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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. www.cafeontheparkcom. (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.

Dudley’s Restaurant
380 S. Mill Street in Historic Dudley Square. 252-1010. A Lexington tradition, with adventurous takes on regional cuisine and an award winning wine list. Patio, bar, and dining room each provide a unique atmostphere. Open everyday: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30 for lunch; Sun 11:30-2:30 for brunch; and dinner Sun-Thurs 5:30-10 and Fri-Sat 5:30-11. Reservations recommended.

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.

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 Pack a perfect picnic

Grab your tablecloth of traditional red and white gingham or lime-hued palm trees on a fuchsia and orange sunset background because it is time to pack a basket full of cold salads, meat and cheese and get out into the wide open spaces to enjoy an old summer favorite-the picnic. Whether with your best pal or a passel of kids, the idea of a meal outside draws us like mosquitoes to a pair of juicy ankles. It is romantic, casual, and can lead to a nap in the sun while giggling children play freeze tag around you.

However, with all of the time-consuming summer projects that requires blocks of time to be set aside (ballgames, gardening, every outdoor lesson under the sun, and work), it can be difficult to prepare food for a planned picnic event, much less an impromptu getaway. What you need is a place to pop in, grab freshly made cold dishes and sandwiches of braunschweiger and havarti, then jump into the car, put the top down, and find a nice big water maple under which to sit. Fortunately, there are many such places in Lexington that provide freshly made salads, sandwiches, and desserts ready-made for a beautiful picnic.

It would be unfair to list one vendor specifically, as someone pointed out to me that many people in Lexington have their oars in these prepared food waters, but what I can do is suggest some avenues for you to explore. Walt Barbour's Fresh Market & Deli is just out Henry Clay Boulevard (at Liberty). In Chevy Chase alone, there is Phil's Cookshop on Romany, Scarborough Fare, Le Matin, and Seasons Deli. Driving south, there is The Mouse Trap on Tates Creek Road, Good Foods Co-Op on Southland, and Annette's Catering on Clays Mill Road. Each of these has almost everything needed to complete your picnic basket, including the basket in some cases. They are a combination of charcuteries, eateries, groceries, and stores of interesting kitchen supplies. This is just a sampling; country stores on your country drive are also great resources for picnic items that are quick and easy.

The most creative and fun part of this meal is deciding what food to include that will surprise and delight the guest(s) at your picnic. The basket is a gift. Each item should be special, compact but plentiful, and delicious, whether it is peanut butter and jelly on white or fried chicken or liver pate with French d'Affinois cheese.

Any special touches that you would add to your table for a dinner party can be incorporated into the basket.

Not to sound too much like the queen of entertaining, but add some fresh herbs, flowers, nice plates, and linen napkins. It can all be thrown back in the basket to be cleaned later and your guests appreciate the extra effort.

To pack a perfect picnic basket is not difficult, just a small amount of planning is required. Garlic and poultry can be dangerous in this heat, so be aware to pack them next to something cold, and if they sit out in the heat too long, pitch them. I have a friend who swears that the best way to make fried chicken is to let it marinate in buttermilk on the counter all day, and I am sure that she is right, but I have a fairly healthy fear of misplaced bacteria and must encourage you to think ahead when it comes to outdoor summer temperatures. I like using a well-chilled bottle of champagne, Spanish cava, or German Riesling to keep things nice and cold.

At our house, picnics are a big deal. When we bought this house, the very first day that it was ours, we laid out an old, family quilt and had an opulent picnic with herb roasted chicken, fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, grilled asparagus, olives, and crusty bread (all bought at the much missed Cosmo's) on our new yard and heaved sighs of relief, pleasure, and the burden of a thirty-year mortgage. We sat cross-legged, giddy with excitement and toasted to our new lives together. We happily ate in the sun and listened to the wind rustle through the trees.

There are many opportunities ahead to enjoy an evening meal on a blanket (Ecton Park music, the Fourth of July, Woodland Park Jubilee, Bastille Day, Shakespeare in the Park, Picnic with the Pops, Ballet Under the Stars...), in a canoe on the Elkhorn, or sailing at Cave Run Lake... So, lather the family in sun block and bug repellent, find your favorite foods, a good book, walk outside, and enjoy our Commonwealth.

Please email your culinary heads-ups to Karen at