Business

Iconic downtown Lexington restaurant changing hands. Again.

Yes, Alfalfa is changing hands again. But don't worry about your hoppin’ John; the signature dish is staying on the menu, along with other favorites.
Yes, Alfalfa is changing hands again. But don't worry about your hoppin’ John; the signature dish is staying on the menu, along with other favorites. palcala@herald-leader.com

Alfalfa, the historic downtown Lexington restaurant that has been changing hands like a hot potato in the last few years, has a new owner.

Amy Messer, who bought Lynagh's on Woodland last year, is buying Alfalfa Restaurant, this time with business partner Joe McGinley, manager of Cosmic Charlie's.

Alfalfa's owners, Cameron and Kevin Heathcoat, announced last month that after a year of ownership they were ready to pass the torch. Cameron Heathcoat took on the challenge of saving the 46-year-old "hippie" eater, at 141 E. Main St., after learning it was on the verge of closing in May 2016.

Almost immediately, business partner Salvador Sanchez left and Heathcoat's husband, who also is a co-owner of Bourbon 'n' Toulouse and the Chevy Chase Inn, stepped in. But managing two restaurants and a bar left no time for their family, so in April the Heathcoats began looking for a buyer.

Former University of Kentucky adjunct sociology professor Messer, who had been running Lynagh's for almost a year, was intrigued.

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Former UK sociology professor Amy Messer, who bought Lynagh's Irish Pub at 384 Woodland Avenue last year, is buying Alfalfa from Cameron and Kevin Heathcoat. Messer's business partner is Joe McGinley, manager of Cosmic Charlie's. Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

"It’s a great opportunity," Messer said. "It's similar to Lynagh’s, it's a Lexington institution. It's so well known. ... It’s a concept that has been around a while, people really like and enjoy it, and we plan to continue focusing on vegetarian and vegan options."

The Heathcoats said that although Alfalfa lost money in 2016, under new management the restaurant had returned to profitability.

Messer, who takes over on Friday, said she plans to make few changes.

"Everyone’s favorites are staying around," she said. She has no plans to mess with the hoppin' John.

"The red beans and rice, I'm not touching that one either," Messer said.

Likewise, brunch favorites like cinnamon coffee and buckwheat pancakes are staying.

But there will be some new things: "We will be opening more often and earlier," Messer said.

"We've got a great connection with Nate’s Coffee, so we will expand coffee service and have it available, as well as some take-away items, in the mornings," Messer said.

Alfalfa will be open seven days week, possibly as early as 8 a.m. Monday through Friday.

"We’re also going to do special dinners every month," she said. "We’ll pick a cuisine and explore what vegetarian options are available worldwide."

But don't fret, meat lovers: Messer has no plans to take away your brunch bacon.

She knows how important tradition is, after a year of owning Lynagh's. After she took over, she brought back favorites such as the original O'Round, the T and A, the T and B and the Vegwich.

"The first year has been great. I really enjoyed meeting the regulars. And it’s been a really interesting way to meet so many people in the community," Messer said.

Now, in honor of the first anniversary, Lynagh's will add some new menu items: "On June 9, we are introducing Irish eggrolls, corned beef and cabbage inside an eggroll wrapper and deep fried. With a horse radish mustard dipping sauce, which I don't even need because it's so good, Messer said. "And the O'Straight, an all-beef hotdog that you can dress up with any of the O’Round styles."

Cairo lives in the Kenwick neighborhood but likes to roam. This week, he wandered into a brewery and a bar on National Avenue.

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