What I really want is a cigarette, and I'm always searching the menu in the hope that some courageous young chef has finally recognized tobacco as a vegetable. Bake it, steam it, grill it, or stuff it into littleneck clams, I just need something familiar that I can hold on to.
Looking around town, there's a hive of activity this spring-most of that activity helmed by veterans who have years of experience in pleasing Lexington's finicky palate.
This is still a town where everybody may plead for "new!" "exciting!" and "different!"-but these pleas are followed quickly by complaints if a Hot Brown can't be found on the menu.
Conventional economic wisdom suggests that half or more of all new restaurants fail within the first 12 months. Restaurants are undoubtedly a high-risk venture, and any restaurant management course holds that the basic reasons for failure can be distilled to two problems: a failure to increase revenue, and/or contain costs. Which is obvious.
There's a multitude of reasons that could contribute to those problems (location, design, capital, labor, and management, to name a few) and many unforeseen variables apply as well.
This has been a particularly tough year so far-a big storm and a war are factors that have affected the local dining-out dollar in both the concrete and the abstract-yet Lexington's restaurant community clearly shows far greater signs of life now than it did late last year and early this year (when a high-profile string of culinary casualties cast a long shadow of gloom; even veterans, with years of experience and success, were being winnowed out).
Still, Lexington is largely a white-collar college community that eats out (which is why it still functions as a test market for many projects, restaurants included).
It's just that the competition for a Lexingtonian's food and drink dollar is fiercer than it used to be (instead of a chicken in every pot, we may soon have a Starbucks on every corner).
Consumers remain elusive, exclusive, and sought after in this economy-and a plethora of new eateries are lining up to bid for your appetites.
The following is just a small sampling.
Debbie Long, celebrating 20 years of success with Lexington's fine dining staple, Dudley's, is planning to branch out this summer in Chevy Chase.
On New Year's Day 2003, Long made a new best friend at the corner of High and Euclid, when she rescued 'Buddy' a lost cocker spaniel of indeterminate years.
Now on that same corner, Long hopes to open Buddy's. She's planning a "friendly neighborhood joint" where the food is "simple and inexpensive," and the drinks are stiff.
On Romany Road, Kate Savage has added some familiar faces to the kitchen at Scarborough Fare-the new smoothie bar reflects the recipes of the long-mourned Everybody's (the Purple Hank and Apple Annie
Rare Restaurant Group, which already oversees Malone's, is adding another establishment to Lansdowne, Sal's.
Annabelle's is still under renovation at the corner of Short and Limestone, with opening slated for May. This project is set to bring the suburban success of Emmett's to a decidedly different downtown environment. This upcoming entry will provide a corner anchor for a block that's bookended by one of Lexington's longest-running fine dining successes, a la lucie, on the other end.
Continuing the expansion of fine dining on Limestone, Le Deauville, a French bistro located at 199 N. Limestone across from Sayre school, is scheduled to open by the end of this month.
Lynda Hoff (of Atomic Cafe fame) and Susan Harkins (of Bubba Sue Shrimp) are the new owners of Doodles, across the street from Atomic Café.
The site is the former home to the famous (or infamous)
They will open this summer. Shrimp and grits are on the menu, and beer and wine will be served. There will be outside dining. The focus will be on breakfast and lunch, and delivery will be availablein a VW Beatle (aka the Doodle Bug).
Kentucky products will be abundant, utilizing produce and meats from local farmers.
(Prepared take-out for dinner will be offered; fresh flowers will even be available for one-stop shopping for downtowners).
Farmers' Market is back on Vine, and has somehow replaced the Cosmo's crowd as THE place to see and be-seen on spring and summer Saturday mornings. Whether or not that's a good or bad thing may depend on how much time you're willing to devote to hair and makeup (or showering and shaving) after a Friday night out. There is, of course, no official dress code.
The Homestead has been an apres-Keeneland tradition for many years. Malcolm Jennings has retired, and new owner Bobby Murray (of Merrick Inn) is cooking up some new ideas and traditions
Lest anyone get complacent, many restaurant's entries might need to be replaced by revolving doors. Some of those still vacant exist mostly as a cautionary tale, while others have left behind the inspiration for something new and different in their wake.
Roy's East High Diner was a high-profile exit, but there will be something new and different in the spot this summer.
The ice storm marked the final icicle in the coffin for 431 on Old East Vine (an establishment that also had complex equity ties to the now-defunct Phil's Cookshop on Romany).
Many local mom and pop shops-some of which were closed for as much as a week during the storm (and may have already been living tab by tab)-did benefit from a post-storm boost brought by the Sweet Sixteen tourney. Others have seen short-term spikes from Keeneland.
But for many, it's been too little, too late.
The small courthouse corner shop, Junior's (which replaced the longtime Family Affair), has now been replaced by Kiser's.
Breeze's at High and Limestone (which has had several incarnations in recent years, and has always been plagued by parking problems) is also out of business.
And while many still struggle, many other Lexington institutions are celebrating landmark anniversaries this year.
Isolating any one predictor of success or failure doesn't seem possible in this market, or in this economy.
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