Lexington is a small city in the heart of central Kentucky. Their claim to fame has always been that it is the horse capital of the world. In years past it certainly would have never been on anyone’s foodie trip list. But those days are changing. The food places in Lexington, KY have been growing by leaps and bounds for the past few years. Now there are so many restaurants here, you have to be on top of your game to make it more than a few months here.
Yes, you will find your average middle America chain restaurants here, but you will find far more small personalized chains and many locally owned restaurants. There are great restaurants to fit just about anyone’s budget. I have compiled a list of ten amazing restaurants you can’t miss if you are in Lexington.
262 North Limestone Street
Doodles is a local brunch place that uses locally sourced ingredients. Located in a revamped retro-style gas station, they call their style comfort food with a conscience. The food is amazing, and I am not the only one who thinks so. If you arrive before noon on the weekends be prepared for a wait. It is not unusual for lines to be out the door and some items sell out fast. If you don’t want to wait in line go in the afternoon, but not too late in the day as they close every day at 2 p.m. I highly recommend trying the Dirty Shrimp and Grits.
2. Ramen Ya
1030 S Broadway
Ramen Ya is a small hole in the wall place near UK’s campus. Its placement in a small shopping center makes it easy to miss unless you are looking for it. When you go in they have a big screen TV pumping out K POP, a handful of very basic tables and chairs, and very low lighting. The place might not look like much, but the ramen served might rival some of the best in the US. The taste and menu are very similar to Momofuko’s in NYC. I highly recommend in addition to getting some Ramen you should try the Cha Shu Bun.
3605, 841 Lane Allen Rd.
Brasabana is a locally owned, locally sourced Cuban fusion restaurant. Chef Miguel Rivas has a lifetime of experience with various Caribbean and Latin American foods, and it truly shows in his dishes. You can find a number of traditional Cuban dishes on the menu like a Cuban Sandwich and Ropa Vieja, I personally think it is the fusion dishes that truly make this restaurant shine. I recommend trying the Island Chips and the Plantain Crusted White Fish.
4. Hop Cat
410 W Short St.
Hop Cat is a small but growing, chain of gastropubs. Their main focus is having the largest selection of beers, ales, ciders, and etc. Each of their locations is a little different, as that selection includes local brews. Be aware that after 10 p.m. you must be 21 to enter. Just because their main focus is on the brews, it doesn’t mean the food suffers. In fact, the food is quite spectacular. And it is the only place in Lexington you can get Poutine. My personal favorites on the menu are the Cheese Ale Soup and the Better Living Through Tacos.
313 S Ashland Ave.
Athenian Grill serves authentic Greek food from the owners own family recipes. It is a small local chain, meaning all the locations are within Lexington. There are three locations, but I personally think the original location is the best and I love the atmosphere at this location. The recipes are authentic, the servers are friendly, and the service is fast. This isn’t fast food, but it is as close as you can get from a sit down restaurant. And you must not leave without trying a piece of the Baklava.
2358 Nicholasville Rd.
If your Chinese food cravings run more towards authentic rather than the average Americanized Chinese mall food and buffets, then Panda Cuisine is the place to go. You will still find some of the foods you recognize like General Tso’s Chicken and Pot Stickers. But you can also find many items you won’t find at any other Chinese restaurant in Lexington, maybe even in the state, like fish stew soup and the Spicy Frog in Fire Pot. And if you are really up for trying a bunch of new things, on Sunday’s they have a dim sum buffet. Their food can become quite cravable. I recommend the Pine Tea Duck and the Asparagus with Pork.
110 Summit At Fritz Farm #140
Honeywood is a farm to table restaurant concentrating on using local produce and meat from area farmers. The restaurant takes local sourcing one step further and even serves things like drinks and pasta from local sources. The menu offerings are best described as elevated southern food. And do yourself a favor: go for the entrees, stay for the deserts. The chocolate bourbon pecan pie is a must-have.
4040 Finn Way #150
Just a few doors down from Honeywood is where you will find Babalu Tapas & Tacos. They are a very small chain of restaurants, with just nine locations in the US. The whole menu is like a flavor explosion, and it is kind of hard to go wrong no matter what you order. Everything is served as it is done rather than keeping it warm under a lamp till the whole order is ready, so be careful how much you order at once. The amazing food and the fun atmosphere makes this a great place to have dinner out with friends. The must-try items on the menu are their Guacamole made tableside and the Pan Roasted Red Fish. There is a great variety of food places in Lexington, KY these days.
265 N Limestone
Just across the street from Doodles is Grillfish. And while Doodles is only open for breakfast and lunch, Grillfish fills the void by only being open at dinner time. They even share the same small parking lot attached to Doodles. They specialize in grilled seafood, steaks, and chops. The restaurant calls themselves a casual mid-priced restaurant, but it definitely has the white tablecloth, fine dining vibe. And while the price is a bit more than any of the other restaurants on this list, it is worth it. Not only is the food delicious, but the service is impeccable. Both the Clams in Creamy Garlic and Wine Sicilian Sauce and the Grilled Shrimp Scampi are both must-try dishes on their menu.
325 Roosevelt Blvd.
Richies has been a long time local’s favorite for soul food. The food is very affordable and is served to go. Richies is best known for their spicy chicken, but they have fried fish as well as many traditional soul food sides. You may not need to take a lot of money with you to Richies, but you do need to take a big appetite.