The original Ramsey's restaurant, on East High Street, was a warren of close tables and odd stairs and tight spaces — a hobbit hole among restaurants. The new Ramsey's, off Nicholasville Road, is very different.
The new restaurant is spacious and modern, with ample parking, booth seating in the bar, a heated patio and a drive-through pick-up window for call-ahead orders. The whole thing is on one level. The restaurant can seat as many as 160 people, and it has a separate room available for business retreats, meetings or special events.
The restaurant's address is 151 West Zandale Drive, but it's on the opposite side of Nicholasville Road from the part of Zandale with which Lexingtonians are perhaps most familiar. The new building that houses it is tucked behind a Signature Furniture store and a PNC Bank branch.
Owner Rob Ramsey said he was sorry to leave the signature Ramsey's eatery, in business for 25 years, but he's delighted to be on Zandale, where he could fit up a new space.
The restaurant is scheduled to open Wednesday. The High Street restaurant it replaces closed in late January. Ramsey said High Street had numerous maintenance problems.
The Zandale Ramsey's freshly painted walls are the blue-gray shade called "Ramsey blue" and are hung with many of the old-time Lexington photos and area memorabilia that were in the restaurant near downtown. Almost all of the High Street employees have moved to the Zandale restaurant. That includes Gay Reed, a server at Ramsey's known to customers as "Momma Gay," who had worked at the High Street restaurant for 23 years.
Ramsey said Reed was stunned and delighted by the new restaurant when she saw it.
Ramsey's also operates restaurants on Tates Creek and Harrodsburg roads and in Andover, and Missy's Pies.
New at Zandale is a wall that showcases various Ramsey's T-shirts in glass frames and provides a transparent line of separation between the bar and the main dining room, where ceiling fans from a company called Fanimation run on an elaborate, mesmerizing pulley system that gives the décor a touch of steampunk.
"I saw that in Asheville," Ramsey said. "I said, 'I've got to have it.'"
At the front door, a "bourbon barrel" horse in a stall greets diners. The restaurant retains tables and colorfully decorated chairs from High Street, and the menu of comfort food staples will be the same.
The new Ramsey's opens at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Ramsey said he was particularly excited about the drive-through pick-up lane. He said call-ahead business could account for a big chunk of the Zandale restaurant's revenue. High Street, he said, to-go customers would have to park and go to the bar to collect their meals.
Brad Wilson, manager of the new Ramsey's, has been with the company for 11 years. He said he was looking forward to "the challenge of opening a new store. It's going to be fun."