It was another boom year for food, liquor and restaurant news in 2016.
With Lexington’s restaurant scene constantly changing, new restaurants come and go. Food trucks become successful brick and mortars. Local chefs appear on television while restaurants are named to national lists. Foodies stay busy with Food Truck Fridays, monthly dinner series and events like the Appalachian Food Summit.
While the prominent food news of 2012 was Lexington’s need for food trucks, fast forward four years later and popular food trucks are transitioning to stable locations. Athenian Grill, Middle Fork, and Crank and Boom, are some of the food trucks that have added successful brick and mortars.
Among the food trucks to open a restaurant was Han Cook In. In January, Seo’s dreams of having an actual, brick and mortar restaurant came true when her popular Han Cook In food truck took over the Thai & Mighty location on South Broadway. After owning Thai & Mighty for almost a decade, Toa Green handed over the space in order to focus her efforts on Crank & Boom.
Several months after Han Cook In’s opening, Seo appeared on Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network. Although she did not make it to the final round, more milestones awaited Seo back home as Han Cook In celebrated its Grand Re-Opening in August. The restaurant featured a new self-serve system, new fusion items, and lower menu prices. Unfortunately, Han Cook In closed down within a month of the grand re-opening, allowing Lexington’s first real ramen restaurant to take its place.
Adding to the list of local restaurants and chefs to appear on The Food Network is Willie’s Locally Known. Shortly before leaving its home on North Broadway last year, the restaurant welcomed The Food Network’s Michael Symon to Lexington for the first time with a pork burger and smoked chicken wings smothered in a blackberry jalapeno sauce. Willie’s segment for “Burgers, Bews and Que” aired in March of this year, around the same time they re-opened in their new larger space on Southland Drive.
The motivation to open Willie’s came from owner Wilson Sebastian’s desire to revitalize Lexington’s music scene. “Willie’s is all about the music, but it’s also all about the food. Can a place be both? We think so.” Willie’s menu was upgraded, but original items are still intact.
As summer approached, Shorty’s Market closed five years after the original ribbon cutting. The urban market had already closed once in September 2013, but reopened in January 2014, saving us from the grocery-less downtown thanks to the closing of Euclid Kroger.
While we bid a final farewell to downtown’s urban market, a new grocery saved us from the food dessert on west campus. Referring to itself as “organic for the 99 percent,” Lucky’s Market opened in January in the former Winn-Dixie location on South Broadway. Several months later, Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market claimed it’s spot in Crossroads Plaza off Nicholasville and Reynolds Road (as if Nicholasville Road needed another natural, organic grocery store).
After taking a year off, Restaurant Week returned in 2016 continuing to support local restaurants and increase awareness of Lexington’s diverse culinary community.
While some made it on national television, others made it on national lists. Food writer and Kentucky native Ronni Lundy’s made the list of 2016’s best cookbooks with her latest effort Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes. Heirloom Restaurant in Midway also saw their name on a national list when OpenTable named them one of the top 100 restaurants in America for 2016.
The year came to a close with sad food news.
Having stuck around the community for 43 years, Alfalfa announced owners Jim Happ and betsey Moses plan to sell the restaurant. “There comes a time when a transition is necessary. After 27 years of being part of the loving team at Alfalfa Restaurant, this is one of those times. Betsey and I need to step aside as the owners of Alfalfa. We are open to ideas, possibilities, dreams…”
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