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Richmond Road

Dining Out In Lexington, Kentucky

Archa 9 ArirangGarden AthenianGrill BobEvans BurgerKing Chili's
CityBarbecue
ChopHouse
Cole's
Columbia's Durango's Fazolli's Golden Buffet Hananoki Lee's Miyako O'Charley's
Panda Express Pepe's Sonic Sutton's Taj India TexasRoadHouse WaffleHouse Wendy's
 

Richmond Road exploded from a quiet country lane to a six lane connector route when I-75 was built. Today there are more restaurants along Richmond Road than along any other Lexington route. Most of them are chains, but there are some outstanding locally owned independent outlets. You do have to navigate access roads, strip malls and heavy rush hour traffic, but it's worth it to get to these very good restaurants. There are three lakes along Richmond Road, plus Jacobsen Park, a fishing club, two golf courses, the city's best sledriding hill and Ashland, the historic Henry Clay estate.

Archa 9 is Richmond Road's Thai restaurant. It's a sleek glass and steel facility on Old Todds Road next to Lowe's. The menu includes all the Thai classics. Our favorite Appetizers are their Crab Rangoon, Spring Rolls, Banana Leaf Prawns (prawns, garlic and herbs wrapped in banana leaves then deep fried), and Tempura Green Beans, although their Chicken Satay and Thai Chicken Wings are very, very good. Soups include Hot & Sour, Coconut, Seafood Hot & Sour, Duck Noodle, Beef Noodle and Spicy Noodle. Archa offers four Salads. The Nua Nam Tok contains sliced beef, roast rice, onions, basil, lime juice, fish sauce and lettuce. Larb Gel blends chicken, roast pepper, toasted rice, onions, basil, lime juice and lettuce on a bed of cucumber slices. There's also a Seafood Salad and the Veggie Salad, which features peanut sauce and pineapple. Archa does a good job with the iconic Pad Thai and four other Noddle entrees. Eight Wok dishes, six veggie, six Curries and four Grilled entrees round out the menu except for the five House Specials, Archa 9's signature items. These are Lemon Grass Chicken, Ho Mok Talay (seafood, curry, eggs, milk and coconut), Sizzling Duck, Seafood Hot Pot and Hong Kong Noodles (seafood, noodles, bamboo, veggies and gravy).
Ilias Pappas started with a food truck, opened a small restaurant in Chevy Chase, and followed with this Athenian Grill location on Locust Hill Road off Richmond Road. Ilias' mother is in charge of the kitchen and the 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 and Horiatki (tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, feta cheese, olives and classic Greek dressing). But the heart of the menu is the Dinner Entree list. It features all the classics : Mousaka (eggplant, spiced meat and bechamel sauce), Pastitsio (ground beef, pasta and bechamel sauce), Spanakopita (spinach pie with eggs and other vegetables), Greek Beef Stew and Cypriot Meatballs. Sides include Lemon Potatoes, Basmati (long grain) Rice and Roasted Vegetables.
Arirang Garden sits a block back from Richmond Road, next to Burke's Furniture, in a modest biege brick building. This Korean eatery is full of surprises, a Disney World for your taste buds. On a first visit you might try the buffet. It allows you to sample a wide range of Arirang's offering. On a later visit, you can order off the menu. Of the Appetizers, we love their Kimchee Pancakes, and really enjoy the Potstickers, Rice Cakes, Korean Sushi and Seafood Pancake. Some Soups and Stews are spicy while others are mild, but they're all rich with flavor. There's Kimchee Stew, Yook Gye Jang (thin sliced beef, vegetables, and egg in a broth over noodles), Kalbee Tang (beef rib, onion and egg soup over noodles), Hae Mool Tang (mussels, shrimp, squid, clams, crab and vegetables) and three kinds of Seafood Stew. Entrees are Squid, Shrimp, Vegetables, Pork and Chicken. The HotPot For Two includes thinly sliced beef, shrimp, mushrooms and noodles in a mild broth. If you order "Just For The Grill," they'll prepare your meal at your table right in front of you. We're struck by the Yin & Yang of Korean food; they hit you with spicy and mild, hot and cold, light and heavy, sweet and sour, salty and acidic, all on the same plate. We also love Korean vegetables: Pickled Radish Discs, Spiced Garlic Scapes, Mung Beans, etc. You could drink a glass of Plum Wine or Korean Beer, but the adventurous will try Sake (rice wine). Just be aware it's potent : Sake is 20% alcohol. arirang
Bob Evans uses a down home country America theme, giving old fashioned farm cooking a 21st Century twist. Breakfasts are so bounteous they have a cult following; in every town there is a group of people who begin every day at Bob Evans. Lunch is very traditional, but it's Dinner where Bob Evans really shines. Of appetizers, we like their Blue Ribbon Apple Pie Fries, Country Fair Cheese Bites and Loaded Baked Potato Bites (breaded and fried potatoes stuffed with cheddar cheese, sour cream, bacon, scallions and buttermilk ranch dressing). Deep Dish Dinners, Deep Dish Pastas and Slow Roasted Dinners put you in mind of big family Sundays out on the farm. Soups and salads are excellent, and the open face sandwiches are the best still being commercially served of what was once a staple in every small town restaurant in the country. The Meat Loaf (made with sausage and Angus beef) is outstanding. This may be the best of all chain restaurants.
 

Lexington has two Chili's locations, with the Richmond Road restaurant shown here. The appetizers are mostly fried but we really like the Southwestern Egg Rolls (six flour tortillas filled with smoked chicken, black beans, corn, jalapeno, Jack cheese, red peppers and spinach, served with avocado ranch dressing), and there's a hot spinach artichoke dip served in a hot cast iron skillet with fresh warm tostado chips). One of Chile's claims to fame is its Chicken Green Chile Soup (rice, green chiles, lime, avocado, cilantro, and tomatoes), but there's also the Chicken Enchilada Soup and a very good Terlingua Chile (slow cooked with beef, onions, chiles and cheese). Eight salads include the Caribbean (pineapple, mandarin oranges, cherries, green onions, cilantro, grilled chicken or shrimp, and honey lime dressing) and Quesadilla Explosion (grilled chicken, cheese, corn relish, tortilla strips, cheese and citrus balsamic dressing). Chile's other claim to fame is its 11-entree Grill Menu : Chicken or Beef Fajitas, Buffalo Chicken Fajitas, Steak/chicken/garlic/lime/shrimp Fajitas, Southwestern Quesadillas, Salmon, Monterey Chicken, Margarita Chicken, Cajun Pasta, Classic Sirloin, and Flamed Ribeye. The menu includes very traditional sandwich, burger, taco, dessert and beverage pages.

The Chop House offers seafood, chicken, ribs, and pasta. But most of all they offer steaks as good as any in town. Among their appetizers, we like the Fried Green Tomatoes, served over cheese grits, and Portabello Caps with lobster, crab, shrimp, onion, and jack cheese. Friends who ordered Lobster Alfredo with blue crabmeat, shrimp, Alfredo sauce, green onions, peas, mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes, and fettucine raved about it. We think the Blue Crabcakes are as good as anything at the better seafood restaurants. But the steaks still reign supreme. They're USDA Premium, grain fed, heavily aged, and as usual The Chop House has developed its own unique seasoning. The ovens here are Montegues, which they fire up to 1500 degrees. They offer 16 cuts, from an 8 oz. Prime Rib to a 20 oz. T Bone. And the minted Lamb Chops are pretty good, too.

Columbia's has been a Lexington landmark for 60 years. Their North Limestone original location is famous and has been visited by sports and movie stars, musicians, politicians and other celebrities. However, the Big Secret is that this Richmond Road facility is much nicer. You can see a small open air deck facing the road, but the classy atmosphere is the roofed brick patio behind the trees to the rear right. In colder weather the inside has lots of stone and timber, crackling fireplaces and romantic little niches. The famous entree is the Nighthawk Special. For $15 you get a beef tenderloin broiled in garlic butter, served with baked potato and Diego salad. The special is named for The Nighthawk, Tom Kindall, a midnight to dawn disc jockey on WVLK, voice of rock and roll in Kentucky for 40 years. Kindall is long retired, but the special named for him is in its 50th year. However, the Nighthawk isn't the only thing special on this menu. There are five other steak entrees plus steak fries. Columbia's offers the best Australian wine list in town and the soup of the day is always good. Appetizers and salads are just average, but save room for a piece of the Kentucky Silk Pie, a lingering taste of the Old South.
Durango's is the oldest family run Mexican restaurant here. It has lasted 35 years by keeping its menu simple and doing an outstanding job with classic items. This is down home Peninsula cooking, heavily seafood oriented. Many Lexingtonians rank these Chile Rellenos the best in town. They are tightly stuffed banana peppers cooked in a tomato sauce. Durango's soups are great, especially their Caldo de Pollo (chicken/vegetable/ rice) and Caldo de Camarones (shrimp/vegetable/rice). House Specialties include Camarones Durango (shrimp shishkebab with peppers, onions, tomatoes, lobster sauce and rice pilaf) and Filete de Pescado (grilled catfish marinated in olive oil and garlic). There are five Vegetarian Plates, including Vegetales Fajitas (grilled vegetables with guacamole and sour cream), and Burrito de Vegetales (tortilla filled with grilled fresh vegetables, sour cream, cheese and tomato sauce). Durango's also offers five great Mexican style steaks.
Fazolli's offers a full menu of Italian fast food, although the manager takes issue with the phrase. He insists he serves "Italian food, freshly prepared, fast." It gets its menu and basic ingredients from the corporation, but the pastas, sauces, breadsticks and salads are prepared during the day and the main dishes are not placed in the oven until you order them. Fazolli's carries all the traditional Italian favorites and adds a few unique twists of their own. The core of the menu is the eight pasta entrees baked and served in a white ceramic casserole dish. Of this core, we think their best are their Spaghetti & Meatballs, Chicken Parmiagano and Rigatoni Romano, although we have friends who swear by their Ravioli & Meat Sauce. You might consider the Sampler Platter, which includes a small portion of several major entrees. The Sliced Italian Sausage & Pasta, and the Tortellini & Sun Dried Tomato Rustico are newer creations which have found a loyal following. Fazolli's offers the usual Subs, Pizzas, and desserts like Italian Lemon Ice.
Cole's 735 Main

Cole's 735 Main features Classic Upscale Southern Cuisine. Among appetizers, we like the Spanakopita (spinach and feta souffle wrapped in phyllo with shallot cream), but the Fried Avocado stuffed with crab salad and the Sea Cake are excellent. The Roast Beet & Goat Cheese With Arugula is the finest interpretation of this salad in Kentucky. The 14 item entree menu includes Beef Shoulder, New York Strip, a Petite Filet and Duck Breast. Cole's does not advertise itself as a Seafood restaurant, but no seafood restaurant in town matches the Shrimp & Grits and Scallops served here, and the Tuna, Salmon and Seafood Medley are also outstanding. Ribs fans will find Baby Back Ribs or Short Ribs excellent. There's Amish Chicken with mushrooms and spinach. For vegetarians, Morrocan Butternut Squash Stew includes garlic whipped potatoes and lemon shallot brussel sprouts. A Bar Food Menu, available by request, is a bounty of items below $12 : Spicy Duck Tacos, Salted Endamame, Baked Brie, Duck Fries, Wild Mushroom Bruscetta, Artisan Cheese Plate and the Kobe Burger. 735 East Main. From downtown, drive East on Vine / Main, and look left.

First Watch made their reputation with breakfasts and they do a great job. The menu is heavy with fresh fruits and vegetables and in house breads. They offer 10 Omelets, served with potatoes and English muffins. They brag about their Bacado, a bacon - avocado - cheese mix topped with sour cream and salsa. But we think their best are their Acapulco, which includes Chorizo, sausage, green chiles, avocado, onions, cheddar and monterey jack cheese; Greek, with roast red peppers, spinach, onions, feta and black olives; and Swiss, with ham, roast mushrooms, onions, herbs and Swiss cheese. There are five Skillet Hashes, cast iron skillets with varying ingredients. They promote the Parma Hash, two eggs any style over potatoes, sausage, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, Parmesan, mozzarella and herbs. But the Farmhouse places those eggs and potatoes over chicken, zucchini, onions, red peppers, cheddar, and a pesto hollandaise. The Hashes are probably the healthiest entrees on the breakfast menu. As you would expect, First Wach offers Pancakes, Belgian Waffles, French Toast, Crepes, Frittatas, and eggs fixed every way imaginable : Eggs Benedict, Scrambled, Creped, etc. The Pancakes are outstanding. First Watch proudly points out that it does not use deep fryers or heat lamps, but makes everything fresh, heart healthy and on order. For lunch you can choose from six Salads and 13 Sandwiches, but they're just average. This is clearly a breakfast place. First Watch
 
Golden Buffet The Golden Buffet started out as a Chinese restaurant but added foods from Japan, Italy and America until it offers Lexington's most cosmopolitan buffet. You can order from the menu, but with 180 items on the line most people choose to assemble their own dinners. Exactly what is placed on the line each day is hard to predict. On the regular menu, we really like their Hot & Sour Soup and whatever they offer as The House Special. Their Scallop & Beef is worth ordering, but the Seafood Delight at $10.25 may be their signature item (lobster, shrimp, scallops, crab stick, baby corn, mushrooms, carrots, snow peas, broccoli and Chinese vegatables). As at any good Chinese restaurant, there are half a dozen Beef, Pork, Seafood, Chicken and Moo Shu items, plus three Sweet & Sours, seven Fried Rices, four Chow Meins and five Egg Foo Youngs. A REAL BARGAIN.
Hananoki bills itself as a Steak House and Sushi Bar but as a regular restaurant it does quite well. There are three classic steak dinners, three seafood dinners, one chicken and one vegetarian dish, and three steak - fish mixtures. Then there are 17 rolls, a Japanese item which is a good lunch or , if you combine it with an appetizer and soup, a light dinner. For examples, the Wildcat is a hefty mix of shrimp, crab, masago, avocado, cucumber and seaweed for $9; and the Sunrise is tuna, salmon, yellow tail, masago, avocado, cucumber, soy bean, and lobster salad for $10. Lunch weekdays 11:30 - 2 pm. Dinner 4:30 - 9:30. The address is misleading. Hananoki really faces down on Richmond Road from a high bluff, next to Mia Mexico. To get to it, turn North onto Man o War, then look for the first right turn. That takes you up behind the restaurant. Hanonoki
Lee's Lee's certainly has the credentials. Lee Cummings was the nephew of Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Harland Sanders, grew up in the kitchen learning how to cook, and in 1952 hit the road with his uncle selling his franchises and their special pressure cookers and special secret recipe. Cummings became president, but in 1962 Sanders sold the company. In a clever legal maneuver, Cummings kept control of the recipe. Cummings then founded Famous Recipe. In 1981 the name was changed to Lee's Famous Recipe. Now, it's just Lee's. Basically, Lee's uses only fresh --- never frozen --- chicken, soaks it in a sugar solution, then in a mixture of spices. They hand bread it, honey dip it, and pressure cook it to seal in the flavor. So when you visit Lee's, you're getting a 21st Century, high tech version of Kentucky Fried Chicken. They've diversified somewhat into Oven Roast and Spicy Chicken, plus Breasts and Wings. A lot of attention has been paid to their Sides. People drop by just to pick up an order of Potato Wedges, Mac & Cheese, Corn on the Cob or Red Beans & Rice. but there are also Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Hot Apples, Baked Beans, Cole Slaw & Potato Salad and Buttermilk Biscuits.
Miyako has the most extensive teriyaki menu in town with seven dinners, and offers two tempuras (battered and fried dishes) as appetizers and four more as dinner sides. Its raw sushi menu features squid, sea urchin and octopus. Cooked sushi includes Tako, Smoked Salmon, Ebi, Tamago and Unagi Kani. Miyako's Sushi specialty is its Dancing Tuna Roll, spicy tuna wrapped in seaweed and tart rice, topped with seared tuna, wasabi sauce, scallions and masago. Heavy with wood, the decor conceals the fact six lane Richmond Road is only feet from the building. The Plum Wine is the best beverage on the menu.
O'Charley's

If you're hungry and not worried about a diet, O'Charley's is where you come. They make great use of cheese, bacon and other hearty ingredients, beginning with their outstanding soup rotation. Best are probably the Three Cheese Broccoli, Chicken Harvest, and Overloaded Potato Soup (two cheeses, potatoes, and hickory smoked bacon). Our favorite appetizer is the Three Cheese Shrimp Dip (shrimp, Asiago cheese, sun dried tomatoes, Monterrey Jack and Cheddar served with warm, freshly made tortilla chips). They offer six flashy salads, such as the Black and Bleu Caesar (blackened grilled sirloin cubes with bleu cheese on romaine lettuce and tomatoes) and Pecan Chicken. There are Southern Grilled Chicken Tacos, Baby Back Ribs, seven kinds of steak, five pastas, Caramel Pie and a solid beverage list including Beringer and Ecco Domani wines, Killian Irish Red Beer and Belgian Blue Moon Ale. OCharley's very best entree may be the Cedar Planked Fish. They fire grill 9 oz. filets of either Tilapia or Salmon on a cedar plank with lemon seasoning.

Panera's is famous for drinks, soups, sandwiches and paninis. The outlet shown here, just off Richmond Road on the north side, also features patio seating for Spring and Summer. We like their Ginger Peach Tea, which we have tried and cannot duplicate anywhere else (so we just buy boxes from Panera). Of their soups, which we order in the bread bowl Puritan style, we like Creamy Tomato (pureed with red pepper and oregano in cream) and Garden (Swiss chard, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes, beans, peppers, barley, and basil pesto thoroughly pureed). The two salads we think lead the pack are the Mediterranean Salmon (chilled salmon, field greens, romaine, feta cheese, olives, oranges, almonds, red onions in honey tangerine vinaigrette dressing) and Fuji Apple Chicken (citrus herb chicken, field greens, romaine, tomatoes, red onions, pecans, Gorgonzola, apple in white balsamic apple vinaigrette). The Asiago Roast Beef and Mediterranean Veggie top a whole page of sandwiches.
Pepe's The former Mi Mexico is under new management and is now called Pepe's. It retains the colorful interior and the orange building. Sadly, the food quality seems to have declined. We regret this, because for the previous decade they offered several unique items you couldn't get anywhere else. They still have those; they're just not as good. The Pina Relleno is a pineapple stuffed with shrimp and scallops, cooked in red sauce and topped with Monterey Jack Cheese. The Caldo de Camaron, made only on weekends, is a shrimp vegetable soup. Their Hawaiin and Pineapple Fajitas are a rare variation in this category. They also offer seven vegetarian entrees. They have other locations in Lexington and Georgetown, which have also come under the new owners as Pepe's. So we'll keep checking back hoping for improvement.
Qdoba does some very creative things with the basic Mexican menu. We particularly like their Mexican Gumbo, which is a Qdoba creation. You won't find anything like it anywhere else, and we think it alone justifies a Qdoba visit. But there are other reasons. Qdoba uses all local fresh ingredients and makes your order while you watch. There's none of the shipping items in premade and frozen, then quick thawing and heating them in a microwave just before serving. Qdoba's burritos, tacos and quesadillas are made California style, which is more like Mexican and less like Tex Mex. In other words, the taste of the fresh vegetables and herbs comes through without being buried under the heat of peppers and spices. Their Taco Salad is a pile of lettuce and vegetables served in a taco bowl; first you eat the salad, then you eat the bowl. Qdoba lets customers customize your order: first you specify which basics you want, then you choose which additions you want. Qdoba also provides complete nutritional information on each item so if you're dieting or training you can customize your meal.
Sonic is a retro drive in restaurant where for half an hour or so you can pretend you're back in the 1950s. They even have girls on roller skates coming out to take your order and carrying your food out on trays which hook onto your car window. The menu is the classic burger, fries, shake and ice cream, although they've updated it a little with Nachos, Onion Rings and Chicken Nuggets. They play Golden Oldie music over the speakers. On Fridays and Saturdays it's a frequent stop for guys cruising Lexington in their restored 50s and 60s cars, so you might want to bring your camera. If you walk over from one of the dorms or nearby student apartment complexes, there are a few picnic tables set up under the canopy so you can sit outside and enjoy the ambience. Sonic has several outlets in town. This Richmond Road version is the newest and features a more modern design, which will impress some and disappoint others.

Sutton's is an upscale Italian/American restaurant which operated in Danville for two years and moved to Lexington in May 2010 with a short menu and focus on quality. The inside is a classy example of casual elegance with a three season roofed brick patio. Of their appetizers, we like their Meatballs but the real stars are their three Soups : Wedding (very delicate blend of chicken, sausage, spinach and Parmesan cheese), Baked French Onion (one of the city's better renditions), and Loaded Potato Soup (a hearty hit for cold Winter nights but be careful as it's a meal in itself). Of the entrees, we like the Scallops (grilled, with lemon and white wine), Tilapia (broiled), and the Seafood Platter (shrimp and scallop skewers and tilapia). There are Pasta Giovani (chicken, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, black olives, garlic, capers, red pepper, basil and penne pasta), FRA Daviolo (angel hair with lobster cream sauce, marinara, scallops, shrimp and scallions), and Chicken Fiorindo (baked chicken stuffed with spinach, tomatoes, cheeses, herbs, and spices). But they offer one Lexington's best Hot Browns, and the Tuscan Rib Eye is one of the best steaks in town. They also have excellent Pizza.

Taj India is the latest incarnation at the old Oriental Garden / India Palace location. Taj opened in 2009 and has already developed a loyal following. They lured longtime Lexington chef Benny Head from his former UK campus location, and offer a Northern India menu. The decor has a regal ambiencewith ornate chandeliers, a waterfall and rich wall hangings. The lunch buffet (seven days a week) is spectacular, with over 20 dishes and various tandoor baked breads and other sides. Lexington has eight good Indian restaurants, but the Chicken Tikki Masala, Saag Paneer and Tandoori Chicken here are as good or better than any of them. Among appetizers, we like the Lamb Kebabs. They offer eight good vegetarian dinners. The Tandoori Mixed Grill is a great way to sample the variety of their menu. Goat Curry was new to us, and we found it quite unique and tasty. Although their Rice Pudding is the traditional dessert, we were more impressed with the Mango Pudding. This is not a good location, out of sight of Richmond Road, on a dead end street. Both their predecessors were really good, developed a loyal following, but never attracted enough walk in or drive by traffic to survive. We hope Taj India makes it.

A "road house" was a restaurant out on the highway far from any town where travellers could stop for a long break, order a hearty meal, and spend half an hour at the bar while they fixed it. A road house tradition was bowls or baskets of peanuts at the bar where men could shell them and toss the shells on the floor. Texas Road House tries to honor this tradition with its emphasis on steaks, ribs and beer for the men and chicken and seafood for their families and, sure enough, lots of peanut shells on the floor. Texas Road House really does do a fine job with steaks for a lower price than most steak restaurants. But this is their reputation, and people tend to overlook their other entrees. The ribs, seafood and chicken here are competitive with the restaurants specializing in those foods. Even the soups are good.
Waffle House is famous for their waffles but ironically their menu features everything else. They promote their Steak & Eggs, Pork Chops & Eggs, Grilled Chicken & Eggs, Omelettes (Cheesesteak, Chili Cheese, Jalapeno and Ham & Cheese), Egg Sandwiches, Hash Browns and classic EggsnBacon or Ham & Egg plates. They're also pretty proud of their biscuits, sausage and bacon sides. Then, over there in the corner, they get around to their Waffles. Their basic is the classic Butter Milk Waffle. There are Double Waffles and Waffles With Sausage or Ham or Eggs. You can pick from Pecan, Chocolate Chip, Blueberry and Strawberry. Actually, we regret the evolution of Waffle House. Way back there, they served ONLY waffles, two pages of every variation imaginable. We could try waffles here we could never find anywhere else and couldn't fix ourselves. Now they've diversified, but the waffle choices are narrowed. Luckily, they still do a good job, with waffles and everything else.
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