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since 2000

Athenian Grill
Atomic Ramen
Blaze Pizza
Blue Sushi Grill
Crank & Boom
J. Alexander's Pastures Shake Shack Smithtown Seafood Steel City Pops Ted's Montana Grill Texas de Brazille

The Summit is Lexington's newest, very upscale, state of the art commercial center. Its planners see it as the 21st Century version of the old shopping mall. The Summit is designed like a city downtown, with streets, blocks, and a mix of restaurants, stores, apartments, and even a bakery, grocery, fitness center and playground. It has murals, trees, lawns, fountains, chairs and benches.

This complex occupies the old Fritz Farm at the intersection of Man of War Boulevard and Nicholasville Road.

As we write this The Summit is not even entirely open. The restaurants we list here are serving, but many of the retail outlets are still being furnished. Honeywood, J. Alexander's, Ted's Montana Grill and Texas de Brazille are clearly seen as the culinary anchors of this new center.

The Summit is the priciest area in Kentucky. After the first wave of curious shoppers explore the stores and eat a few meals, whether they'll be willing to consistently pay the higher prices remains to be seen. It may be a development better suited to the roaring 1990s. But it's worth visiting just for the architecture and design. And there are several very good restaurants here.

Athenian Grill

The Athenian Grill in The Barn is Illias Pappas' third Lexington location. His food is authentic and wonderful. If you just want lunch or a quick bite, there are Lamb, Chicken, Sausage, Souvlaki (shishkebab) and Veggie Gyros ("Heroes"), a famous Greek sandwich. For Appetizers, you can pick from Avgolemono (chicken, rice, egg, lemon) Soup, Greek Salad, Dolmathakia (grape leaves stuffed with basmati rice and spices), Horiatki (tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, feta cheese, olives and classic Greek dressing), Baked Feta, Greek Sausage, Tyropitakia (mini cheese pie), Fried Zucchini, Calamari, Saganaki (cheese, brandy, lemon) and Spanakotipakia (spinach pie). But the heart of the menu is the Dinner Entree list. It features all the classics : Moussaka (eggplant, spiced meat and bechamel sauce), Pastitsio (ground beef, pasta and bechamel sauce), Spanakopita (spinach pie with eggs and other vegetables), Greek Beef Stew, Grilled Lamb, Greek Lamb Chops, Cypriot Meatballs. Sides include Lemon Potatoes, Basmati (long grain) Rice and Roasted Vegetables. Pappas runs a bakery with rotating daily desserts. You can order various beverages but you really should try the Greek Coffee.


Americans know Ramen Noodles as a cheap, quick and easy meal college students and poor people rely on. Ramen noodles have no taste and limited nutritional value but they ease the hunger pangs. As soon as people get a decent job they gladly move beyond Ramen noodles and never look back.

Dan Wu challenges this thinking. Born in China, he moved to Lexington because his father was hired as a faculty member and researcher at UK. He majored in Art at UK, then spent time in New York City and San Francisco before returning to Lexington. He produces a culinary podcast and has worked in the kitchens of various local restaurants.

Now he has his own, Atomic Ramen, in The Barn at The Summit. He plans to completely change your view of Ramen. Wu sees Ramen noodles as Chinese style wheat pasta which is the base for a meal of meat, sauces and toppings. Wu's first step is the Ramen itself. His is locally made, fresh every day, from original ingredients. It has flavor and is quite nutritious. On this base he has built a menu.

Uhuru is Ramen plus a pork and chicken broth, pork loin, a six minute egg, braised bamboo shoots, toasted seaweed and scallions. Otomo is the Ramen plus the pork and chicken broth, bean paste, pork belly (rather like bacon), a poached egg, mushrooms, toasted seaweed and scallions. Ando is Cold Ramen plus cucumber, tomatoes, mushrooms, lemon, seaweed and scallions with a citrus soy dressing. Sides are chicken nuggets, wonton wrapped shrimp, Thai style wings, pork vegetable dumplings, cucumbers in a garlic dressing, soybeans, grilled tofu, and pickled cucumbers. Wu's idea of a kids' menu is to offer half portions of everything on the regular menu. The Ale 8, Gent's Ginger Ale, and house made Lemonade all contrast perfectly with the flavors of the entrees and sides. The IntegriTea is a little less dramatic.

Wu will be building his clientele from the ground up here. There's nothing quite like this in Lexington. It's not similar to Sushi, regular Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Korean. He already has his own loyal following from the podcast and other restaurants where he's worked, and they'll drop by during the first few months. He's hoping word of mouth and online reviews from them will attract others.

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Blaze pizza Blaze is a national chain whose gimmick is high speed low cost. It's sort of a Subway for Pizza. You walk down a line and tell the attendants which toppings you want on your pizza. The fireman then sticks your pizza in a 900 degree blast furnace while you watch from a safe distance and in 90 seconds you receive your steaming pie. This process works surprisingly well. Blaze pizzas are whole wheat flour, thin crust, fresh tomato versions with a gluten free option. You pay $7.25 for the pizza regardless. You could theoretically pile on all 48 toppings for the $7.25. The problem is the taste. Neither the crust, the sauce or the toppings have the rich flavor pizza conneisseurs are used to. Whether this is because the overwhelming heat blanches the flavor out, or because the ingredients are bland to begin with is hard to say. However, if you want a decent pizza fast hot and cheap, Blaze is your place. They do a great job with their side items. Salads are made with fresh local ingredients and include Tomato Basil, Beet & Goat Cheese, Gorgonzola & Roast Veggie, Chicken and Antipasto. Drinks include Tea, Lemonade, Beer & Wine. For Dessert, you really have to order one of their S'mores. They toast those on the edge of the blast furnace. It might be the best S'more you ever had, and it will certainly be the most unique.
Blue Sushi is a state of the art sushi grill with a tempting list of salads, sides, entrees, desserts and drinks to fill out the menu. Sushi, of course, is why you come. They've got the whole range : Salmon, Tuna, Shellfish, Whitefish, Roe, Veggie, Raw, Cooked, Spicy and Gluten Free. There are some spectacular rolls here, beginning with the Iguana (shrimp, crab, eel, avocado, serrano, soy and cucumber, all in a Japanese citrus sauce). Vegans have a whole section to savor, especially the Eden (sweet potato, asparagus, soy, tomato, rice and olive oil). For the adventurous there are thrillers like the Amazon (snapper, olive oil, salmon, crab, jalapeno, garlic, pepper, oregano). This is certainly the top sushi spot in Lexington. But the rest of the menu is very enticing. House, Cucumber, Seaweed and Chicken Salads are all delicious. If you've never tried a Seaweed Salad, this would be a good place to start. We think their Sansho Pepper Salmon (with ginger, garlic, capers and cherry tomatoes in a yuzu butter) is one of the best Salmon entrees in town, and you can get their Seabass prepared the same way. The Beef Tenderloin, pan seared with wasabi pepper sauce, is also good. And you must try some of the sides, like the Nasu (Broiled Eggplant with creamy lemon miso sauce, crispy sweet potato, chili threads and chives), Miso Soup (broth with shitake mushrooms, tofu, seaweed and scallions), and Crab Rangoon. Their Chocolate Torte and Chocolate Spring Rolls are two of the city's richest desserts. Blue Sushi
Babalu is a vague mix of Caribbean and Central / South American. They offer items from various national cuisines at a reasonable price.To start, we recommend their Yellowfin Tuna Ceviche (tuna marinated in a citrus bath and served with avocado, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic and jalapeno). It's one of the city's best appetizers. Their Cuban Black Bean Soup is very good. There's also a Soup of the Day. There are 10 kinds of Tacos, of which our favorites are the Carnitas (pulled pork), Redfish, Vegetal (squash, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, arugula and cheese), and Tuna. Among Sandwiches, the Lamb Sliders and Torta Cubana (pulled pork) are the best. Entrees include a Churrasco Steak, 3 Meat Albondigas (lamb and beef meatballs), Crab Cakes, Filet Pincho (tenderloin with a teriyaki glaze) and Redfish. Save room for Dessert. There's Cheesecake Bites, Cinammon Bread Pudding and Chocolate Nachos.
Crank & boom Crank & Boom is a new ice cream business started in Lexington in 2013. Its owners, Thai Orchid restauranteurs Mike and Toa Green, use local ingredients and use no artificial sweeteners, preservatives, gluten or eggs. Signature flavors are Bourbon & Honey, Blackberry, Chocolate Truffle, Coffee, Vanilla, Lime Cheesecake, Fudge, Strawberry and Caramel. Tao started making this ice cream at home with a simple Cuisinart. She's moved up to more sophisticated equipment now but still makes it in small batches. Crank & Boom does not offer the huge number of choices as Baskin Robbins and the scoops are a bit smaller. You pay $4 for one scoop and $5 for two. That makes this the most expensive ice cream in town. How often you want to pay that much is up to you, but this is very good ice cream.
Edley'a is a very upscale BBQ chain headquartered in Nashville. It offers a longer menu than its rivals. There are Soups, a Southern Salad, Appetizers (Fried Pickles, Okra, Nachos, Quesadillas, Fries and Wings), and four Tacos (Pork, Brisket, Catfish and Shrimp). The usual Sides are here : Mac & Cheese, Cole Slaw, Potato Salad, Bean Salad, Baked Beans and Cornbread. Of the eight Sandwiches, our favorites are the Pork, Turkey, Hot Chicken and Catfish, although we have friends who prefer the Brisket. They promote their Tuck, which they claim is the best sandwich in Nashville. It contains smoked brisket, pimento cheese, red and white sauces, pickles and eggs. It's intriguing but we haven't found anybody in Lexington who likes it. There are 10 BBQ platters : Burnt Ends, Catfish, Turkey, Pork, Chicken, Brisket, Wings, Ribs and Hot Chicken (which uses a Jalapeno Ranch sauce for its kick). The basic sides with all these are pickles, slaw and cornbread. You can get white or red sauce or both. Edley's offers more creative drinks than the usual BBQ place. These include the Bloody Beauregard, Bourbon Tea, Honey Gin, Bitter Goat, and Bushwacker. You can have Chocolate, Chess or Pecan Pie. During three seasons diners can sit outside on a roofed patio. The inside is steel, glass and polished wood. Edley's problem is Kentucky has a rich BBQ heritage and almost everyone is familiar with the various types and sauces. Edley's is decent but nothing special. Their Brisket is fatty and all their meats tend toward dry. Edney's
Grimaldi's Grimaldi's is the newest addition to Lexington's pizza list. It began in the Brooklyn Bridge neighborhood of New York City --- as a matter of fact the family's first restaurant was under the bridge supports on the Brooklyn side. Grimaldi's claim to fame is they use coal fired brick ovens, make their own mozzarella, tomato sauce and dough right in the restaurant from scratch each day, pride themselves on a great wine cellar, and have made an art form out of the Calzone. Grimaldi's has a rather short menu. They choose to do a few pizzas very, very well. Signature pies are Pesto, Margherita, White With Garlic, Buffalo Chicken, Brooklyn Bridge, Don, Garden and the Quattro Formaggi. Grimaldi's makes one Calzone : hand tossed egg dough stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella. It has won awards both in New York and nationally. The 1200 degree ovens brown the crust and give them a smoky flavor. These are classic New York City pizzas, meaning thin crust, crisp around the edge and soft in the middle. The hot ovens give the crust a smoky flavor and sometimes char the edges. Pies are large; one can usually feed several people. The signature wine is Mille Gradi Red, from Tuscany's Rocca del Macie winery. Salads and Craft Beers are also good. Decor features red and white table cloths and large photos of Brooklyn.
Ouita Michel has established herself as le grande dame of Kentucky cuisine. Her restaurant empire includes Holly Hill Inn, Windy Corner, Smithtown Seafood, Wallace Station, Midway Bakery and Glenn's Creek Cafe. Each specializes in a different kind of food and they all do an outstanding job. Now she's opened Honeywood, which specializes in casual farm fresh cooking. The menu here is well thought out, creative and meticulously executed but definitely pricey. Appetizers include Four OClock (almonds, cheese, biscuits, ham, pickles, saltines and cheese wafers), Oysters (with buttermilk, greens and garlic breadcrumbs), and Sweet Potato Beignets, among others. The four Salads are Shady Lane (lettuce, ham, deviled egg, herbs, mustard vinaigrette and pecans), Hemp (mixed greens, kale, toasted hemp hearts, green apple, pistachio, hemp vinaigrette and marinated Indonesian soy), Chicken Salad (greens, chicken, cranberries, almonds, hoe cake), and Spinach Orange (spinach, orange vinaigrette, goat cheese, sliced almonds, pickled onions, orange slices). Curiously, there are no soups offered. Of the Entrees, their Beetloaf (shredded beets, carrots, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and cheddar topped with tomatio onion sauce and root vegetable pureee) is surely one of Lexington's must unique. Our favorite is their Florida Fishing Cottage (roast Grouper, creamy sliced potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions, orange and lemon slices, spinach and Duchess potatoes). Other Entrees are Chicken Breast, Pork Chops, Steak, Burger, and Chicken Salad Sandwich. For Dessert you can choose from Bourbon Chess Pie, Lemon Cake Pie, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie, Blue Monday Sundae, Ice Cream and Vegan Gelato. The menu here changes according to what's available from their 14 local farms, so the day you come it may not perfectly match what we review here.
The very upscale J. Alexander's specializes in wood fired entrees. Entrees range from $18 - $34, Appetizers from $12-14. We like their Chicken Pasta Soup and whatever they offer as their soup of the day. But we're not very impressed with any of their Appetizers : Deviled Eggs, Crispy Chicken Tenders, Spinach Con Queso, Smoked Salmon and Calamari. They offer five Pizzas, each $14. We do like their seven Salads : Bacon & Cheese, Caesar, Mixed Greens, Cypress (chopped chicken tenders, pecans, avocado, bacon, cheese), Thai Kai (chicken, mixed greens, peanuts, cilantro vinaigrette and Thai peanut sauce), Shrimp Louie (jumbo shrimp, bibb lettuce, avocado, diced tomatoes), Asian Ahi Tuna (seared tuna, greens, wasabi, cilantro vinaigrette). You can choose from 10 sandwiches. Basic Entrees are Tuna, Fish of the Day, Shrimp, Crab Cakes, Salmon, three kinds of Chicken, Pork Tenderloin and Baby Back Ribs. Of these, the Crab Cakes are the best. They're among Lexington's best. Which brings you to Alexander's specialty : Steaks. They're all certified Angus and finished with butter. Prices are $33 and $34. There are Steak Maui, Filet Mignon, New York Strip and Slow Roasted Prime Rib. One interesting quirk is that J. Alexander's does not offer bread. Not even with their steaks. Among the desserts, the Carrot Cake and Key Lime Pie are particularly good. Decor is reminiscent of a 1950s big city steak house.
Pastureis a restaurant created by Marksbury Farm to promote and market its locally grass fed meats. The menu features beef, pork, chicken, sausage and homemade sides. Marksbury Farm is located in Garrard county near Lancaster, about 45 minutes south of Lexington. All Marksbury products are free of antibiotics, steroids and hormones. They do all their own processing and packaging. The store's signature entree is Chicken. Marksbury raises free ranging chicken, meaning their chickens live out in the sunlight and roam freely on large pastures, grazing on naturally growing food. This contrasts dramatically from 99% of chickens, who grow up indoors in warehouses in tight cages and are fed a chemical mash filled with hormones, steroids and antibiotics to promote rapid growth. Their Fried Chicken is breaded in a gluten free mix of rice flour, cornstarch and potatostarch. They pan fry it until the breading browns, then oven bake it. The result is a piece of chicken that is crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. They also offer a Roast Chicken which is roasted in a steam injection oven. Marksbury is particularly proud of its Pastured Pork, meaning their hogs graze outdoors on natural grass. 99% of all hogs today spend their lives indoors on concrete eating chemical mash. Since everything comes from their farm and not from a large distributor, the menu may change from day to day according to what's available. Marksbury pork is sweeter and more tender. If their Pulled Pork is available the day you eat here, try it. Expect portions to be a bit smaller than Mcdonalds or other fast food outlets. It's the flavor that's important. Pastures
Shake shack Shake Shack is a 21st Century reimagining of the class milkshake & burger stand of the mid 20th Century. Unlike its predecessors, this one also serves beer and wine. There are four classic Burgers (the Shroomburger, Smoked Bacon burger, Cheeseburger, Stackburger (cheeseburger + shroomburger) and Hamburger), three Dogs (Classic, Sausage Dog, and Chicago Dog (relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, pepper, celery and mustard)), Crinkle Cut Fries, Cones, Floats, Milkshakes and Custard. Actually, the Fries and Hot Dogs are the best items here. Smashburger and Steak & Shake serve more flavorful burgers and shakes for half the price and the lines are not as long. Their burgers are also twice as big. The Ale 8 floats at Smashburger are also better than the floats here.
Smithtown Seafood is a branch of Ouita Papka's Smithtown Seafood on West Sixth Street. The seafood sandwiches here are among the best anywhere in Kentucky. We highly recommend you request yours griddle seared rather than fried. It's more heart healthy and retains the flavor of the fish. As noted French Chef Gustou Cuisine says, "All fried food tastes alike --- all you're tasting is the frying." You get your choice of North Atlantic Cod, Kentucky Catfish, Oysters, Shrimp, and Western Kentucky Silver Carp. They all come with local lettuce, tomato, pickles and remoulade and the Catfish comes with cole slaw. One of their best options is a Salad Wrap (tofu, roast garlic spread, greens, black eyed peas, kale, quinoa and cilantro lime yogurt wrapped in a honey wheat tortilla). You could order any of these and walk around The Summit eating it. But if you have time sit down, you can also choose from six Platters : Crab Cake, Catfish, Cod, Shrimp, Oyster, or Kentucky Silver Carp. We like their panko encrusted and griddle seared Crab Cakes. Before you order, be sure to notice the Soups, Appetizers and Sides. Their Northeaster Chowder and Cioppino are surprisingly good for what is basically a sidewalk counter. The Cioppino includes Whitefish, Cod, Clams and Mussels in a spicy tomato and fennel broth with carrot, onion, celery, peppers and potatoes. If the day is the least bit cool, a bowl of either would be a great lunch. Among their Appetizers, we like the Crab Fritters (they're actually a mix of crab, cod and potato), Fish Bites (rolls of Western Kentucky Silver Carp dipped in buffalo sauce, served with smoked tomato ranch sauce for dipping), and the Basket (calamari rings, sweet peppers and banana peppers with two sauces for dipping). There's also Beer Cheese and a Shrimp Cocktail. Of their Sides we like the Beer Slaw, Aloo Chat (Indian spiced sweet potato salad), and Hushpuppies. But friends prefer the Kale - Quinoa Salad, Black Eyed Pea Salad and French Fries With Beer Cheese. Smithtown Seafood
Steel City Pops

Popsicle lovers will adore Steel City Pops, which serves gourmet 'sicles in a sleek modern building. They make their popsicles from all natural, certified organic ingredients. They make them right in front of you in small batches. Sweetening is with all natural cane sugar. They use no artificial colorings and no preservatives. Flavors include Orange, Cucumber Lime, Lemonade, Lime, Passion Fruit, Peach, Pineapple Jalapeno, Pomegranate, Root Beer, Sweet Tea, Strawberry, and Watermelon. There's also a line of Creamsicles, which include Avocado, Buttermilk, Chocolate, Coconut, Coffee and Vanilla. It's hard to pay $4 for a popsicle but these are memorable. They rotate flavors with the seasons. On hot days the line can get long.

Ted's Montana Grille is more than a steak house. It offers very good burgers, chicken, salmon, trout, and classic root beer floats. Its slow roasted bison pot roast and bison meatloaf are two of the finest items on any menu in town. And despite the outside appearance of the building, once inside, you're in a replica of an old Western saloon. Eating in the Montana Grill is a fine restaurant adventure. There are classic American foods like Meat Loaf. But the bottom line is : If you want a good steak at a reasonable price, this is the place to come. Their prime rib at 10, 12 or 16 oz., USDA choice tenderloin at 7 or 9 oz., and Harris Premium Kansas City 11 oz. Strip and Delmonico 14 oz. Ribeye are competitive with anything in town. The real draw here is the Bison. You can walk into several rival steakhouses and match the regular steaks. But nobody else in town offers Bison steaks. Turner uses Great Range Brand, famous for grass raised, chemical free, open range, zero cholesterol bison. You can get it in a 9 oz. tenderloin filet, 11 oz. Kansas City Strip, or 14 oz. Delmonico Ribeye. Ted's Montana Grill
The theme of Texas de Brazil is the fusion of the Brazilian Churrascaria and the classic Texan steakhouse, such as Texas Land & Cattle Company in San Antonio. This is upscale; expect to pay $100 for two. They start you out with a 60 item Salad Bar. Caution : Be Careful. This is the greatest salad bar in Kentucky. You can easily fill up on soups, fruits, vegetables, sushi, cheeses and breads and have no appetite left for the meats. You can eat at the salad bar only for $25. When you flip your table card to green, travelling gauchos stop by with their rolling meat buffet. They grill the meats over charcoal on skewers, then place the skewers on the cart. They carve slices from whichever meats you choose. The meat menu includes Braised Beef Ribs, Filet Mignon, Lamb Chops, Pork Ribs, Picanha (sirloin), Lamb, Sausage, Chicken, Flank Steak, Pork Loin and Alcatra (top sirloin). You pay $45 for both Salad & Meats and then eat as much as you want. Desserts and beverages are extra. These are all very good meats. We especially like their Lamb, Sausage and Ribs but each of these meats, if served as a single entree, would be among the very best in Kentucky. The decor is spectacular and service is impeccable. Teachers, Nurses, Firemen, Policemen, EMS and military veterans receive $20 discounts for themselves and up to four guests. If you're into cocktails you must try their Caipirinha, the official cocktail of Brazil and the restaurant's signature drink.
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