Where to Eat in Lexington Kentucky: Downtown’s Top Ten

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WHERE TO EAT IN LEXINGTON, Kentucky

Visitors to Lexington, Kentucky arrive in the beautiful bluegrass region with one question: where do the Locals eat in Lexington.  This is a ten-part dining series, based on the 20+ years Ace writers and readers have been eating out in Lexington, Kentucky. These are just of the few Old Reliables, where we eat.

This segment  (one of ten, including downtown, Chevy Chase, campuspopular breakfasts and brunch spotscoffeeinternational markets, beer guide, patios, etc) focuses on Lexington’s local-oriented food, drink, and dining options within walking distance of downtown (this includes the Rupp Arena neighborhood in west downtown, over to the courthouses in east downtown).

a la lucie  159 N. Limestone 859.252.5277. Though the kitsch may feel a little dated now, this tiny pink palace defined small, quirky, and pricey for Lexingtonians in search of shabby chic eclectic fine dining when it opened decades ago. The fried-green-tomato BLT is still a great lunch, and people-watching across the street from the Courthouse rarely disappoints. (Sidewalk tables in summer.)

Columbia’s Steakhouse  201 N. Limestone. 859.253.3135. The downtown location is Lexington’s oldest continuously operating restaurant. Old school meat and potatoes, famous for the Nighthawk Special (tenderloin); ask about manager Flo Cowley’s homemade pies. Sidewalk tables in summer.

Dudley’s 259 W. Short Street. 859.252.1010. Upscale Southern with a farm-to-table style that goes back decades. You can’t go wrong with the Pasta Dudley, or the Downtown Debbie Brown variation on Kentucky’s famous Hot Brown (though the bacon on the past few visits was a little  flaccid, that was hopefully anomalous). Exquisite rooftop garden open in season, designed by Jon Carloftis.

Grey Goose  170 Jefferson. 859.233.1500. Voted best new restaurant by Ace readers in its first year, it was an early anchor to what is now the Jefferson Street dining corridor. Bar food. Not too pricey. The bacon-gorgonzola pizza is an Ace crew favorite. Great patio.

Jonathan at Gratz Park  120 W. Second Street. 859.252.4949. Located on the first floor of Lexington’s charming boutique Gratz Park Inn, expect inspired Southern fine dining from award-winning chef/proprietor, Jonathan Lundy that relies on fresh, seasonal, and local. Try the bar or patio if the dining room feels a little…conservative. Ace favorite menu items: country ham pot stickers and the fried green tomato salad (but the grilled Caesar is hard to top). Don’t even get us started on the Spalding’s Doughnut Bread Pudding (a recipe from his cookbook he was kind enough to share with Ace readers). Click here to purchase Jonathan’s Bluegrass Table: Redefining Kentucky Cuisine for a great overview of Lexington and Kentucky cuisine.

Nick Ryan’s Saloon 157 W. Jefferson. 859.233.7900. Expect upscale bar prices (shrimp and grits, truffle fries, etc). For better or worse, this Jefferson venue is the answer to the suburban drinking-dining typically offered everywhere from Merrick to the BHG Malone’s empire. Allow plenty of time to accommodate the service. It was voted Best New Restaurant by Ace readers the year it opened.  “Veranda” open in season.

Shorty’s 163 West Short Street. 859.309.3813. Lexington had been in desperate need of a downtown grocery for decades, and this steps up as an in-between urban market, with deli fare and wine tastings. Sidewalk tables in summer.

Spalding’s Bakery 760 Winchester Road. 859.252-3737. It is no longer located downtown, but no trip to Lexington would be complete without sampling their world-famous donuts. When they sell out for the day, the doors close, so go early, and hit the ATM first: cash-only.

Stella’s Deli 143 Jefferson Street. Locally-sourced deli fare (soups, sandwiches, etc). Delicate-size portions, but tasty. No seating until your entire party arrives, so coordinate accordingly. Side patio in summer nearly doubles the capacity. Dinner menu added Summer 2012.

Stella’s Creamsicle Float. Photo by Sideshow Photo.

Table 310  310 W. Short Street. 859.252.5277. French-inspired small plates and attitude.Voted Best Decadent Desserts by the Ace readers, save room for the inspired sweets by award winning pastry chef, Stella Parks, named a best new pastry chef 2012, Food and Wine Magazine. Now open for weekend brunch.

With the exception of Spalding’s, everything included here is within walking distance of Rupp Arena/downtown Hilton/Hyatt/or Gratz Park Inn,  if you’re wearing comfortable shoes, and are in decent shape.
NEW  to downtown in 2012

Henry Clay’s Public House 112 N. Upper 859.368.7754. Street Specializing in classic and contemporary cocktails, extensive craft beer and bourbon selection.

Lexington Beerworks213 North Limestone. 859.359.6747. They don’t do food in-house, instead, they feature cuisine from Lexington Food Trucks, or

Lexington Beerworks

from neighbors like Columbia’s (a couple doors down). The Flight and a Bite series is popular.

Parlay Social 257 West Short Street. Next door to Dudley’s. Upscale cocktails and bar food (gourmet grilled cheese, etc).

 

 

Shakespeare and Company 367 West Short Street. Dubai-based chain with a 28 page menu.

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