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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 Gingko goodies

Whether eating in your kitchen, a friend's dining room, or a hotel room bed, you cannot escape associating your surroundings with what you are eating. Even if you are eating the most wonderful (three days of work) cassoulet that Jacques Pepin has ever made, if you are uncomfortable, such as standing in line at the DMV or filling out tax forms, it will affect your appreciation of this incredibly complex food. On the other hand, pickle loaf on white with colby and Miracle Whip, has never tasted better after a morning of working hard on an endeavor with friends and then finding a big shady sycamore on which to lean back and have lunch. The goal for true enjoyment of food as other than just sustenance, it would seem, is to have a balance of excellence in food and view, comfort and taste.

The give and take necessary to create this balance is a constant battle for the frustrated gourmand, but when it does happen that wonderful food meets a beautiful and relaxed atmosphere, it is a sensory satisfaction that is uniquely subjective to each of us. Why mention all of this? To tell you about eating at the Ginkgo Tree Café; how great the expectations were, and then how it actually managed to supersede them.

The Ginkgo Tree Café is in a small outbuilding, the old smokehouse, of Ashland: the Henry Clay Estate that provides beautiful food to accompany the home's beautiful 20 acres of manicured land. Imagine dining here under the huge trees, in the shadow of the house, and walking among the peony garden, which is in full bloom right now, and lunching there with other women all in white linen, discussing practical and important social issues while sipping iced tea and eating intelligently prepared sandwiches.

But, fairly certain that this romanticized idea is not going to happen, this vision should not preclude you from enjoying the food and the grounds. One would think that eating there was something that needed to be planned, but last week, an extemporaneous drive to the estate for a meal found that many other people had the same idea for a calming lunch hour.

I met John Martin, owner of the Ginkgo Tree Café, on the brick patio that surrounds the old smokehouse and holds several black iron tables with umbrellas and small vases of fragrant cream roses. He told that the café was so named because the Ambassador of China had given Henry Clay eight ginkgo tree seedlings and one of those originals is still standing not far from where we decided to sit that day. Mr. Martin is a very genteel man and suited to his backdrop, who made sure that I was immediately comfortable at my table.

Seven days a week, 11 o'clock until 4 o'clock, April 1st until October 31st, weather permitting, box lunches are served to those touring the historic house and locals who know about this secret treasure. All of the food served at the café is prepared at the Greentree Tea Room on Short Street, of which Mr. Martin is a partner. The daily box lunch consists of a sandwich, soup or salad, and dessert and although the menu changes, there are some consistencies when people declare their favorites. All of the sandwiches are served on wheatberry bread, but if that is problem, please call in advance and they will be happy to arrange a substitute.

Fortunately for us, Mr. Martin is a vegetarian, so there is always a good selection of delicious and interesting vegetable sandwiches to choose from including pimento cheese with a touch of brown sugar and garlic, artichoke and swiss, fresh spinach spread with green onions and water chestnuts, egg salad with curry and a cream cheese base, and a layered sandwich of black olives, sun dried tomatoes, cucumbers, hearts of palm, roasted red pepper and pesto mayo. There are also sandwiches of chicken salad made with toasted almonds and dill, shrimp salad, and a turkey club and box lunches are available for offices by calling ahead.

The soups and salads that accompany the sandwiches are delicious and not typical. Roasted red pepper soup and seafood bisque with shrimp, crab, and lobster were being served the day of my lunch, as was tomato aspic with bleu cheese, new potato salad, cucumber mousse, and sweet Vidalia onions with baby lima bean salad.

The desserts are also ever-changing, so on this day, I enjoyed a slice of caramel cake. It is an incredibly moist layered cake with rich caramel icing that really just melts in your mouth and was the perfect end to my meal.

So, here we have the happy balance: Ashland is a beautiful, historic home to tour, its grounds create a lush oasis within our city in which to walk and take deep, long breaths of air, and the Ginkgo Tree Café gives us the opportunity to sit awhile and take it all in while tasting interesting regional fare.

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