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Bonefish Grill Charlie's Cole's 735 Main Hall's Ketch Red Lobster Riptide

Obviously, being a long day's drive from the nearest saltwater, Lexington does not have the seafood you would find on either coast. However, Lexington does have legitimate seafood restaurants. They fly fresh fish in daily and do a great job of preparing it. The menus are not as extensive as you might find on Cape Cod, Chesapeake Bay or the Outer Banks, but what is available is very good. Lexington fish cuisine traces back to Hall's, which opened in 1955 on the Kentucky River half an hour's drive from downtown. Hall's at first specialized in fried catfish, trout, turtle soup and crawfish etouffe, but gradually expanded to included a full seafood menu. Today's, Hall's is a tradition among seafood lovers, but several rivals have staked out their own niches serving people not in the mood for the long drive down to the river and back. With the decline of tobacco, many local farms have turned to fish as an alternative "crop." This has given restaurants a great source of fresh, locally grown, very high quality fish, reducing the amount they have to fly in, and allowing them to avoid the dreaded freezing, which of course means they can better match the taste of their oceanfront rivals. The hiring of local chefs with culinary training and internships at coastal restaurants means Lexington kitchens are now just as good at preparing fish as The Lobster Pot, Austin Creek Grille, Wheelers, Christiana Campbell's or any of the other famous "top 10" seafood establishments.

bonefish grille Bonefish Grill is a conneisseur's seafood restaurant. The menu is not extensive, and depends on availability that day in Baltimore or Norfolk. They use a wood burning grill skillfully. Your big choice is the sauce. We like their lime tomato garlic, but you might try the mango salsa, lemon butter or pan Asian. We like their Salmon, Swordfish, Sea Bass and Scallops. Bonefish also does a special job with their sides. They use locally grown vegetables and when unavailable they bring in the best they can from elsewhere. Owners Tim Curci and Chris Parker are not into down homey. They're into Polished Casual. You'll think you're in Charleston or Savannah.
Charlie's is a classic harborfront fish counter transplanted to Lexington as the ultimate fast fish operation : you step inside, place your order, step down to the cash register, pay, then step further down for your food. Charlie's offers fresh Crab Cakes, Shrimp, Oysters, and Scallops, and more exotic fish frozen, all for you to take home and fix. But the reason you come here is The White Fish Sandwich, either $4 or $5 depending on whether you want one filet or two. This is the best fish sandwich in Central Kentucky. It is a very good cut of fish, big enough for two, freshly flown in, cooked to perfection. Along with it, you get two Jalapeno hushpuppies, tartar sauce and crinkle fries. Charlie's is pure carryout, with no tables. They're open 9-5 six days a week. Bring cash. Expect a line almost all day, out the door and around the corner at lunch times on good weather days. Many locals bring their own drink and a bottle of malt vinegar for the fish. The tiny parking lot is woefully inadequate but you can park further up the street and walk half a block. Charlie's
Cole's 735 Main Cole's 735 Main 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. Cole's mostly 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. 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.
No restaurant can match the drive to Hall's On The River. From downtown, you head out East Main Street and keep going as it becomes Richmond Road, then Athens Boonesboro Road. You'll wind through horse farms, over Boone Creek and under leafy tunnels. The stone fences you see were built by Scotch Irish stonemasons before the Civil War. But it's the food, not the scenery, which lures people down here. Hall's flies in its seafood daily from Baltimore. The seafood chowder uses Chesapeake clams plus Clark County potatoes. However, you might prefer the award winning Beer Cheese Soup. Among the four salad choices, we prefer the Shrimp Crabmeat Lettuce version. There are nine appetizers but the fried banana peppers are the best in town. Among the entrees, Hall's is one of the few places still serving frog legs. Their Catch Of The Day is always great. Hall's lists "Ocean Catfish" but it's really locally grown. However, it's huge and delicious. Their chefs do a great job with the Orange Roughy. Hall's

The Ketch is a classic beach shack. These ramshackle buildings with their shake shingles line Cape Cod and the New England Coast. They feature a bar and a dozen tables. The Ketch is an unpretentious building but this is the best Seafood in Central Kentucky. It begins with the Appetizers, such as Calamari, a Beer Cheese Platter, Cat Paws (bites of Catfish in a house dipping sauce), and Hushpuppies. Soups include Louisiana Seafood Gumbo and Clam Chowder. The menu is extensive, but our favorites are the Maryland Crab Cakes, Crab Stuffed Shrimp, Seafood Hot Brown, Broiled Seafood Platter and Fried Clam Strips. Regulars swear by the Southern Fried Catfish, Wood Grilled Shrimp Skewer and Lobster Tacos. There are lots of Platters, Buckets and Samplers if you like variety. A Sunday Brunch features Smoked Salmon Omelet, Shrimp & Grits and Crab Benedict. If you're coming with friends but personally don't want Seafood, there are Memphis Ribs, a Grilled Veggie Platter, Ribeye, and, at the Sunday Brunch, Huevos Rancheros, Breakfast Hot Brown, and some very good Banana Pecan Pancakes. It gets crowded so come early. Regency Road at Southland Drive.

Red Lobster was the first Corporate Seafood operation to open in Lexington and after the others have come and gone, it remains. This is a standardized menu : reliable, reasonably priced, providing what customers want. The two Soups are both outstanding : Clam Chowder and Lobster Bisque. Red Lobster is especially good at combination platters and baskets. There's the Bar Harbor Lobster Bake (lobster, shrimp, scallops, mussells and linguini), the Wood Grilled Basket (lobster, shrimp and scallops over wild rice) and the Broiled Basket (shrimp scampi, tilapia, crab and shrimp). We consider Flounder the most delicate of fish, and you can get it here either by itself or in combination, like The Admiral (flounder, shrimp, scallops and clam strips). The Fresh Fish of the Day Board usually includes Atlantic Salmon, Tilapia, Rainbow Trout and Cod. These last two are greatly unappreciated. Cod was America's original favorite seafood, from the Pilgrims in 1620 up through the early 20th Century. And too many people avoid Rainbow Trout because it contains a lot of tiny bones. It's delicious, sweet and delicate. Just pick the bones out. The Crab Legs are really, really good. Somebody at your table must order the Pumpkin Pie In A Jar just so the rest of you can see it, and somebody ought to order the Key Lime Pie so you can all taste it.

red lobster
Riptide is a River Shack half an hour out of town. There's no pretense, just good food. Inside is a fireplace, bar and a dozen tables. Six garage doors swing open to a 4000 ft. patio overlooking the Kentucky River with great views of two bridges and the New Madrid Fault. At water's edge is a Tiki Bar with live music. The crowd includes fishermen, boaters, water skiiers, kayakers and those who just want to enjoy the river breeze and leafy canyon scenery. It's a leisurely place. Linger over your appetizer and drink while the kitchen takes its time with your meal. But these are the best Grilled Scallops in town, large and juicy and done to perfection. The Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Fried Clams, Crab Pasta, and Catfish are outstanding. Their Petite Sirloin is good and there's a whole list of Po' Boy Sandwiches. Among the appetizers, we like the Fried Green Tomatoes when they're in season and the Gumbo anytime. The secret to their food is their excellent seasonings. 9079 Old Richmond Rd. 263-3286. Take East Main / Richmond Road east to I-75, turn South, drive six miles, take Exit 99 (Clays Ferry Exit), turn right and go to the bottom of the hill.
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