Here's Our Travel Guide to This Nation of Over 7,000 Islands
AlfalfaAddress and Info
141 East Main St
Known for its Hoppin' John and cabbage salad, Alfalfa comes by its hippie vibe honestly. In the 1970s, members of the Weather Underground hid out among the kitchen staff. Don't worry, carnivores, they have plenty of seasonal meat specials, too.
Best date spot
LockboxAddress and Info
167 West Main St
The 21c Museum Hotel penguins waddled east from Louisville to Lexington earlier this year, turning in their red hue for a UK-appropriate blue, and setting up shop in the old National Bank building on West Main St. This award-winning chain of boutique hotels and contemporary art museums is entirely unique, and the Lexington location’s Lockbox restaurant is no exception. Order a cocktail and wander the museum galleries before dining on chef Jonathan Searle’s grilled hog chop and house-made Toulouse sausages.
BrasabanaAddress and Info
841 Lane Allen Rd
With Cuban flair, Brasabana's carnitas take pork in a sweet and savory direction. Don't miss the black beans and plantain chips.
Stella's Kentucky DeliAddress and Info
143 Jefferson St
As one of the first outposts in the burgeoning Jefferson St dining district, Stella's has seasonal food from the region's best producers, making for great burgers and sandwiches, like the fried green tomato BLT.
Best place to splurge
middle fork kitchen barAddress and Info
1224 Manchester St
Named for the creek beside this restaurant in the former James E. Pepper distillery, middle fork has an inventive menu: the “J” in chef Mark Jensen's PB & J is lime-orange jam dressed with cilantro, red onion, and chilies. Get a beer from Ethereal Brewing next door, and step over to Crank & Boom Ice Cream Lounge for a bourbon ball sundae for dessert.
Dudley's on ShortAddress and Info
259 West Short St
Designed by acclaimed gardener Jon Carloftis, Dudley’s rooftop patio offers an idyllic setting for enjoying the highbrow fare turned out by this classic Lexington restaurant, currently celebrating its 35th year.
Smithtown SeafoodAddress and Info
501 West Sixth St
Sharing space in a former Rainbo bread factory with West Sixth Brewery, Smithtown serves tilapia raised on-site and fed on spent grain. This is one of chef Ouita Michel's restaurants, so it's way more than fried fish. Try the catfish in cornmeal or shrimp & grits, both featuring products from nearby Weisenberger Mill.
Maria's KitchenAddress and Info
805 North Broadway
Until recently, Maria's was a bit of an underground hit, an authentic taqueria with homemade hot sauce and a positively addictive tres leches cake (get there early, the cake doesn’t last long). A recent move to a larger space on Broadway has raised Maria’s profile, drawing adventurous Lexington foodies to the new digs, where you can try the beef tongue and fried chitlins.
Best bourbon bar
Bluegrass TavernAddress and Info
The list of "Best Bourbon Bar" accolades that have been bestowed upon Bluegrass Tavern includes nods from Garden & Gun, Southern Living, and the one and only Thrillist. With over 400 rare bourbons on the bar, it's earned its street cred, in our view.
Sav's GrillAddress and Info
304 S. Limestone
Specializing in West African dishes, Sav's, near the University of Kentucky campus, has cheap and tasty fare like goat, chicken, beef, or potatoes in peanut sauce on rice. Or go native and have your choice on fufu, made of mashed plantains. Across the street, get ice cream at Sav's Chill.
Blue Door SmokehouseAddress and Info
226 Walton Ave
Barbecue this good doesn't last all day -- get there early. You can't go wrong with the beef brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, smoked sausage, or ribs. Or get the Blue Door Special, which comes with EVERY meat.
Best sports bar
Winchell'sAddress and Info
348 Southland Dr
Don't let the TVs fool you: Winchell's is just as serious about food as Kentucky is about basketball. The menu goes way beyond pub grub. Try the Funny Farm: a fried pork chop sandwich topped with country ham, bacon, fried egg, and pepper jack cheese.
Best college hangout
Tolly-Ho RestaurantAddress and Info
395 South Limestone
Nothing has cured generations of UK students' hangovers like all-day breakfasts or great greasy burgers from the Ho. Want gravy on top? You got it. And get a banana pudding milkshake. Trust us.
TomoAddress and Info
848 East High St
Located in Lexington’s Chevy Chase neighborhood, Tomo serves sushi that is beautifully constructed and thoughtfully prepared. Standout rolls include the Tuna Tuna roll (raw tuna and raw salmon are married with fresh avocado) and the Wild Ride (asparagus and cooked white tuna are rolled together and topped with spicy crab).
Best beer bar
The Beer TrappeAddress and Info
811 Euclid Ave
The walls of this craft beer shop are lined with over 500 rare by-the-bottle finds, curated by an owner whose passion for beer is unparalleled. The Beer Trappe also boasts eight rotating taps at its small bar, in case you’d prefer to sit and stay a spell.
Best wine bar
EnotecaAddress and Info
191 Jefferson St
This tapas-style restaurant and wine bar set up shop on Jefferson St in 2013, offering an eclectic list of wines by the glass in addition to sharable Spanish classics like patatas bravas and serrano ham wrapped Medjool dates. Consider yourself lucky if you’re able to score a seat on the patio.
Best coffee house
A Cup of Common WealthAddress and Info
105 Eastern Ave
There’s no question that the coffee brewed at A Cup of Common Wealth is of the highest caliber, and the vibe at its shop is just the right amount of eclectic. However, the coolest thing about this coffee shop is its "Pay It Forward" board, which encourages customers to purchase a drink for a future patron, making note of who the drink is meant for on the coffee sleeve for them to discover at a later date.