Lexington’s restaurant scene was sizzling again in 2018, with activity downtown as well as in the suburbs.
Here are some of the restaurants that local diners welcomed this year (and a couple that changed hands so they might feel new.) How many have you eaten at so far?
▪ Alfalfa, 141 East Main Street, was sold in May to Amy Messer, the same person who owns Lynagh’s on Woodland. And now it’s open for breakfast during the week, too. But so many favorites, including the red beans and rice, the cinnamon coffee, the buckwheat pancakes and more are unchanged. And that’s the way Alfalfa regulars like it.
▪ BD’s Mongolian Grill, 2520 Nicholasville Road, opened in December attached to Malibu Jack’s indoor theme park, making it an option for date night or family night outings.
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▪ Chicken Salad Chick, 254 East Brannon Road in Nicholaville, which has quite the following in the South, opened its first location in Lexington at Brannon Crossing in October. The restaurant features more than a dozen varieties of chicken salad, plus soups.
▪ Chick-fil-A, 2299 Richmond Road, finally built a new restaurant in front of the Southland Christian Church, after tearing down a vacant Applebee’s. Ardent fans quickly flooded the double drive-throughs to get chicken and waffle fries.
▪ Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse, 2041 Richmond Road, opened in October in the former Coba Cocina location on Richmond Road, which had been empty for two years. The steakhouse features a huge salad and sides bar and all the roasted meat you can eat.
▪ Crumzz Bar and Grill, 395 South Limestone, has a menu of shareables, hot subs, Philly cheesesteaks, baked potatoes, craft beer and house-made fries.
▪ Daily Offerings Coffee Roastery & Cafe, 124 Malabu Drive, opened this spring as a second location of the popular Daily Offerings coffee shop downtown. Like the downtown location, it features gluten-free pastries as well as sandwiches and sweets.
▪ Drake’s, 390 East Brannon Road, opened in September, a second Lexington(ish) location of the popular burger and craft beer place from Bluegrass Hospitality Group. The menu at Drake’s in Brannon Crossing also includes lots of “smashed” burgers, sliders, salads and chili.
▪ El Espolon Mexican Restaurant, 191 Jefferson Street, opened in May, where Enoteca closed last year. The menu features Tex-Mex favorites and is open for lunch and dinner. The restaurant also has a full bar with wine and beer.
▪ Girlsgirlsgirls Burritos, 395 South Limestone, opened in May where Noodles & Co. closed last year. The burrito place built a following by serving inside Best Friend Bar on Euclid and by delivering via bicycle. Nowit has a full menu of options, includings vegetarian and vegan items, and they are open until 3:30 a.m. For your late-night burrito needs.
▪ Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, 321 East Vine Street, long-awaited at the end of Vine and Main, finally opened in October. It features Memphis-style spicy chicken and fries, authentic sides and homestyle pies.
▪ Grimes’s Chicken, 4248 Saron Drive, is a second location of the fried chicken restaurant in Lexington that has been known as Richie’s. The owner decided to change the name but kept the menu of savory fried chicken and fish, as well as homestyle sides including hushpuppies, cornbread, greens, macaroni and cheese and baked beans.
▪ Habibi’s Sweets & Pastries, 2417 Nicholasville Road, opened in May with Middle Eastern sweets, including kunafa, a traditional Palestinian dessert made with cheese. The also have Nate’s Coffee to go with all those honeyed treats.
▪ J. Gumbo’s, 808 North Limestone, opened this fall as an outpost of a Louisville-based chain. Robbie Morgan, known as the organizer of the popular Crave food and music festival, set out to bring her stamp to the menu, which she previewed at the festival in August. It’s set to be a hub of the burgeoning North Lime food and bar scene.
▪ KSBar and Grille, 1030 South Broadway, the restaurant and sports bar from Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones and his KSR crew, opened in September, just after the start of the University of Kentucky Wildcat football season. The restaurant is next door to another sports bar, The Tilted Kilt, which is scheduled to open before the end of the year.
▪ Make-a-Cake Cupcake Bar, 309 North Ashland, which lets you pick your filling and cake flavor and icing, or have it baked in a waffle and then made into an ice cream sandwich (!), opened off North Ashland, tucked in behind a revamped bridal shop on National Avenue. You can find it most days by following the smell of baking goodies. Really.
▪ Marikka’s, 411 Southland Drive, a popular German beer garden with volleyball courts, was a fixture on Southland Drive until it was torn down about two years ago. But fans were uber-excited (get it?) when it reopened bigger and better than ever in February. More volleyball courts, more German food and even more beer.
▪ Martine’s Pastries, 400 East Third Street, made a name with fabulous cakes. Now Martine’s has opened a coffee shop with pastries, sandwiches and soups on East Third Street and Eastern Avenue in the spring, gradually adding hours for more goodies.
▪ Miracles Bakery + Coffee Bar, 161 Lexington Green Circle, opened in November in Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington Green with coffees, teas, sweets, all organic, gluten-free, vegan and keto.
▪ Miyako Poke Bowl, 867 South Broadway, opened just at the end of December 2017. Poke (pronounced POE-keh) is one of the hottest trends in restaurants; it’s fresh fish, like sushi, but marinated and served over rice with vegetables and other fresh items.
▪ NoBaked Cookie Dough, 3735 Palomar Centre Drive, opened in October where the Orange Leaf was in the Palomar shopping center. It serves scoops of unbaked (but safe to eat) cookie dough in a variety of flavors, including seasonals.
▪ Napa Prime, 319 Cedar Street, is a big favorite of diners in Versailles. Now, the Lexington crowd can get in on the burgers and fish sandwiches. The owners opened a second location in October in the former JDI Grill spot that was most recently Alexander Bullitt’s Winery, Brewery & Bistro.
▪ Oscar Diggs, 155 North Limestone, opened just after the first of the year. The restaurant is a partnership between the former Gastro Gnomes food truck chefs and Rooster Brewing and it quickly developed a following for its ever-changing menu and special dinners.
▪ Papi’s Mexican Restaurant and Bar, 818 Euclid Avenue, opened in the “Mexican restaurant spot” above Charlie Brown’s, in July, shortly after Buenos Nachos closed after less than a year.
▪ Pazzo’s Pizza Pub, 385 South Limestone, sold to Seth Bennett, the owner of Two Keys Tavern, up the street on Limestone, Stagger Inn, and the “QP” speakeasy nightclub at 269 West Main in the Court Square Building, with the Roxy sign. QP stands for Quiet Please, and the sale was certainly kept quiet as longtime-owner Tom Behr slipped into retirement. His sons still own and run several places around town, including The Villiage Idiot, The Bear & the Butcher and The Beer Trappe.
▪ Ranada’s Bistro and Bar, 400 Old Vine Street, opened in November where the former Walker’s closed the month before. The menu is from chef Ranada Riley.
▪ The Ruddy Duck Grille, 131 Cheapside Street, opened in the former Cheapside location on Short Street, reviving a favorite Lexington haunt. The bar features burgers and entrees. The restaurant has closed for the winter, according to a sign on the door. But it could reopen in time for the Final Four, owner Keith Clark said.
▪ Sedona Taphouse, 3600 Palomar Centre Drive, opened in August, with hundreds of craft beers, hand-cut steaks, and seafood. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily and brunch on Sundays.
▪ Skyline Chili, 2850 Richmond Road, serves Cincinnati-style chili (think cinnamon.) It opened in July and fans of the cult-favorite lined up on Richmond Road to get their three-ways (that’s chili on spaghetti noodles topped with a mound of shredded cheddar cheese, to the uninitiated).
▪ SRO, the bar from the Yamaguchis, opened at 123 West Sixth Street, and it may be the most unique place to eat in Lexington. It serves food but owner Hidenori Yamaguchi is adamant that it’s a bar first, that serves Japanese-style tapas second. So, if that’s your jam, this is the place.
▪ Stein’s by Addie’s, 450 Southland Drive, opened in December with a menu of Jewish deli favorites, including corned beef and all-beef pastrami. Open for lunch and early dinner. It’s from the owners of Addie’s and the Woodford Inn in Versailles.
▪ Thai Street Food Kitchen, 3340 Clays Mill Road, opened in March with authentic Thai cuisine, including dishes that can be customized for vegetarians and vegans. Signature dishes include the Honolulu Stripper, which has seafood, pineapples, cashews in a spicy tamarind sauce.
▪ Wilson’s Grocery, 1010 Cramer Avenue, known for its workman’s lunch of $5 baloney sandwich, chips and drink, closed in Kenwick in February after it changed hands. After a remodel, the new owners reopened the store and deli counter in October.
▪ Zim’s Cafe, 215 West Main Street, from Ouita Michel, opened in November featuring the “greatest hits” of her Wallace Station Deli and Windy Corner Market under one roof, that of the new Old Courthouse on Main Street.