no side to provide a counterpoint (a salad would have been nice), it was hard to stay motivated through the entire serving.
By contrast, the quinoa side I had with a sandwich was a winning, subtle and refreshing combination of olives, tomatoes and cucumber with the red, nutty-flavored version of the traditional grain.
Limestone Blue serves its pizzas only in the evenings, alongside its entire lunch menu. The basic cheese pizza we tried probably will appeal to many, but I found it to be the somewhat typical combination of a crust that isn't thin or crispy enough, loaded down with too much cheese and a sauce that seemed as if it took more from tomato paste than anything else. Less would indeed be more in this case.
The one dessert we sampled was an imaginative, seasonal offering called pumpkin truffle, drizzled with white chocolate. Rich, dense and flavorful, it was a nice, and beautiful, treat at the end of a meal.
Some final notes: The service was remarkably friendly during all of my visits, if not always totally efficient. Soups are offered only as specials, and the one I tried was lukewarm and uninspiring. Limestone Blue offers wine and beer, with local beers on tap.
Address: 133. N. Limestone
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-about 10:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Sat. Brunch 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Sat.
Phone: (859) 367-0133
Other: Street parking. Wine and beer available. Appetizers, $4-$7; salads, $8; sandwiches, $8-$9.50; brunch items, $5-$9; desserts, $2-$5, pizzas (served after 4 p.m.), $9-$13.
Jacalyn Carfagno: (859) 231-1652.