Best For Lexington
Selected winners speak out on What Lexington Needs
Lexington needs more support and patronization of locally-owned businesses. We need more public art projects like the horses but with generous sponsors who think more of encouraging local artists than finding a novel subject on which to paste their marketing efforts. We need to value our local history and historic buildings. Lexington renters need landlords to care for the homes and buildings they lease. Lexington needs more funding for local arts organizations to offer new, fun activities for young people. Our town needs venues for local bands. We need bike paths through horse-farm country so we can appreciate and value the area which needs our support to deter development. We need a lake nearby for swimming, sailing and good, clean fun. But most of all we need fewer restaurants and more people to enjoy Lexington’s favorite pancakes!
-Jess McClanahan (and Alfalfa friends), Alfalfa Restaurant Co-owner, voted best pancakes in town
Lexington needs to respect its past and its older neighborhoods and encourage reuse and repair. When new buildings are built downtown or in the suburbs, they should be art works designed by creative and talented architects. After fifty years, anything is eligible for the National Register.
Lexington needs to reduce the size of the Urban Service area every year instead of the current practice.
Lexington needs to support the farmers’ market downtown.
-Jim McKeighen, voted best realtor in Lexington
Let’s start with bike lanes. It’s time to segregate bikers and drivers. On the subject of segregation, how about ending it in Lexington housing? There’s an almost frightening homogeneity in Lexington neighborhoods brought on by unfair housing practices and close-minded homeowners. Maybe we could re-purpose some of our downtown office buildings to mixed-income housing.
Then there’s the issue of better access to donuts downtown. A Mill Street donut shop with a giant revolving sign is just the answer. Divert the Ohio River to run down Mill Street, and the downtown Lexington marina district becomes the destination of choice for tourists and locals alike. You could even take one of Lextran’s new gondolas to the annual downtown film festival, enjoying a donut as you take in a diverse sampling of local filmmaking talent.
Get it in your head as clear as you can.
That’s the kind of vision Lexington needs.
-Bob Campbell (fourth from left) of squareFish, voted best web designers
-Ernesto Scorsone, voted best state legislator
My first inclination would be to say that Lexington needs more cool, locally-owned stores and restaurants, but in fact it has a good many right now. What it really needs are more people to give these businesses a try instead of automatically assuming that “big box” stores are better.
And I don’t think there is any shortage of good ideas on the part of planners, architects and civic activists for improving downtown and building better suburbs, but there is a shortage of property owners and developers who are willing to take the risk of trying those ideas.
As Walt Kelley said, “We have met the enemy….” and well, you know the rest.
But let’s get down to something a little less lofty but of crucial importance: notwithstanding the above, Lexington needs a real diner.
Preferably one of those cool looking ones with the stainless steel siding.
Not some oversized chain-restaurant “diner theme” fantasy. Not some glorified hamburger joint with silly “nostalgic” reproduction Coca-Cola signs on the walls.
No, I want a real, unpretentious diner just like in New Jersey, with booths and a formica counter and blue-plate specials and mashed potatoes and gravy and corn along with my pork chop. And a slice of pie a la mode. I don’t have a reservation and I don’t want to wait to be seated by the hostess.
-Steve Baron owner (on right), CD Central, voted best record store in Lexington
Lexington needs people to get involved! Throw away the remote, get up off the couch and do something instead of waiting around for others to do it. Volunteer with an arts organization, at an animal shelter, or any other cause you feel strongly about. Once a week I volunteer for Woodstock Animal Foundation at Petsmart. It’s fun, emotionally rewarding and you can’t help but smile when you are pushing around a cart load of puppies. If I hadn’t been a volunteer, I wouldn’t be writing this essay. Last January, I started volunteering at the Lexington Art League as 4th Friday Volunteer Coordinator and started serving on the committee.
From my work in that capacity (which I loved doing), I was asked to apply for the Executive Director’s spot which opened up a few months later.
I’d like to see people in Lexington explore more. That includes searching out unusual, offbeat places in Lexington. It’s so easy to stay in your own neighborhood, forgetting that others exist.
I discovered the Art League that way, deciding to check out an art gallery on a rainy fall day. You can see how my life has changed from that one small action.
We need to appreciate our history and preserve it. Lexington is an amazing place and we forget that. Loudoun House, the home of the Art League, is a real find. I was shocked to drive up and see a castellated gothic villa in Lexington of all places. Again, another one of life’s little surprises. Loudoun House’s ”twin” is Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York and was used in the show Dark Shadows.
All historic homes require renovation and Loudoun House is no exception. The Castlewood Neighborhood Association has put together a proposal, along with the Parks and Recreation Department which would renovate Loudoun House, the Gymnasium and build a new badly needed community center for the North Side. Let’s hope this happens. The neighborhood deserves it.
-Polly Singer, executive director, Lexington Art League, winner of best art exhibit in the last year (Nude 2000)
Arts & Entertainment
I would admire the photographs of the artists seated in their garrets, dressed in tattered smocks and frowning in the direction of their beefy nude models. To spend your days in the company of naked men-that was the life for me. ‘Turn a bit to the left, Jean-Claude. I long to capture the playful quality of your buttocks.’
Mmm… buttocks. And what a pertinent image to start out a list of the best arts and culture of Lexington. For, of course, it was the pictures of the nekkid people, the ever-popular Nude 2000 Show, that really drew out the art consumers of Lexington -or at least the gawkers. And there was no shortage of people voting for the favorite place to see live asses in the best adult entertainment category.
But according to the copious reader essays on the dearth of arts and entertainment in Lexington, a picture of some nice, taut buttocks sort of sums up the scene.
This is not to say that Lexington has no art gems. Certainly this year’s winners are not merely the top of the heap but also excellent in their fields, no matter how much they rely on buttocks.
But what do you say about a town that votes a park full of horses the best outdoor sculpture? While risking the ire of the angry art mob (as Terry Allen would say), is this the best, or just the most familiar?
There have been plenty of great shows at home and hereabouts that remained unmentioned in the voting process.
Still, we got REAMS of essays about “what Lexington needs is a thriving arts and culture scene,” but people aren’t even going out to see what we’ve got.
This problem is best illustrated by the fact that people keep voting for long-gone candidates for these categories. People are not looking for anything new in town.
Instead, they simply rest assured that 100 Proof is still best Lexington film for the year 2000, even though it came out in 97.
Chris Offutt’s The Good Third Cousin Twice Removed, as it was popularly bastardized by the readers, won the best book category in 98. Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible won in 99. They are still great books, but they didn’t come out “in the last year,” as the category clearly specified.
Does anyone who voted for songwriter Paul K and artist Rodney Hatfield even realize that both those guys moved to Louisville? How ’bout savin’ a little of that lovin’ for the talent that actually lives here?
Lexington does have some of the best artists, musicians and buttocks in the land. But also some of the least appreciated.
While this is the best you picked, there’s even more great stuff you might still be missing, hidden behind the hooves of the horses or those perky wildcat ears over at the sports museum.
Rodney Hatfield*/Arturo Sandoval
*Hatfield lives in Louisville
Best Art Gallery
UK Art Museum
Best Outdoor Sculpture
Frisch’s Big Boy
Best Art Exhibit
WHAT LEXINGTON NEEDS
What it needs every year. A better nightlife. A more lively downtown. A bar or club large enough to host bands that are too big for Lynagh’s and too small for Rupp. Lexington needs a reason NOT to go to the mall. Better shops, better restaurants, better parking, a new downtown.
Best Book by a Kentucky Author
Creeker by Linda Scott DeRosier
Loss of Innocence by Cara Richards
Best Local Theater
Shakespeare in the Park
Billie Holiday at Actors’ Guild
Best Kentucky Made Film
*100 Proof was years ago. Stop voting for it.
Best Place for Live Music
Lexington needs to realize that not every resident loves horses, God, the Wildcats, weather broadcasts, country music, the Backstreet Boys, or the Kentucky Derby.
Best Adult Entertainment
Frank & Mary Schaap
Best Local Band Due for National Attention
Best Largely Undiscovered Band
Rockstars of Soul
Best Local Songwriter
*Paul K moved… a long time ago
Sexiest Local Band
Food & Drinks
You can see this everywhere you go: young, middle-class people whose lives are beginning to disappoint them making too much noise in restaurants and clubs and wine bars. ‘Look at me! I’m not as boring as you think I am! I know how to have fun!’ Tragic. I’m glad I learned to stay home and sulk.
Food. What would we do without it? Besides feel a little more peckish, it has long been surmised that Lexington would shrivel up and be a ghost town without its restaurant/fast food industries.
All it takes is a drive down Nicholasville Road to realize that half of our city’s workforce earns their paycheck from the food service industry, while the other half is blowing their paycheck on the new Applebee’s ethnically-themed steak.
Thus, it is all the more important to cull the cream from the curd, metaphorically speaking. With so many terrible restaurants out there to choose from,(and in so many wonderful locations) readers were emphatic about who does serve the best food in Lexington…
Huzzah for us. We’ll show those crappy Americana chicken-tender-vending wall-filled processors yet. Our survey indicates that original, interesting, and imaginative fare can be rewarded.
Or as David Sedaris puts it, “I’m always searching the menu in the hope that some courageous young chef has finally recognized tobacco as a vegetable. Bake it, steam it, grill it, or stuff it into littleneck clams…”
Just another way to support our local growers.
Best Place to Buy Bread
Great Harvest Bread Co.
Red Hot & Blue
WHAT LEXINGTON NEEDS
“More locally-owned restaurants that exhibit a little imagination, attention to detail, and prices that acknowledge Lexington isn’t New York.”
Cheapside Bar & Grill
Buffalo’s & Dad’s
Best Wine List
Best Beer Variety
Lexington City Brewery
Labrot & Graham
Phil Dunn Catering
A La Lucie’s
Jonathan at Gratz Park
Bigg Blue Martini
Most Original Menu
Ed & Fred’s Desert Moon
a la lucie’s
WHAT LEXINGTON DOESN’T NEED
“Any more Applebee’s style restaurants or chain restaurants of any kind…”
Best Restaurant Worth a Road Trip
Hall’s on the River
Lilly’s (in Louisville)
Shaker Village (Pleasant Hill)
Most Veggie Friendly Restaurant
Best Role Model for Lexington Restaurant
Jack Fry in Louisville
He must show, in the way he spends his money, that he is conscientious and not crass. The emerging code of financial correctness allows bourgeois bohemians to spend money without looking like one of the vulgar yuppies they despise. It’s a set of rules to help them convert their wealth into spiritually and intellectually uplifting experiences. A person who follows these precepts can dispose up to $4 or $5 million annually in a manner that demonstrates how little he or she cares about material things.
From the best place to buy porn to the best florist, we’ve got the goods, baby. With all the Super Wal-Marts and Meijer’s and asphalt playgrounds opening up, wouldn’t it be comforting to know that people still care about the small businesses, who fight The Man for the right to sell their wares?
Well, you, dear readers, are the ones who care.
Of course, not all the winners are small and independently-owned, but a substantial number are.
Chains did log in their fair share of votes (the Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy pulled in some big numbers, for example), but the Mom and Pop shops generally prevailed, and readers supplied passionate essays about why they voted the way they did.
While Lexington might have pretty much everything you could ever need, everything you could want is a different matter (where can I get a decent zuppa inglese gelato? or a pair of sisal underwear?). Of course, everyone seems to want – among many other things – an IKEA. BADLY. Because it won for the second year running as “Best Store You Wish Lexington Had.”
Though one reader scrawled in the margin, “what is the fascination with ugly Danish particle board furniture?”
Many considered chains something of a necessary evil in a town that’s as driven by conspicuous consumerism as this one, but argued with their placement in terms of the good of the city.
For example, many readers wrote, “not one more Meijer’s… unless it’s downtown.” Downtown needs a viable grocery store. Desperately. But they’re multiplying like rabbits in the suburbs, where there are already too many.
The same with malls. Hamburg Pavilion sparked a lot of angry essays for its poor traffic and its debatable selection of shopping options. “Disappointing” was an adjective used frequently. If we must have chains, readers asked, “why is Nordstrom coming to Louisville and not here? Why no Crate & Barrel? Why no IKEA?”
Others confused Lexington with New York, “where’s Barney’s? Manolo Blahnik? Jimmy Choo? Prada? Dean & DeLuca?”
And many, many readers took the time to register their concern about the fate of Lexington Mall on Richmond Road. “Great location. Close to downtown and major residential neighborhoods to support it. Plenty of parking. It’s a ghost town.”
Another reader asked, “why pour all that money into that Hamburg eyesore when Lexington and Turfland Malls could be revitalized as successfully as Fayette Mall was?”
One thing’s certain. Lexingtonians are prepared to fight for their right to shop. God love ‘em.
Baker (old Botkin) True Value
Best Place to Buy a Used Car
Don Jacobs Choice Used Cars
Best Thrift Shop
Goodwill Industries of Kentucky
Oram’s Chevy Chase Florists
Best of Flowers
Best Used Books
Best Place to Buy Porn
Best Local Record Shop
WHAT LEXINGTON DOESN’T NEED
Anymore stores like Meijer’s or Wal Mart, I mean, how many of these do we need? Do we really need another Meijer’s on Reynolds Rd, less than a mile from the New Wal Mart? Do we need more traffic in this already congested area? We need less chain everything, especially restaurants. You cannot drive five minutes without seeing an Applebee’s, there is even one in Nicholasville.
Best Women’s Clothes
Isle of You
Best Men’s Clothes
Howard & Miller
Abercrombie & Fitch
WHAT LEXINGTON DOESN’T NEED
Another Meijer, WalMart or Target. I personally have watched developers and local government destroy the country roads, woods at Tates Creek, and Nicholasville Road. It really sucks. The groundhogs are scrambling to find a place to go on Reynolds Road.
-Lisa Turner, reader essay
Best Place to Shop for Someone Who Has Everything
Third Street Stuff
Best Store You Wish Lex Had
Crate & Barrel
Services & Professionals
He’s pounding nails into a hardwood floor/And I swear to God I heard someone moaning…
- Tom Waits
We’ve all been burned by lousy professionals. Whether it’s sinister mechanics who cut wires to keep you coming back for more, or plumbers who can’t fix that lousy drip unless they’ve clogged their pockets with a wad of your $20s, or contractors who abscond with your life savings, or the photographer who double-exposed your wedding negatives, or that unscrupulous surgeon who waited till the anesthesia took effect before…well, let’s just say the prospect of finding a pro without getting screwed sometimes seems shadowy at best.
And that’s why this category exists. Because we want to spare you the pain we’ve all suffered.
It’s not so much a celebration of these fine workers for excellence in their fields, although they all presumably deserve it, for getting the votes in – but it’s a way that our readers can give something back. They can say, “Hey! These guys didn’t just avoid sticking it to us, they genuinely helped us out!”
So we can share these professional goldmines and spread the good word to others.
Now rest assured, this is a readers’ poll, not an editorial.
But when you’re in the mood to get your f’eng shui’ed, many people have been known to peer at the Real Best on their fridge for an idea of where to go.
John Estes Plumbing & Heating
Best Place for a Bypass
St. Joseph Hospital
Best Flap n Zap
Physician’s Eye Center PSC
Jim McKeighen of Turf Town
Best Banking for Non-Millionaires
University of Kentucky Federal Credit Union
Pest Photograher (Commercial)
Lexington Professional Massage
Lexington Wellness Center
Best Feng Shui
Steve DiMartino at Perfect Auto Care
Quality First Auto Care
Best Web Designer
squareFish Media Services
Best Health Club
Lexington Athletic Club
That ephemeral sheet… the newspaper, is the natural enemy of the book, as the whore is of the decent woman.
-E. and J. de Goncourt, 1858
Speaking of whores…
Thank God for the media. Really.
What other single entity can be despised so regularly? Just when you get a good rant going about the government, someone says “But I like my Social Security check” or “The Post Office has really improved.”
But not so with the media. No one’s going to hold you back as local TV news, the newspapers, radio and the internet get theirs.
And, deliciously ironic, at the same time you thrash the media like a ripe piñata, there are so many guilty pleasures to be had.
PROSTITUTES!! Need we say more? Probably not since a whole lot of you voted for every prostitute story you could get your paws on.
So c’mon. You know you love it. Trash the media to your friends and then cuddle up with it at the end of the day.
It’s okay. The media understand. We’ll still be here for you.
Best Media Scandal of Past Year
First-grade teacher arrested for prostitution
Kentucky Theatre porn debates
News Story You Wish Would Go Away
(Elian disqualified. Not remotely local.)
Best General Assembly Coverage
Best Local Website
Best Evening Newscast
Best AM Station
Best FM Station
Best Sports Reporter
Best of 1999
Even the losers get lucky sometime.
As you cruise this town with its acres and acres of identical subdivisions, McFood joints, airport hanger-cum-Wal-Mart superstores, six and eight-lane asphalt stretches, forests of billboards advertising the same crap as anywhere else, and generic entertainment offerings, you gotta wonder, “What saves this town from being Anywhere USA?”
The only answer that stands the scrutiny: the people.
Yes, we the people. We the freaks, the oddballs, the wacked-out college students, the earnest activists, the bizarre politicians, the freaky drifters, the seemingly plain people with strange tales to tell.
That’s what makes Lexington a town to remember.
In the words of a certain pot holder, “God Bless This Mess.”
What Lexington needs is a downtown. What we have now is several hotels, some retail stores (that close at 5pm or so), a sports arena, a library, a transit center and a few scattered bars. We need to add PEOPLE to that mix! Buildings shouldn’t be sitting vacant for years at a time. Buildings shouldn’t be torn down and become a vacant lot for two or three years. Solutions: downtown should be more pedestrian friendly. New stores and restaurants should be encouraged to open downtown. Landlords should be encouraged to maintain the buildings and keep them occupied (why they don’t do this is beyond me).
Best Celebrity with Kentucky Roots
Hon Mention: Richard Hell (who got nearly as many votes as Tom Cruise, and has more authentic roots here)
Best Local Politician You Love to Hate
Best Urban-County Council Member
Best State Legislator
Best Idea to Share with LFUCG
Leave KY theater alone
Best Local Developer
Biggest Embarrassment in this years general assembly
10 Commandments debate
Someone asking Kathy Stein if she believed in Jesus
Best UK Scandal of the Past Year
Wethington and the sweatshop protestors
New Circle & Winchester
What Lexington Needs
Bogart’s sized concert venue
Bike lanes and trails
What Lexington Doesn’t Need