BY DAVE OVERTON
With the economy in the dumper, many people have put vacation plans on hold. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to get away for a little stress relief, even if just for a day.
Nearby Midway is well known to Lexington residents as the home of some of the finest restaurants in the Kentucky bluegrass region. A beautifully restored historic downtown and a location nestled in some of the most beautiful horse country in the area add to the charms of this unique Kentucky treasure.
Midway is a pleasant thirty minute drive from Lexington, following Old Frankfort Pike past the county jail, then right onto US 62 for a mile, and then right into downtown Midway. The drive along Old Frankfort Pike is a beautiful tour of horse farms and beautiful country homes. In the early spring, the newborn foals are often seen out in the fields frolicking with their mamas watching over them.
The queen of Midway restaurants is Holly Hill Inn.
Chef Ouita Michel is one of twenty semi-finalists for a prestigious James Beard foundation award for the best chef of 2009 in the southeast United States.
Their menu is a fine blend of regional Southern cuisine with Asian influences. Combine Chef Ouita’s cuisine with sommelier and husband Chris Michel’s selection of fine wine and you have a not-to-be-missed dining experience.
Holly Hill Inn, formerly a bed and breakfast, was built in the mid 1800s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
They are open for brunch on weekends, dinner Thursday thru Saturday, and soon to open for lunch. Call ahead for Reservations.
A worthwhile stop for lunch on Old Frankfort Pike is Holly Hill Inn’s more casual cousin, Wallace Station, a country restaurant in a converted historic train depot. The sandwiches are large and delicious, the atmosphere somewhat rustic. Monday nights are fried chicken nights. Wallace Station is a popular tourist destination, so be prepared for a bit of line during peak hours.
In downtown Midway, you have several fine dining choices. The Black Tulip, paired with adjoining Bacchus Fine Wine and Spirits is in a modern building that fits neatly into Midway’s historic downtown and has a lovely outdoor patio that provides the perfect venue for a fine meal. The Black Tulip features American cuisine with a European feel and a selection of fine paired wines. The Black Tulip is open for dinner Monday thru Saturday, and has recently opened for lunch as well. Reservations recommended.
Just up the street from the Tulip, Bistro LaBelle has been in Midway for 11 years, serving French and Italian influenced American cuisine. Bistro La Belle is small but has an extensive wine list that nicely complements their cuisine.
Right next to Bistro La Belle is Heirloom. Heirloom serves what Chef Mark Wombles calls eclectic cuisine. Their menu describes an internationally influenced American cuisine, showing French, Italian, Middle-Eastern, and Asian influences. They also have a very nice, well-balanced wine list, featuring both domestic and imported vintages. Heirloom serves lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and suggests reservations.
The newest entry into Midway’s dining suite is the Quirk Cafe, located next to the Black Tulip.
Quirk Cafe is a personal favorite because I’m the executive chef. Quirk is currently open for lunch, serving sandwiches, homemade soups and desserts and Chef’s specials daily. Quirk will begin serving dinner soon, but the exact date is a closely guarded secret.
As is appropriate in modern fine dining, all the restaurants emphasize fresh, seasonal, local products. Prices range widely, and the food is excellent.
Take the beautiful drive to Midway, spend the day shopping and sight-seeing, and enjoy a delicious fine-dining experience.
Ace contributing food writer Dave Overton is executive chef at Quirk Cafe in Midway, Kentucky.