Lexington's Best Local Restaurants: Real Kentucky Dining

Skullers Clock in downtown Lexington Kentucky
Skuller's Clock in downtown Lexington Kentucky | © Barry Fowler / Alamy Stock Photo
Chloe Hay

As the equine capital of the world and the home of Bluegrass, Lexington in Kentucky attracts a large number of tourists every year. As a result of this, it also boasts an impressive array of art galleries and a fantastic selection of cultural restaurants. Read our updated guide to discover the ten best places to dine in Lexington.

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Bourbon and Toulouse

Run by an ex-musician and a retired school teacher, Bourbon and Toulouse is all about preparing tasty Cajun and Creole dishes served up a side dish of fun. The chicken etouffee is their best-selling dish, consisting of a spicy brown gravy and shredded organic chicken. Another local favourite is the New Orleans staple, gumbo. Simmered for two days to ensure melt-in-the-mouth flavour, this hearty soup is packed full of chicken, smoked sausage, shrimp and vegetables. Without a doubt, Bourbon and Toulouse is the place to go for wholesome home-style cooking, featuring an ever-changing beer menu sure to please craft brew fans.

County Club

Practising the much-loved American tradition of smoking meats in-house, the County Club cooks its fish and meats over hardwoods at low temperatures resulting in unique and delicious texture and taste. Diners can choose between a range of responsibly raised, locally sourced produce including chicken, beef, pork, mutton and goat to be served with a variety of salads and sides. Daily specials can be found on the blackboard and a range of craft beer, wine, coffee and sodas are available to wash down the dishes. Open for lunch and dinner, two of the most popular menu options include the chopped pork sandwich dressed in a house pickle and the 193 burger: a quarter-pound beef patty topped with bacon jam, smoked crimini, sharp cheddar, a portobello mushroom and gochujang ketchup.

Doodles

Ideally positioned close to a range of delightful boutiques and art galleries, Doodles opens everyday (except Mondays) for breakfast and lunch. The menu is simple but varied and includes tasty breakfast dishes such as caprese quesadilla – made from scrambled eggs, tomato, basil and mozzarella – and huevos rancheros with homemade salsa. For lunch, the Kentucky po-boy hot pressed sandwich is a great choice for fans of shrimp, whilst the vegetarian chilli is a delicious option for those looking for something a little lighter. At weekends, the menu alters to allow for lengthier brunches and more indulgent meals. Wherever possible, the ingredients used in Doodles’ dishes are organic and sourced from local farms.

Ramsey’s

A signature dish at Saul Good

Ramsey’s is an award-winning restaurant specialising in true Kentucky-style cooking. A family orientated eatery, Ramsey’s rustic way of dining is reminiscent of the comforts of home-cooking. There are thirteen entrées on the menu including meat loaf, pan blackened catfish and county fried pork chops which diners can enjoy with a selection of three perfectly prepared vegetables. Fried okra, sautéed spinach, baked potato, pinto beans and creamed corn are just five of the incredible 23 choices of fresh vegetables on the menu for diners to choose from. As well as the homespun meat and three vegetables option, Ramsey’s also provides a variety of sandwiches, salads, all day breakfast options and freshly baked Missy’s Pies.

Saul Good

A beautifully maintained, upscale pub, Saul Good serves a variety of burgers, sandwiches, salads and pizzas as well as larger dinner plates perfect for the bigger appetite. Choose from Saul’s special chicken and waffles, opt for a 14 ounce black Angus rib eye steak with russet potatoes or plump for a grilled centre-cut pork chop with sweet potato fries for a truly delicious and amply filling meal. Equally famed for its custom cocktails, the New Orleans and the Cranberry Pomegranate Sapphire are both great choices for those hankering after something sweet. Located opposite Shakespeare & Co., Saul Good is an ideal downtown dining spot for lunch or dinner.

Skybar

Offering unrivalled views over Lexington, Skybar is situated at the penthouse level of one of downtown’s tallest buildings. Both a sushi lounge and a nightclub, guests are welcome here to sample custom sushi such as Tropicana, orchid and dynamite rolls whilst gazing out over the cityscape. As well as sushi, a range of tapas-style small plate dishes and French fusion entrées are also available. Of course, Skybar also features a full bar and thanks to the live music, piano man and video DJs, the atmosphere is just right to continue the revelry of the evening well into the night.

Stella’s Deli

Dedicated to supporting local farmers and food economies, Stella’s Deli uses whichever seasonal ingredients are readily available to prepare its sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts in-house every day. Set in the historic district of downtown Lexington, Stella’s is a great place to pop in for a true home-cooked meal whether at brunch, lunch or dinner time. Locals love the Kentucky hot brown entree of an open turkey, bacon and tomato sandwich accompanied by a moray sauce and mashed potatoes. Stella’s also offers a popular ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ style brunch where diners can choose three options from the menu for $9.95. An ever-popular combination is the cheesy egg strata, bacon, and vanilla bourbon French toast.

Tolly Ho

Promising to spare the hunger of the students from the University of Kentucky, Tolly-Ho is open 364 days a year and retains its status as the most popular burger joint in town. Although no longer located on the University campus, its connection with the students is still firmly evident, seen in the charming collections of sorority and fraternity paraphernalia lining the walls. Stop by for a hearty breakfast at any time of the day, a game of pinball at midnight or the Tolly Ho signature quarter pounder for lunch or dinner. If it’s a true local eatery you’re after, there’s nowhere better than Tolly Ho.

Tulip Bistro

Tulip Bistro offers both an intimate, romantically lit indoor dining area and a pretty outdoor patio for guests to enjoy delicious fare. Serving a lighter bar menu everyday between four and five o’clock and a full dinner menu after five, Tulip Bistro is full of cosy corners and individual booths, making it a great date-night venue. The selection of starters are perfect for sharing, with the local Italian sausage, gorgonzola and fresh mozzarella plate being a popular choice. For the main course both the chicken Provençal and the fresh ravioli with the chef’s choice of filling are local favourites, as are the Nutella cookies and the English butter cake for dessert. Reservations for this charming bistro are recommended, although not essential.

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