When the Bluegrass Stockyards’ longtime location near the Distillery District in Lexington burned in early 2016, the company began looking for a new location. Landing on a spot off I-75 at the Fayette/Scott county line across from the Kentucky Horse Park, the company promised a venue that would be more than a place to buy and sell cattle, somewhere the community could visit and take pride in.
Hayden’s Stockyard Eatery is certainly helping the company accomplish that goal. On two recent visits I found a place that has understandably attracted a following much broader than those who come for the livestock auctions.
It has a well-executed menu that offers options hardy enough to satisfy people who have been up since before dawn wrangling cattle and those with more sedentary work who will be happy with lighter fare.
At breakfast a friend and I tried the alluringly titled The South on a Plate ($12.50), Weisenberger Mill grits filled with bacon and Cheddar cheese and topped with shrimp sautéed with mushrooms and onions in a cream sauce. It came with a signature biscuit made in-house and I had an order of sausage on the side. Even though I’d had a pretty active morning, I took home at least half of the order.
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It was delicious although I thought the shrimp were maybe just a little undercooked and the generous serving of cream sauce sort of overwhelmed the very flavorful grits. The Hayden’s omelet ($9.25) was a more manageable serving and very good. It’s a three-egg production filled with the Benton’s bacon served at Hayden’s, some of the restaurant’s own pimento cheese (more about that later) and Jalapeno peach jam.
I almost always hesitate to get omelets in restaurants because they are often overcooked, resulting in a texture somewhere between construction paper and cardboard with taste to match. Not so at Hayden’s, this one was set but creamy, allowing the eggs their full flavor. The flavors of the smoky bacon and rich pimento cheese came through but didn’t overwhelm the eggs.
As for the jam, it’s not something I’d think about putting in an omelet but with a light touch it worked here. We also had a side of the bacon, which is very, very good.
That pimento cheese and Jalapeno peach jam combo also figured in one of the lunch options I sampled at Hayden’s, called Ms. Phyllis’ Biscuit ($8.50). The dish is two of Hayden’s large, house-made, flaky and tasty biscuits filled with fried chicken that has been brined in a Bourbon concoction and dressed with the pimento cheese and jam.
My friend at lunch, who ordered it, loved it. I found that, although every part of it was good, the whole thing was a little dry to my taste. I kept yearning for a slice of tomato or something green or crunchy to balance the sandwich. That said, there was nothing left at the end of lunch.
An unequivocal hit at lunch, again enough for two people, was the Kentucky Plate ($10.50). Served on a wooden plank, this is almost a buffet of wonderful things: country ham salad, the pimento cheese, Benedictine spread of cucumbers and cream cheese, deviled egg and spicy pickles (tiny beets and okra when we ate there, both spicy and delicious) served with biscuit crackers.
I love good pimento cheese and Hayden’s makes it. Real cheddar cheese with chopped up pimentos with just enough mayonnaise to keep it together. Unlike so many commercial pimento cheeses, this one wasn’t sweet (I never understand that) or overloaded with mayonnaise or other dressing. You taste the cheese and you taste the pimentos and enjoy the combination.
The ham salad and Benedictine were also very good and stood on their own and were great in combination, as I had them the next day at lunch. With the crackers, it’s easy to share, so include an order when you go to Hayden’s.
The only disappointments from my visits were two.
First, the chili ($5.25) was completely unexceptional. A little watery, it was neither spicy nor rich and lacked the interest of the other dishes I tried. Second, I didn’t have room for desert. Ranged on the counter at lunchtime were an alluring selection of slices of cake and other sweets. When I ordered I thought maybe after lunch we’d split a slice but there was just no way to eat another bite.
Readers would do well to plan better than I did.
If you go
Hayden’s Stockyard Eatery/Bluegrass Regional Marketplace
4561 Ironworks Pike, Lexington
Hours: Monday-Saturday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. ‘ Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
All major credit cards