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557 S. Limestone 253-0014. Voted best pancakes by Ace readers in the Best of Lexington poll year after year. Winner of 2001's "Best Veggie Friendly Restaurant." Live music. Free evening parking behind the building. Daily specials. Lunch, Monday - Friday 11-2. Dinner, Tuesday-Thursday 5:30-9, Friday & Saturday 5:30-10. Brunch, Saturday and Sunday 10-2.

Billy's Bar-B-Q
101 Cochran Rd. At the corner of High St. in Chevy Chase. 269-9593. Genuine Western Kentucky style pit barbecue and fixins. Dine in/ carry out/ catering/ bulk deliveries. We’re the home grown guys. Open M-Th 11am-9pm; F-Sat 11am-10pm; Sun 11:30am-8pm.

Cafe on the Park
369 W. Vine St. at the Radisson Plaza Hotel. (859) 231-9000. Wonderful view of Triangle Park. Breakfast 6:30am until 10:30am daily; breakfast buffet served in season. Lunch 11am-2pm, (pasta bar on Thursdays) Affordable upscale American cuisine and a wonderful wine list 5pm-10pm. 90 minute complimentary parking.

Cafe Jennifer
111 Woodland Ave at the Woodlands Condominiums, 255-0709. A cozy restaurant featuring Kentucky favorites, using locally grown produce. Lunch and Dinner daily, Mon.-Sat. Pub room atmosphere in the well-stocked bar and private room available for small gatherings.

The Depot
128 East Main St., Midway 846-4745 Eclectic creations with a down home flavor serving Central Kentucky and beyond. Good times abound at “The Depot” in Midway, six days a week for lunch and Thursday, Friday & Saturday for dinner.

Ed and Fred’s Desert Moon
148 Grand Blvd. 231-1161. Affordable American Cuisine. Gourmet pizzas, fresh pasta, specialty salads and sandwiches, and a wide array of entrees. Informal yet elegant atmosphere. Wonderful wine list! Patio dining and banquet facilities. Lunch: 11a-3p Tue-Fri; Dinner: Tue-Sun.

Emmett’s Restaurant
Off Tates Creek Road, south of Man O’ War, 245-4444, offers innovative Southern cooking in a renovated farmhouse featuring a cozy bar, casual patio dining and seven lovely dining rooms. Dinner served Mon.-Sun. beginning at 5:30 PM and Sunday brunch from 11 AM-2 PM. Reservations accepted.

255-2431. It’s all about the food at this continental eatery where Chef Jim Plymale builds his menu around fresh, seasonal ingredients. For lunch how about Black Bean Cassoulet or Crispy Polenta Napoleon? Imagine the dinner fare. Located on (that’s right) 431 Old Vine St., the atmosphere is smart and cozy. And the bar is the swankiest in town. Dress: As yourself. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Thurs 5:30-10; Fri-Sat 5:30-11.

"Food with Character" 735 E. Main Street (859)266-9000. Full-blooded, dipped in the Bayou, authentic Southwest Louisiana Cuisine at Furlongs! PO-Boys, Burgers, Creole, Etouffees, Gumbo, Pastas, Salads, Seafood, Steaks, Fresh Fish, great daily dinner specials and extensive wine list. Open for dinner: Mon.-Sat. 4-11.

Happy Dragon Chinese Buffet
1510 Newtown Pike, 859-388-9988. All you can eat chinese buffet. Over 120 items daily, featuring fresh seafood, beef, chicken, pork, soups, salads, fruits... and much more! Open Sun. to Thurs. 11am - 10pm, Fri.& Sat. 11am - 10:30pm.

The Homestead
3955 Harrodsburg Rd, 219-9922. Why not tonight? The Homestead Restaurant offers superb regional cuisine in a classic and beautiful setting. A warm and cozy ambience naturally complements the traditional southern dishes prepared by Executive Chef Tony Cortez. Open for dinner six nights a week. Open Sundays during Keeneland and holidays. Dinner: 5:30 Mon-Thur, 5:00 on Fri & Sat.

Jonathan at
Gratz Park

120 West Second Street 252-4949 Redefined regional cuisine served in our Southern dining room or in the English pub room. Festive Sunday brunch from 11:30-2 pm. Reservations suggested. Also call us for intimate dinner parties, fabulous banquets, business lunches, pre-wedding events to the reception.

The Mansion
at Griffin Gate
1800 Newtown Pike. 859-288-6142. Lexington's landmark of good taste. The elegantly restored antebellum mansion offers traditional American and regional southern cuisine with European flavors. Experience gracious dining at Lexington's first Four Diamond rated restaurant. The Mansion is open daily from 6pm-10pm. Reservations are suggested.

Merrick Inn
3380 Tates Creek Rd. (Top of the hill in Merrick Place.) We pride ourselves on being the establishment of choice for over 30 years. Enjoy Chef Jeremy Ashby’s savory nightly specials and superb signature southern cuisine all served in our Kentucky manor house. When the weather’s warm, enjoy Lexington’s favorite patio by the pool offering a more casual menu. Mon.- Thurs 5:30 to 10:00, Fri and Sat 5:30 to 10:30.

Natasha's Cafe
112 Esplanade 259-0203. An array of tastes from Kiev to Cairo in the elegant atmosphere of a Parisian cafe. World cuisine buffet for lunch. Fine dining for all income brackets evenings after 5:30. Tour buses, business meetings and accordion players welcome. Voted Lexington's Best Ethnic Fare (ACE Weekly Readers’ Poll, 2001). Lunch Buffet 11A-2P, M-F and Noon to 3P on Saturday.

Scarborough Fare
355 Romany Road. 859.266.8704. A gourmand’s delight, featuring an array of entrees that will tickle your fancy. Menu changes daily. Deli dining, or gourmet carryout for those on the go. Open Monday-Saturday 10-8.

Starbucks Coffee
University of Kentucky Student Center. 257-1209. Lexington's first full size Starbucks location. Stop in today for fresh brewed coffee, espresso drinks, Frappuccinos, delightful pastries, and Starbucks merchandise. Conveniently close to downtown. We are a cyber-café; come surf the 'net on our laptop computers. Open Mon.-Thurs. 7am-9pm, Fri. 7am-4pm, Sat. 9am-4pm.

Yamamoto Japanese Grill
& Sushi
130 West Tiverton Way. 859-272-6668. Call for reservations. Prepared before your eyes!! Come enjoy our Fresh Sushi and a variety of Sushi Rolls and fantastic performance and taste in Habachi Grill. Lunch Specials and Lunch boxes available $5.95-9.95. Mon-Thurs 11-2, 5-10; Fri 11-2, 5-11; Sat 5-11; Sun 12-9.

l Early Crops

One of the greatest moves towards more exercise and getting ready for bathing suit season, if I may take liberties here, is working in the yard. Tilling the soil in an oversize seagrass hat, amalgamating Kentucky clay with fertilizer, lime (or whatever creates the perfect balance in your garden), feels, at the end of the day, to have used every muscle in your body including those you had forgotten about since last spring.

Happily sleeping on a heating pad, dreaming about the next day's project, wondering how plowing under a new garden took hours when on television (or in condensed memories of last season) it only should have taken about forty-five minutes, is all part of the spring fever that takes over those with eyes bigger than shovel.

I am one of those obsessed with grandiose early spring ideas of spending every waking hour, from 6:30 in the morning when the sun is breaking to 8:30 at night when it is gratefully setting, getting rid of unwanted grass and dandelions, blessing the freshly-planted the way that my grandmother taught me, and seeking out tender, green new varietals and old favorites from vendors all over town. One place to begin the search for unique vegetables plants, maybe because they are organic or old-fashioned or experimental to Kentucky, is the Farmers' Market.

Our Farmers' Market in downtown Lexington is a joyful way to spend a Saturday morning. There is a real community spirit that abounds as everyone is talking and laughing, listening to music, teaching their children about food names and color, or purchasing their fruits and vegetables for the week's meals.

Please do not think that the booth tables are bare; this time of the year brings us ready to eat (asparagus if you arrive to the market early enough, new potatoes, lots of different greens and lettuces freshly cut the night before, garlic, and Florida vine-ripened tomatoes) as well as ready to plant.

There is something special about knowing that the plant you bought was seeded in Kentucky and not mass-produced and shipped in and that's a feeling you can enjoy at many of the booths (ask the individual vendor about the source).

Last week, there were many varieties of tomatoes, lettuce sets, herbs, flowers, and tomatillo plants with small, yellow blooms, but the most amazing new vegetable plants that I found at Farmers' Market were artichokes.

In Kentucky, you may ask? Well, the woman who sold three of them to me said that her neighbor had luck with them, even though she sounded a little skeptical, so I thought that I should give them a try.

The first stop in finding out more about the artichoke and how it will fare locally, was to call the Fayette County Extension Office, on Red Mile Road. I had been out there this past winter trying to plan the garden and get the soil ready, so I knew how incredibly helpful this office could be. The Master Gardeners there volunteer their hours answering questions and giving excellent advice on questions of the yard so they were naturally prepared for my artichoke query.

It seems that the artichoke is in the thistle group of the sunflower family and the buds are the wonderful section that we eat. I have never had a problem growing thistles or sunflowers so now my only problem seems to be where to put them. They will grow up to six feet in diameter, three to four feet tall, and live six to eight years, which is a mighty commitment to ask of yard space, and I have completely unrealistic plans for almost every square foot of it.

I had a small garden last year because we had just bought a house and we were curious about what would be coming up in the yard, but this year, it is becoming mine. New beds are being planted all over the yard. There will be beds for raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, and a beautiful grape arbor for eventually making trial wine, if we can get the ground rocky and unfertile enough, from what we can figure out. Raised beds to keep the dog out are essential: as is the nature of a wire fox terrier, he happily digs in fresh dirt, attacks the garden hose, and treats the peonies like track hurdles. But, the most immediate and important of all projects is the vegetable garden, to be tilled at once and filled. Everything is changing, much to my ax-wielding, hoe-grubbing, callused-hand husband's chagrin.

Working in the yard is tough, but worth every drop of sweat when I can address that amazing feeling of being able to satisfy hunger with a short walk out my door, with scissors or knife in hand, to harvest herbs, vegetables, and flowers for garnish.

Please email your culinary heads-ups to Karen at