Lexington, hold onto your forks because the food scene is about to kick it up a notch. In 2019, the city will see several big restaurant openings, including some that will spice up the foodscape. As you think about upcoming date nights, here are some newcomers that should make your shortlist.
Here’s some of what’s coming, starting with downtown:
▪ Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse. It’s real. And it’s going to be spectacular. Ask Jeff Ruby himself if you don’t believe me. The Cincinnati-based restaurateur began construction finally on the steakhouse and bar that will open as part of the City Center development on Vine Street this fall. It will have antique chandeliers, bronze sculptures, a Keeneland room, a Kentucky Wildcats room, a Gatsby room; bourbon, steak, and sushi and everything in between. And it is supposed to open April 1. Ruby has promised magic. Can’t wait.
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▪ A new unnamed restaurant is under development between chef Jonathan Lundy, sommelier T.J. Cox and Lee Greer for the City Center Marriott and Extended Stay from Webb Development and the Greers (who have been involved in several concepts including Cheddar’s, Coba Cocina, Willie’s Locally Known and Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen.) The hotels are expected to open in 2019 and the restaurant, which will be one of three in the hotels, will be on the corner of Main and Upper. There will be another restaurant in the Marriott Hotel lobby and a rooftop bar with a limited menu, too.
▪ Epping’s on Eastside, 264 Walton Avenue, is the project chef Cole Arimes, executive chef of Coles 735 Main, is bringing to 710 National Avenue, otherwise known as building that used to house National Provisions. Epping’s, named for the plant that once bottled soda there, will be upscale, with a second-floor private dining room. But inside there will be a more kid-friendly space, dubbed Poppy and Olive. The new venture is expected to open in mid- to late-January.
▪ Roulay Restaurant and Bar, 107 West Short Street. Chef Kelly Perkins Mackey, with Buddha Lounge owner Nick Lagagsorn, will open a new Cajun/Creole-French fusion restaurant and bar downtown in the spring of 2019. Look for sauces, soups, stocks and desserts made from scratch for authentic Deep South Louisiana flavor. There also will be a rooftop bar to enjoy in warm weather. Open for lunch and dinner, and for light breakfast with New Orleans-style chicory coffee, beignets and more.
▪ Athenian Grill is coming to Main Street. Owner Ilias Pappas hopes to open the new restaurant in March on the corner of the Park Plaza building facing Phoenix Park. Besides a 55-seat restaurant, with patio seating, Pappas plans to do lots of downtown catering from that location. Can you say “office lunch?”
▪ Pearl’s, 133 North Limestone. The folks who brought you County Club and Bar Ona are opening a wood-fired pizza place, that also will serve oysters, other shellfish and salads. Plus organic wines. It will open as soon as the chefs have the dough perfected, which could happen around the beginning of the year, according to co-owner Chesney Turner. It’s in the former Limestone Blue/Giacomo’s spot opposite the courthouses and it will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.
▪ Nate’s Coffee, Cheapside. If the sign on the window is anything to go by, coffee roaster Nathan Polly is opening a coffee shop downtown, possibly early in 2019. Stay tuned for details. Until then, you can find his coffee all over the place.
▪ Franks Donuts, 549 East Third Street, is expected to open early in 2019. It’s the latest expansion of the Georgetown-based doughnut shop that features doughnuts starting at 64 cents each. A box of one dozen is only $7. The location also apparently will have a drive-through window for quick pick-up.
▪ Fida’s Beach House Coffee & Tapas, 109 West Sixth Street. The little yellow house behind Al’s Bar will become a permanent home for the Caribbean cuisine that has been served in the bar. It is expected to open around the beginning of the year with a menu of Caribbean small-plate items for sharing, including plenty of veggie- and gluten-free options, as well as tropical fruit cocktails, smoothies and Haitian coffee.
▪ Atebit, 574 North Limestone. Chefs Samantha Fore and Wyatt Sarbacker are opening a separate “food space” in the back of Arcadium on North Limestone in 2019. Fore, known for her Southern/Sri Lankan fusion food, plans to cook there Mondays and Thursday as Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites; Sarbacker will be there on the weekends as Atebit. And other nights the space will be available for chefs trying to build a following, Fore said.
▪ Frutta Bowl, 561 South Broadway. This healthy-eating chain is expected to open its first Kentucky location in Lexington early in 2019. This spot on the corner of South Broadway and Oliver Lewis Way will tap the commuter and University of Kentucky markets. Frutta Bowls specialize in acai bowls with grains and fruit, pitaya (or dragon) fruit bowls, kale bowls, hot oatmeal bowls, smoothies and a whole menu of toast. Gluten- and dairy-free options are available.
▪ LaRosa’s Pizzeria may finally open on Richmond Road sometime in 2019; also coming: a takeout version on Southland Drive, where the Hunan Chinese restaurant is being demolished. The Richmond Road location was scheduled to open last summer but after the Skyline Chili opened, owners Holland Development decided to increase the capacity of LaRosa’s based on how many people kept asking about it.
▪ First Watch, 119 West Reynolds Road. The breakfast chain is opening another location in front of Target soon, and the First Watch on Richmond Road will be moving to the same location as the Skyline Chili and LaRosa’s Pizzeria on Richmond Road later in 2019.
▪ Apollo Pizza was supposed to open on Leestown Road last year but the expansion of the beloved Richmond-based pizzeria in Berea took longer than expected. However, that’s just opened and now the owners have begun work on the Lexington location at 1455 Leestown. Restaurant design guru Rebecca Burnworth is handling the build, so expect it to be something worth seeing when it opens around March.
▪ The Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, 1030 South Broadway, will open in late January or early February next to KSBar and Grille. The side-by-side sports bars will cater to similar crowds but have different themes. KSR is strictly Kentucky sports. Tilted Kilt leans more British/Irish/Scottish, kind of like a tartan Hooters.
▪ Chuy’s Mexican, 1856 Alysheba Way. The second location of this popular Mexican chain is supposed to open early in 2019. It’s going into a former Applebee’s at Hamburg. And Elvis will be in the house, along with all the rice, beans, hand-made tortillas and fresh-made salsa you can handle.
▪ Campestre Mexican Bar & Grill is opening in Beaumont at 910 Beaumont Centre Parkway (where Mark’s Feed Store was) sometime early in 2019 serving Mexican comfort food, according to spokesman Juan Aguirre. Campestre also has locations in Virginia and West Virginia. It will be open for lunch and dinner, with a full men of favorites, including fajitas, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos, salads and appetizers.
▪ Outback Steakhouse is moving to Fayette Mall. The chain is taking over the former Oak Spring Grills (and former Abuelo’s) spot at the mall and making it over. Once it is done, sometime in the winter of 2019/2020, the Outback at 127 West Tiverton Way will close, the company said.
▪ Bennigan’s, maybe. The restaurant had been in the Clarion Hotel at Richmond Road and I-75 but both closed in June. According to the company, they hope to reopen “in time to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day 2019.”
▪ Mirror Twin Brewery, 725 Manchester Avenue, will open a second taproom with more food from Rolling Oven Pizza in the building next door, where Cosmic Charlie’s used to be. They hope to be open by spring.
▪ Fusion Brewery, 1170 Manchester, will be opening in the Pepper Rickhouse building sometime in 2019. Former Eastern Kentucky University professor Christian Paumi will be brewing lagers and Belgian beers, among others, and expects to have food offerings on site as well.
▪ Wise Bird Cider Co., 1170 Manchester Avenue, also will open in 2019. It’s right behind Fusion Brewery and also will be alongside the Town Branch Creek. The owners plan to serve their own house-made ciders later this year.
▪ Diner on Winchester is coming, according to Lucy Jones, who has two goals in opening a restaurant. She hopes to save the mid-century modern building that began life as a dairy’s ice-cream shop and she is dying for a place to get good plant-based diner fare. It’s just taking a bit longer to make that happen. Jones said she is still hoping to open in 2019.
▪ The Human Bean, 1946 Harrodsburg Road. This coffee kiosk chain will be opening its first Kentucky franchise here sometime in 2019. The shop will have a drive-thru window for quick pickup of coffee drinks, Steve Smith teas, chai or mate lattes, fruit smoothies and Italian soda.
▪ Cosmic Charlie’s, 105 West Loudon Avenue, should be opening its new location in the former Lextran bus wash in January. Again, stay tuned.
▪ Total Wine & More, 2321 Sir Barton Way. Not a restaurant but I’m pretty sure foodies on that side of the Hamburg side of the city will be happy to see the giant liquor store opening later in 2019, with thousands of bottles of wine, craft beer and spirits, including bourbon. They also have special tasting events and Kentucky Proud products.