House Food and Wine has opened across the street from Soundbar and Hanna’s on Lime, near the corner of High and Limestone. The 1900s house has been lovingly restored (with front porch and fireplaces intact), and the small adjacent patio is reminiscent of Stella’s on Jefferson. The servers characterize the menu as “fusion,” and it is a little bit Italian, with a few Venezuelan influences that we were told reflect the Chef’s heritage. (A special earlier this week was pasticho — like a Venezuelan lasagne.) Her tostones take on plantains was light and airy — not the heavy deep-fry that’s common around here. (Partners include Shawn Mitchell and wife, Carolina Alayeto-Mitchell, a native of Venezuela.) It’s too new to be reviewed, of course; we would just tell her that it’s ok to dial up those flavors a little bit. We’re American, but we can take the Bold. Lexington has a much more ambitious palate than we usually get credit for. Service is, thus far, bend-over-backwards charming, and there’s always room for another place on the town-gown corridor that promises, and delivers, anything in the $10 price point that does not consist of tater skins. It is open for dinner (5 pm to 10 pm, Tuesday thru Saturday). Beer and wine, no liquor.
One block north, El Habanero Loko’s food truckers have now opened a brick and mortar at the corner of Limestone and Vine, in the former Papa Tonios location.
One block north of that, The Jax recently celebrated its one-month anniversary at the corner of Short and Limestone. That’s practically a record. It’s located in the former spot occupied by the old Mia’s (which was, at the time, referred to as the new Mia’s, relocated from its former Upper Street home, which is now pastureland at CentrePointe). It was briefly Rosetta in 2012. At one point, it was AnnaBelle’s. Big salads are in the $10 to $15 range; entrees average $15 to $25.
On the west side of town, Ouita Michel is adding another rung to her bluegrass culinary empire with Smithtown Seafood, now in the buildout phase on West Sixth.
Nearby, the Chase Tap Room is also under construction at the corner of Third and Jefferson, having departed their former location in Victorian Square (which will include a Saul Good under the new Webb development). Chase sits across Third from the Green Lantern, which recently sold. Nearby, Blue Stallion Brewing Company (and tap room) has finished their buildout, and hopes to be open in July (the neighborhood will then boast a brewery triangle with West Sixth Brewing).
Chef Johnny Shipley’s artisanal smoked meat joint, County Club, opened in April 2013 in the northend of Lexington’s now thriving Jefferson Street dining corridor at 555 N. Jefferson, a few blocks north of Nick Ryan’s, Grey Goose, Wine + Market, and around the corner from West Sixth Brewing. (Wine + Market opened on Good Friday, five years ago, in 2008, somewhat officially kicking off the neighborhood renaissance.) It will surely win an adaptive re-use award in historic preservation, as a conversion from a garage space that was part of the old Rainbo bread factory.
Shipley, formerly of Table 310, is a chef and partner. Comparable to the early days of 310, the menu offers only a few things, but they’re done perfectly. Diversity can always come later. There is one composed salad available daily (what we would call, the Big Salad, though this is more mid-size) and the rest lives up to what they promise: meat. Smoked meat. Brisket. Pulled pork (called chopped pork). Porchetta. There’s poutine (french fries, gravy, cheese curds, and more meat). There are also fries. Do not waste time looking for a lot of greenery. You can have broccoli and asparagus at home.
A few sprigs of vegetables (pickled in the Lee Bros. tradition) garnish the sandwich plates. (There’s a jar on the menu, but it’s often sold out.) It would be a mistake to characterize it as a BBQ joint. It’s rare to find a BBQ in the south with a bocce ball court adjacent to the bike polo area. The portions are delicate by BBQ standards (which usually includes sandwiches bigger than your head) — but the meat is very rich — and there aren’t yet many sides to speak of, or much of an appetizer selection (we’ve had edamame and fries a few times). There are three (delightful) housemade sauces on the table. (We were afraid to ask for ketchup for the fries.) You’ll get a sandwich, and a green bean or two, and you’ll say thank you. There’s beer, and Mexican Coke or Ale 8 by the bottle, or tap water in a questionable glass. It would be more than a little Portlandia, except the porchetta is, currently, one of the best bites of meat available in Lexington.
In addition to El Habanero Loko downtown, food trucks setting up shop as brick-and-mortars is nearing trend status in Lexington, just as the Urban County Council has unanimously approved a six-month food truck pilot program.
On the east side of downtown, in Chevy Chase, the Athenian Grill food truck proprietors are opening a brick and mortar in the former location of Belle’s Bakery. Ilias Pappas raised nearly $20,000 for the effort via a successful crowdfunding effort on Kickstarter. The project goal is to offer a local bistro, catering, and market business.
Nearby on Kentucky Avenue, La Petite Creperie (a popular food cart fixture at Farmers Market and elsewhere) has just opened a Cafe in the former creperie and gelato shop location once occupied by Six Friends.
Brick and Mortars are also getting into the food truck biz. Crank and Boom, a local, small-batch, artisanal craft ice cream cart, is a mom-and-pop spinoff of Toa and Mike Green’s family-owned restaurant, Thai Orchid Cafe. Flavors include and incorporate other local businesses and ingredients, like North Lime Donuts. (Our vote is for funnelcake ice cream to go with North Lime’s funnelcake donuts!)
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