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Azur Bear & The Butcher BJBrewhouse Bella's Carson's Eppings HollyHill Inn Palmers SageRabbit
Contemporary restaurants see themselves as 21st Century cutting edge purveyors of the culinary arts. They employ chefs who have trained, been certified, and interned elsewhere. Menus tend to be shorter, often only a page, so the kitchen can concentrate on a few items done very, very well. Presentation becomes as important as the food itself. These restaurants draw from all modern cuisines, mixing Mexican, Indian, French and whatever else they find appropriate. Portions tend to be smaller, as they try to impress with exquisite taste rather than volume. Creativity is on display, as they take common dishes and prepare them in new and unanticipated ways. Since fresh ingredients are needed for their artistry to achieve its fullest effect, they place emphasis on locally raised meat and produce, so these restaurants have worked out relationships with farms, wineries, cheesemakers, orchards, and other suppliers within 100 miles of Lexington. In many ways, these restaurants take food back over 100 years, when all restaurants bought from farmers markets and area sources the day they prepared the food. Prices tend to be somewhat higher , because these chefs demand higher pay, the locally bought food brings higher prices, and the kitchens require sophisticated equipment.
azur's Azur is the most upscale restaurant in Beaumont, with a very New York style decor and a cutting edge menu. Finest of the appetizers is the Fondue. You'll get a dipping pot with breads and fruits. The Asparagus With Crab is delicious. Six salads are headed by the Lola Rosa (lettuce, beets, gouda cheese, cucumber and buttermilk dressing) and Napolean (mushrooms, avocado, tomatoes, red onion, goat cheese, tomato marmalade). Azur's entrees are all great, but the stunners are the Roast Elk (asparagus, squash) and Braised Rabbit (smoked bacon, mushrooms, pasta, asparagus). Their Pan Roasted Scallops are among the city's best, and the Ahi Tuna (glazed and wrapped with shrimp, calamari pad thai, citrus carrots and ponzu dipping sauce) is close behind. The other entrees include Roast Duck, Idaho Salmon, Alaskan Halibut and Gnocchi (a potato dumpling filled with chicken or shrimp, mushrooms, goat cheese and herbs). Desserts rotate each day, but are almost always outstanding. If anyone in your group just wants a sandwich, Azur's Lamb Burger (roast red peppers & feta cheese, served with lemon cabbage slaw) is one of Lexington's best. From April through November, there's a great patio. This is one of South Lexington's most popular establishments, so on a Friday or Saturday night either eat early or expect a wait.
Bear & The Butcher is a two story gastropub with a great balcony overlooking Euclid Avenue. Most patrons come here for the Beers, Wines and Cocktails. They have a good selection and some unique drinks. The big attraction over on the food side are the sausages. There are only five entrees plus a daily special, but they're all fascinating. The Sweet Italian is a mix of pork, fennel seed, oregona, garlic, marinara sauce, pappers and onions. You get to choose from grilled street corn, vinegar slaw, potato salad, pasta salad, mac & cheese or handcut Belgian fries for your side. The Texas Hot Link includes smoked beef and pork, onions and orange chipotle bbq sauce. We particularly like the Bratwurst, which includes pork and veal, marjoram, all spice, white pepper, sauerkraut, diced onions and brown German mustard. Or you could try the Yardbird (smoked chicken, shaved cabbage, pickled jalapenos and Alabama white bbq sauce). If you can't make up your mind, they offer the Sausage Board (choice of any three sausages served with pickles, sauerkraut and house made mustards. There are House and Greek Salads. You could choose a Steak, Shrimp or Chorizo Taco. A final option is your choice of a Burger, Fried Chicken, Smoked Brisket or Lamb. Butcher & Bear
Restaurants frequently start small and expand, but B.J. Brewhouse has taken this model to its extreme. They began in 1978 as a California pizza outlet. BJ's original gimmick was a thick deep dish Pizza baked in a cast iron skillet. They still consider this their signature item, but their Pizza menu now includes 21 versions. And that's only one page of a seven page menu. BJ's has become famous for its craft beers. They operate their own breweries in five states and won awards for some of their beers and ciders. But BJ's has also developed one of the most comprehensive menus in town. Appetizers include Egg Rolls, Flatbread, Artichokes, Fried Brussell Sprouts, Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms, Wings and Pot Stickers. There are six Soups, including a great Tuscan Tomato Bisque, Piranha Pale Ale Chili and Bread Soup ( in a sourdough bowl; you eat the soup, then take knife and fork, cut up the bowl, and eat the soup soaked pieces). They offer eight creative Salads : Seared Ahi, Kale & Roast Brussell Sprouts, Chopped Asian. Santa Fe, Chicken Cobb, BBQ Chicken, Honey Crisp Chicken and Caesar. There are two Peruvian Quinoa Bowls : Roast Salmon and Chicken & Spinach. Entrees include Salmon, Chicken, Shrimp, Bison and Turkey. Ribs, Steaks, Jambalaya, Pastas, Ziti and Ravioli. If you just want beer and a bite, you can get Burgers and Wraps.
Bella opened during the pandemic in the former Le Matin location at 890 East High Street. It's a project of Bella Notte and is a contemporary cafe, with high prices, high quality and a small but exquisite menu. They offer three great Salads plus Wings and Truffle Fries for appetizers. Their Halibut Sandwich is one of the best fish sandwiches in town, and both the Cafe and Classic Burgers are outstanding, featuring 8 oz. briskets. Sides include Broccoli, Spicy Braised Cabbage, Parisian Mashed Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts, and a fine seasonal Soup. Entrees begin with a great Halibut, which comes with polenta (a kind of boiled cornmeal), greens, mushrooms and raisens. The Smoked Chicken is spice rubbed and with hot honey brussel sprouts. There's a Hand Cut House Brined Bone In Pork Chop with spicy cabbage and stone fruit mostardo (a mostardo is an Italian sauce with fruit in a mustard). The Filet Mignon is good, as is the Buttermilk Chicken, although the breading rather overwhelms the meat. The Bolognese includes rigatoni, spicy pork salami bacon ragout, and tomato cream. Desserts include Lemon Tart, Walnut Torte and Tiramisu. Beverages feature Italian sodas and teas and ginger beer. There's parking behind the restaurant; look for the narrow alley just to the right of the building. Out on the street parking will be tight as it also serves the local hardware, drug store and fishing shop.

Chef Cole Arimes, of Coles on Main, has opened Epping's on National Avenue (it's named after the original brewers, for whom the building was built. In contrast to Cole's upscale menu, Eppings is "sandwichcentric" When you enter, you find yourself in a bakery and coffee bar. Two Soups are offered : Pozole (pork, hominy, chile, radish, lime) and Tomato Confit (tomatoes roasted with oilve oil and herbs). They're both very good. The sandwiches include a Cuban, Grilled Cheese, Fried Bologna, Chicken Gouda, Reuben and classic Burger. Among Appetizers, our favorites are the Vietnamese Sausage Skewers and the Steak. Entrees include Scallops, Meat Loaf, Salmon, Pork Chop, Fish & Ships, and Chicken Confit (slow roasted at low temp). The kitchen is a bit heavy on the salt on entrees and many of the meats are a bit greasy. The menu doesn't include desserts because you can stop by the front counrer and buy some on the way out. Decor inside is Industrial Chique. Epping's serves Nate's Coffees, which many Lexingtonians swear by. It's worth one visit just to wander around the building and see how the architect and remodellers have adapted it. Parking is a problem; come early. You may need to park a full block up National Avenue.

holly hill inn Holly Hill Inn. When national championship debater Ouita Papka announced that instead of going to law school she would attend the New York Culinary Institute and become a chef, coaches thought she was joking. Now they bring their teams to her award winning restaurant. The 1812 Holly Hill Inn is an antebellum mansion 20 minutes from downtown Lexington. Most foodophiles rate it the best restaurant in Kentucky. Ouita and husband Chris Michel are chef and sommelier. They use fresh, locally grown ingredients in a fixed menu of three, four or five courses at $35, $40 or $45. Their halibut and scallops are wonderful, but when available, the rabbit and squab are the stars of the entree show. Make sure the cornbread accompanies whatever you order. And while you can order your own wine, we suggest you let Chris choose one for you. Save room for dessert; Ouita's are special. Midway. 859-846-4732. From downtown, take Broadway north to !-64, go off at Midway, turn right on 421 and immediately turn left on North Winter Street. Holly Hill Inn is at 426, a block up the hill.
Palmer's is the closest Lexington comes to a waterfront restaurant. Yes, it's only a large pond with a spectacular fountain in the middle and ducks and geese swimming around, but on a hot humid Summer evening, it's pretty classy. So is the menu. Among the appetizers, Bacon Wrapped Scalllops, Sweet Onion Hush Puppies, Chipotle Egg Rolls, and Smoked Meatloaf Minis all have cult followings, but we like the Tabasco Infused Onion Rings. Corn Clam Chowder is one of the city's best soups and there are six really good Salads. This is not advertised as a seafood restaurant, but their 12 seafood entrees are outstanding. We particularly like the Scallops, Tilapia, two kinds of Trout and Shrimp & Grits. Of the other entrees, the Pork Tenderloin Piccata, Steakhouse Meatloaf, Bone In Porkchop, Champagne Chicken and Chicken Piccata are the best but there are two good steaks and six other items. Smoked Gouda Mac n Cheese and Sweet Potato Fries are excellent sides. There are Beer Battered Cod, Cornmeal Crusted Catfish and Blackened Tilapia Sandwiches. The wine list is 95% California and French but is very good. palmer's
sage rabbit Sage Rabbit is Chevy Chase's Special Occasion restaurant. Chef John Foster (French Culinary Institute, formerly of Harvest Restaurant) has long been committed to locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, knows how to manage a kitchen, and plans a creative menu. The patio, especially in the Spring and Fall and on Summer evenings, is a great place to enjoy a meal. Pastas and Pastries are prepared in house daily. The menu rotates with the seasons, but we really like their Cream of Roast Tomato Soup, Mixed Green Salad and whichever Pasta they're offering each day. Among entrees, the Scallop-Shrimp Bouillabaisse is their signature dish, but the Crab Cake and Seasonal Seafood are very good, indicative of Foster's training in Manhattan. But if you're not into Seafood, the Local Organic Half Hen is exquisite. Or try the Roast Pork or Beef Tenderloin. Desserts are rich and sinful, and beverages include Earl Grey Tea, San Pelligrino, Organic Coffee, Ginger Ale and Fenterman's Cherry Cola (imported from British Columbia).
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