BY KRISTINA ROSEN
What’s the best part about Apollo Pizza being a central Kentucky pizza chain? They can do whatever they want, and in their case, that means painting a giant mural of John Prine along the outside of the building.
A Central Kentucky tradition since 1981, Apollo Pizza originally started out as a Marco’s Pizza on South 2nd Street in Richmond, Kentucky. Now with several locations in Richmond, Berea, and Northern Madison County, it was about time Apollo made its way to Lexington. The fourth and newest Apollo Pizza opened on Leestown Road in August.
Apollo had never been a Lexington brand as it was always taken into towns more similar to Richmond. With initial plans to open a location in Georgetown, the owners discovered a big strip of property reasonably priced in the Meadowthorpe Shopping Center.
Apollo is currently owned by Wesley Browne, Kim Davis, and Felecia Johnson. Between the late 90’s until 2012, Charles Martin owned Apollo. With Browne’s law office located right next door to the pizza joint, he became close friends with Martin during that time, as the two developed a unique bond through trading pizza for parking.
When Martin passed away unexpectedly in 2012, Browne bought Apollo. He never planned to run the restaurant, but after becoming close with Martin, Browne knew he had to keep the life, legacy, and pride of the original Apollo going. “We wanted to continue what Charles started,” says Browne.
All the recipes used today are from Martin with small adjustments and new additions here and there. “There was this particular Parmesan and spice shake we couldn’t figure out how to do. When we were doing interviews in the beginning, a guy told us if we hired him he would teach us how to make it. So we hired him and he taught us. It’s the same way Charles did it.”
The menu is full of obscure references with good reasoning behind each unique menu name. Featuring appetizers like cheesy tater tots named Poutine or Poutot along with White Whole Wheat Breadsticks that taste like white bread, but have the same nutrition as whole wheat. The menu includes limited edition pizzas like Uncle Jed’s Kentucky Beer Cheeseburger Pizza made with their in-house beer cheese sauce; and specialty pies like I’m Not Alfredo You or It’s Always Sunny with descriptions that detail “excessive use” of toppings. In addition to pizza, the menu offers salads, hoagies, submarines, pasta, and a variety of local craft beers.
Browne says the most popular pizzas are the Holy Pepperoni (the name says it all), Green & White (you can’t go wrong with pesto on pizza), and Cities of the Plain (adding Ale-8 salsa to anything will take it up ten notches). Curious as to what might become the cult favorites in Lexington, Browne revealed Red Moon, drizzled with plenty of sriracha, and The Margo, a different take on the classic Margherita pizza, are two items exclusive to this location. Named after the original owner, The Charles is any ten toppings on your choice of crust.
As to why a John Prine mural was incorporated on the side of the building, Browne admits the owners just really like music. After receiving the blessing from Fiona Whelan Prine to paint the mural, they commissioned Graham Allen to paint it. Browne can hardly stand how awesome it is, and neither can we. With Apollo’s focus on local art, Browne hopes to incorporate more murals. Seeing there’s a lack of female murals in Lexington, the goal is to commission one soon with hopes that it’s Loretta Lynn.
Along with the art on the outside of the restaurant, the interior of Apollo is adorned with airplane designs across the walls. Meadowthorpe was home to the first airport in Fayette County and to commemorate the original airport site, the diagrams of airplanes outlined on the interior walls seems appropriate.
Rebecca Burnworth, a local architect-designer-realtor legend, was the restaurant designer for the new Apollo location. Her past projects include Buddha Lounge, Crank and Boom, Ethereal Brewing, Goodfellas, and Middle Fork.
The new Apollo features an extensive patio in the back that Browne refers to as the adult playground. Filled with two bocce ball courts, cornhole, a television, patio seating, and a small bar, it certainly sounds like one. Apollo Pizza in Lexington offers both carry out and dine-in.
The new Apollo Pizza Meadowthorpe Taproom is located at 1455 Leestown Road in Meadowthorpe Shopping Center.
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