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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 Cork Wars
Bottleneck brouhaha
By Brooke Shelby Biggs

The rarefied world of wine enthusiasts is all so very civilized. Public spats simply are not done. Name-calling and hair-pulling are the sole province of beer drinkers (the swine). Well, until recently. These days, golden goblets and long-stemmed flutes alike are roiling with turbulence. The unseemly bickering centers on an unlikely lightning rod: the wine cork.

An odd group of wine enthusiasts, supermarket chains, the plastic industry, and the likes of Bill Gates have declared the death of cork. In opposition, a hodge-podge of pro-cork interests-ranging from wine purists to environmentalists to subsistence farmers to the government of Portugal-are rallying to cork's defense.

It all stems from an affliction, found in both the expensive varietals and the cheap table wines, called "cork taint." A "corked" wine, according to experts, tastes cardboardy, "cheesy," musty, or flat. But no one is really sure how or why some corks become tainted. The taint itself can be traced to a chemical called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), which gets into the cork somewhere along the production line, and then reacts with the wine. In any case, trace TCA is a common environmental pollutant not limited to cork, but that's where it's creating the biggest problems.

Some winemakers and wine experts say the only solution to the problem is to phase out natural cork, and replace it with synthetic bottle stoppers made of plastic or even screwcaps. The eccentric Bonny Doon boutique winery near Santa Cruz, CA now plugs every single one of its bottles with synthetic corks. Just last year a major Napa Valley winemaker, PlumpJack Vineyards sealed its entire 1997 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon ($135 a bottle) with metal screwtops. Dozens of wineries in Australia and New Zealand quickly followed suit.

The creeping acceptance of plastic corks, however, is more than a matter of wine quality; it may spell the end for several endangered species of animals, as well as an ancient way of life in Spain and Portugal, where most cork is grown.

Cork oak forests on the Iberian peninsula constitute some of the very last remaining habitat of the endangered Iberian lynx and Imperial eagle. Led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the UK, the pro-cork environmental faction claims that if plastic corks gain much of a foothold in the market the price of natural cork will plummet and the cork oak forests will fall into disuse, and likely be replaced with less ecologically sound timber plantations, such as pine or eucalyptus, or by housing developments and theme parks.

Besides, say natural cork's defenders, cork taint is too poorly understood to be pinned on cork farmers. The plastic cork companies are simply trying to create a scandal where there is none. And it is no coincidence, they say, that the plastic industry in America is behind the push to replace cork. Almost all synthetic bottle stoppers are produced in the US, and the top gun in the multi-million-dollar industry is a Seattle-area private firm called Supremecorq, which is rumored to have Microsoft monopolist Bill Gates as its star investor.

On the other side, plastic cork enthusiasts say this is all a disinformation campaign by greedy cork farmers who brought the problem upon themselves. They say the declining quality of natural cork is due to overstripping of trees and indiscriminate use of pesticides and disinfectants by cork farmers and cork manufacturers.

But the plastic cork makers also may have gotten too cocky with their victory: When customers at UK grocers complained about the plastic corks they were finding in their bottles of Bordeaux, they received form letters in response chock-a-block with falsehoods about corks and cork taint. A spokesman for Safeway told one complaining customer that the chain had switched because Portuguese cork farmers were "greedy," overstripping trees hazing wild pigs in the cork forests, and generally raping the landscape. He added that plastic corks would actually help save the world's cork forests.

Opponents say this is a disinformation campaign orchestrated by US multinationals who have taken UK grocers for a ride. Cork forestry expert Dr. Luis Palma, for example, says it is physically impossible to overstrip a cork oak. "The regular stripping of cork oaks improves the vigor of the trees," he told the Lisbon Observer. "The bark will not come off if it is not ready, so it is impossible to strip too often."

In addition, some wine experts say the "cork taint" issue as whole is a red herring, and that many wines identified as "corked" are in fact suffering from oxidation, storage problems, bacterial or fungal infections in aging barrels, or other factors unrelated to TCA. Sometimes, a bad bottle of wine is just a bad bottle of wine.

And plastic stoppers and screwcaps can, according to who you ask, also create their own problems. Detractors say plastic stoppers can impart a plasticky flavor to wine, or that they do not let wine breathe enough to age properly, or conversely, that they let wines breath too much, and cause a kind of spoilage called oxidation. Most plastic corks are also non-biodegradable and non-recyclable.

And of course there is the "experience" argument; the prospect of opening a nice bottle of pinot noir by twisting off a cap makes more than a few wine snobs quiver. Even for casual wine drinkers, something feels wrong when you open a wine bottle and don't get the satisfying "thok" as the stopper comes out and when you can't smell that cork.