The good news? Breeders’ Cup returns to the center of the horse racing universe this month, firing out of the gate at Lexington’s historic Keeneland racetrack on October 31. The bad news? If you haven’t yet booked a table at your favorite upscale dining establishment 60 miles east of Louisville, you’re likely out of luck.
But don’t let the fact that perennial favorites like Dudley’s and Coles or Midway’s Heirloom and Holly Hill are already booked up dampen your fall meet spirits. If you have been to Lexington of late you know that its restaurant scene is anything but stagnant. New and eclectic dining additions to the horse capital of the world are brightening its culinary star in ways never seen. Coupled with several lower-on-the-radar local favorites, the selections for locations to toast your winnings or lament bets lost are plentiful and downright delicious. We suggest you move quickly; you never know when that last table will be won!
Here are five restaurants you should try the next time you are in Lexington:
3070 Lakecrest Circle, #550, Lexington • (859) 296-1007
Leading the charge at Azur is Executive Chef and Owner Jeremy Ashby, who is as committed to utilizing locally sourced ingredients as he is to providing unparalleled service to his patrons. Chef Ashby has been spreading the word about the wealth and bounty of Kentucky’s bluegrass since returning in the early 2000s. He came home after obtaining his culinary degree in South Carolina and stints working for top restaurants in Charleston and Miami. His menus are eclectic, to say the least, featuring dishes like the signature lobster crêpes with tropical guava sauce and pea shoots rubbing elbows with their pork chop, which is served with ancho chile blackberry BBQ glaze, sweet potato sweet corn home fries and Kentucky Ale-battered onion rings. This is a celebratory restaurant, the ideal location for commemorating a day at the races!
307 West Short St., Lexington • (859) 252-0099
The dining room of the Village Idiot has remained full since the doors opened in August 2012. With its gastropub menu and laid-back spirit, the Village Idiot is a welcome addition to the Lexington restaurant scene. While the environment is casual, the attention to the food is anything but. Familiar favorites like macaroni and cheese are taken to new heights with the addition of pulled pork BBQ, Lexington Pasta rigatoni and a smoked Gouda mornay. Their take on the South’s favorite chicken and waffles is a delicious twist, the traditional bird replaced with buttermilk fried duck leg confit and served over a cornmeal and cheddar waffle. Order a bottle of bubbly or a beer from their seemingly endless, expertly curated list—it’s time to toast a day well lived!
555 Jefferson St. Lexington • (859) 389-6555
County Club is located on the outskirts of downtown Lexington in the rapidly reforming blocks of Jefferson Street. The vibe of County Club is purposefully chill. The dining room is small, with all floor-to-ceiling windows, tall, straight-backed booths and exposed cement walls. The heart of County Club lies in their smoker, where the majority of their locally sourced ingredients are crafted. Don’t let the casual nature of this no-reservations spot fool you; they know how to make a meal shine, meticulous attention paid to every fleck of seasoning, every dash of flavor purposeful and well thought out. Its wine and beer lists are small, but equally selected with the best of intentions. County Club is never a bad idea, after the races or otherwise.
848 East High St., Lexington • (859) 269-9291
Tomo in Chevy Chase has long been a home away from home for those living within the reach of the Henry Clay Estate. This sushi house is a go-to for Lexington residents with a craving for expertly crafted Japanese cuisine. You’ll want to be sure to kick off dinner with an order of Ebi Shumai, soft and pipping hot shrimp dumplings, and the Tuna Tuna roll is a favorite among regulars. Pair it with the signature Tomo Roll, Sake and your preferred Japanese beer, and settle in for a delicious evening.
264 Walton Ave., Lexington • (859) 303-4763
National Provisions operates as a jack of many trades, running a small bakery filled with the warm scent of bread and sweet treats, a market with locally made provisions and a beer hall, in addition to their upscale American Brasserie. We would happily spend any evening here, especially after a day of betting on the ponies. A French influence can be found throughout the menu, making appearances in the escargot pistou hors d’oeuvre, as well as in the low country bouillabaisse, presented as a bowl of tomato fennel brothy goodness filled with fish, shellfish and sausage. In terms of libations, here it’s all about the cocktail, many of which are garnished with fresh sprigs of local herbs.
We are a mere three weeks from post time at the Breeders’ Cup, and the coveted open tables at these Lexington gems are sure to book up soon. We suggest you move quickly; you never know when that last table will be won!