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since 2000

Blaze Pizza
Blue Sushi Grill
J. Alexander's
Shake Shack Steel City Pops 33 Staves 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.

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
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.
Grimaldi's is the newest addition to Lexington's gourmet 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 mozzarella, tomato sauce and dough in the restaurant from scratch each day, have a great wine cellar, and serve the best Calzones in town. 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. Grimaldi's
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. Their Chicken Pasta Soup is one of the best soups in town. But we're not very impressed with any of their Appetizers : Deviled Eggs, Crispy Chicken Tenders, Spinach Con Queso, Smoked Salmon and Calamari, or their Veggie Burger. 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, but their best, the Cuban and the Fish, appear on the Specials Menu 2-3 days a week. Basic Entrees are Tuna, Fish of the Day (often Trout), Shrimp, Crab Cakes, Salmon, three kinds of Chicken, Pork Tenderloin and Baby Back Ribs. Of these, the Trout and Crab Cakes are 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. Among the desserts, the Carrot Cake and Key Lime Pie are particularly good. Decor is reminiscent of a 1950s big city steak house.
Pastures Pasture is 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.
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. Shake shack
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.

33 Staves is in the Origin Hotel. The name comes from the 33 staves in a traditional Bourbon barrel. This a sleek, upscale, cutting edge Gastropub with a limited menu. It might be the best Gastropub in town. What they serve is very good but it's not a full scale restaurant. For Breakfast you can order Chorizo Fritters, Berry Pancakes, Crushed Avocado Toast, and a Farmer's Omelette (mushrooms, zucchini, squash, cheddar, potatoes). The Dinner menu begins with Appetizers like Wings, Beer Cheese, Charred Cauliflower, Chorizo Fritters, an Acai Bowl, and a Crab Cake. Salads include Emerald Kale (kale, quinoa, strawberries, blackberries, hazelnuts in a citrus vinagrette) and Mixed Greens (tomatoes, blue cheese, either honey mustard, ranch or honey dijon vinagrette, and either grilled chicken or grilled salmon). There's a Farm Burger, Black Bean Burger, Grilled Chicken Sandwich, a Harvest Bowl (kale, roast sweet potato, farro, quinoa and onion in a spicy sesame sauce), a Grilled Cheese, Chicken & Waffles, and Steak & Fries. The real strength here is their drinks. They have a full stock of wines and bourbons and mix excellent cocktails. Unfortunately they have a habit of running out of ingredients, especially at Brunch, and service can be a bit slow.

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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