Out-of-state visitors to the Bluegrass for the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland may think of Lexington as a sleepy town with relatively few posh dining opportunities. Especially compared to New York, Los Angeles or even Louisville, where previous championships have been held.
But this is a town that loves good food.
Near downtown, where much of the Breeders' Cup Festival activities will take place, are more than 90 restaurants that could satisfy just about any craving.
The Jefferson Street corridor, from Main Street to West Sixth, has some of the hottest local cuisine in town. Among them Wagon Bones Grill, barbecue; Stella's Kentucky Deli's fresh local food; Enoteca and Wine + Market, sister restaurants that serve tapas and wine; Blue Heron Steakhouse; Grey Goose Bar, with thin New York style pizza; Nick Ryan's Saloon, with pub favorites; County Club, with refreshed Southern cuisine; and West Sixth Brewing, which also has Smithtown Seafood inside.
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Just a few blocks away, The Square at Main and Broadway has its own dining critical mass, with Saul Good Restaurant & Pub, Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen, Pies & Pints, Tony's Steaks & Seafood, and HopCat. Up Main Street, there's Alfalfa Restaurant and Natasha's Bistro.
To the east, along Short Street, another dining district opens up with the eclectic Shakespeare & Co.; The Village Idiot gastropub; Table Three Ten's nouvelle cuisine; fine dining at Dudley's on Short; and pub food at Cheapside. Just off this street is Asian tapas at Buddha Lounge in one direction, with Belle's Cocktail House (drinks only) and The Courtyard Deli's lunchtime favorites in the other.
On the way to the courthouse plaza where the festival will host live music you can find Limestone Blue, a lunchtime favorite; French food at a la lucie and Le Deauville; and Doodles, great for breakfast. Go a little further to North Lime Coffee & Donuts for a sweet treat.
Just south of downtown, the University of Kentucky campus corridor on Limestone offers some of the most interesting fast-casual dining options in the city, from the standard Chipotle to Local Taco, Tin Roof, Blaze Pizza, Noodles & Co., Street Craves and Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers, to name but a few. Tucked in amongst them are ethnic spots like Han Woo Ri Korean food and Sav's Grill & West African Cuisine, both on Limestone.
Hidden in Lexington's Distillery District on the old Pepper Distillery campus on Manchester Street are Middle Fork Kitchen Bar, which specializes in a locally grown seasonal menu, Ethereal Brewing craft beer, and Crank & Boom Dessert Cafe, with locally made ice cream.
Outside of downtown, the Hamburg shopping district at Winchester Road and Man o' War has loads of dining options, as does the Harrodsburg Road corridor leading toward Beaumont Centre.
Around Beaumont, look for Azur's farm-to-table cuisine; BRU Burger Bar, and Sahara Mediterranean Cuisine.
Also worth a drive: the Tates Creek Road corridor, which has one of three Malone's Steakhouses at Lansdowne, along with the popular bourbon-focused OBC Kitchen, Drake's and Sal's. A little further out is Merrick Inn, a piece of old Lexington that still boasts some of the best food in town.
If you are looking for the comfort of a known quantity, like a chain restaurant, many of those are clustered around the Hamburg shopping district and at Fayette Mall where you can find the Cheesecake Factory, the ultimate chain restaurant.
For reviews of local restaurants and up-to-date local dining news, check out LexGo.com and LexGo Eat.