Restaurant News & Reviews

Upscale restaurant first to join redevelopment in downtown Lexington

A new upscale restaurant is coming to the east end of Lexington’s Main Street, which is about to see a major redevelopment.

Carson’s Food & Drink will go into 361 East Main Street, the former home of Coach Craft, next to a new five-story building at Main and Vine that developer Phil Holoubek will begin this fall. It will house Old National Bank, other first floor retail tenants and about 50 apartments.

Across the street, another five-story building with a bank, Field & Main, and condos will be going up on the former A1A Sandbar building.

Carson’s developer Mark Fichtner said that a building permit is expected to be filed Tuesday for the $1.3 million project, which will include a 5,000-square-foot restaurant and bar plus a Main Street patio. He plans to open the restaurant in late September or early October, in time for the Keeneland fall meet.

“I’ve been working on this for a year and a half ... and now this whole end of town is taking on a life of its own. I couldn’t be happier to be the first in line,” Fichtner said.

Holoubek, who owns the building, helped him pull together the project. Fichtner also plans to work Jeff Morgan, developer of the other Main Street building, on ways they can work together.

The 167-seat restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner at first, with a menu that will feature chef-driven American cuisine, Fichtner said, including steaks, seafood, burgers and sandwiches, salads and pasta. Eventually, Carson’s also will serve brunch on weekends, he said.

The 20-seat bar will feature 40 craft beers on tap, a selection of wine and extensive bourbon list, he said.

“We’re going to do some Prohibition-style cocktails; that’s kind of our forte,” Fichtner said.

Larry Hunter, who formerly worked as a chef for Tavern Restaurant Group at The Coach House and The Pub and at Keeneland and many more Lexington area restaurants, will be in charge of the kitchen while bartender Stefanie Rogers will run the bar.

Fichtner has more than 35 years of experience in the food industry, much of it in California and Japan, and with Bluegrass Hospitality Group and Tavern Restaurant Group in Lexington.

The look of Carson’s will be warm and inviting, a cross between Ralph Lauren and an old barn, “rustic elegance with chandeliers, reclaimed wood, old brass,” he said. Between the bar and the dining room, there will be a double-sided fireplace.

Outside, the patio along Main Street will have an 8-foot fire feature. To soften the atmosphere and dampen construction and road noise, Fichtner plans to add lots of shrubs, trees and plantings.

“I want people who come for the first time to get a touch of Lexington, a touch of who we are ... but we also want to stretch ourselves in our hospitality, to give people food they crave and raise the bar, just like Tony’s, Dudley’s and Lockbox have done. We hope to be part of that trend of quality and service,” Fichtner said.

Carson’s will be using half of the 10,000 square feet building and Holoubek is looking at leasing the remaining 5,000 square feet that faces Vine Street. Carson’s will have about 30 parking spots in the back, another 90 spots in Holoubek’s new parking garage and additional parking at lots in the area after 5 p.m.

Carson’s is also part of a newly created tax increment financing district that stretches from Main and Midland to Third Street. Tax increment financing uses taxes generated from the project to pay for infrastructure costs. Both Carsons and the Main and Vine building are part of the TIF district.