Diners who grew to love the quirkiness of a la lucie restaurant during its long tenure in Lexington dining will find its successor, Minglewood, at North Limestone and Church Street, the yin to a la lucie’s yang.
If the former put you in mind of a French bordello, with its faux fur banquettes and slightly risqué paintings, the latter has a Spartan décor reminiscent of Ian Schrager and Phillippe Starck’s designer hotel collaborations.
The banquettes are still there, dominating one wall (the other is taken up by a very large bar), with two more expansive tables in each of the front windows and some smaller tables in the rear area, which doubles as a stage showcasing local musicians on the weekends.
The food philosophy behind the two restaurants also is poles apart. Instead of a la lucie’s highly complex offerings, Minglewood focuses on simpler fare: bar food designed for sharing.
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On a recent visit for Sunday brunch, a friend and I shared the roasted garlic hummus with crisp vegetables and peppered pita for dipping ($8). We were split on the success of the dish. We found the grilled pita to be extremely flavorful — the char from the grilling giving it a delicious smoky flavor — but my friend thought the roasted garlic in the hummus was overpowered by another spice, which she identified as cumin.
We split again on the success of our entrees. I found my fried egg tostada — two crisp tostadas garnished with black beans, salsa verde, two fried eggs, queso fresca and hot sauce ($12) — not remarkable, but a better-than-average typical brunch offering.
My friend chose the Ugly Pig, one of Minglewood’s signature dishes ($12) and she had no complaint about the flavor, she thought the presentation — grilled pork loin soaked in hot sesame barbecue sauce, with pepperjack cheese, shaved red onion, cilantro and a runny fried egg piled on a brioche bun — was, “unwieldy.”
My second visit was for dinner and resulted in a generally better experience. I was a little disappointed in the Wild Turkey sloppy joes ($9) — not in the taste of the three ground turkey sliders accompanied by house dill pickles, but if the sweet and spicy Wild Turkey sauce was supposed to be laced with bourbon, I didn’t taste it.
My entree, the Sriracha shrimp tacos, combining spicy shrimp, cucumber sour cream and house kimchi ($14), were delicious and just the right amount, but the real star of the night was another shareable plate.
I didn’t leave so much as a stray sprout from the warm Brussels sprout salad ($10). I can honestly say the mixture of roasted sprouts (cooked enough to be tender and not crunchy), cranberries, toasted pumpkin seeds and blue cheese crumbles tossed in a warm bacon vinaigrette was the best I’ve had in Lexington.
Minglewood has a small but satisfactory inventory of canned beer, bourbons and wines, and a few specialty cocktails. Less satisfactory is the lack of any dessert options. Even though I prefer savories to sweets and often skip dessert, I found this a bit confounding.
Prices are reasonable enough to satisfy most budgets, and service is generally good (a big shout-out to the server who suggested that if I wanted a second glass of wine to enjoy with dinner, I should order it early so I would get it for the Happy Hour price).
Patrons on both of my visits tended to be on the youngish side (I can understand its appeal to college students, with the prices and casual vibe) and the location is one of Lexington’s most desirable.
Now, they just need to be sure they deliver the flavors they advertise on the menu, and maybe add a couple of dessert options.
Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel and food writer. Reach her at email@example.com.