Beyond Bourbon and Horses: Exploring Lexington One Bite at a Time (Part I)

The little one has been missing Lexington, Kentuckyour former home before we moved to the Sunshine Statefor quite sometime now and had been wondering when we'll be home for the holidays. So when a serendipitous moment at work drew Mommy back to Lexington close to the holidays, we decided it's time to pack our bags, hop on a plane and take a family trip. 

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This little girl was, of course, beyond thrilled at the thought of fun sleepovers with her cousins, the possibility of playing in the snow again as well as seeing magnificent horses (whether real or a piece of art) at every turn. Lexington wasn't one to disappointa magnanimous horse painting immediately welcomed the little one while at the airport.  

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Although it is best known for bourbon and horses, there is more to Lexington than distillery and derby. In fact, the best way to experience this charming city is to take one bite at a time. As a food destination, Lexington is underrated, but the food scene here is growing and the younger foodie and bourbon-loving generation is helping to redefine its taste buds with its penchant for food trucks and restaurants that blend organic, craft drinks and vintage. What's our top recommendation if you are visiting the city for the first time? Put the Distillery Districta cluster of local distilleries, hip restaurants and cool barsin your must-experience list so you get a taste of modern-day Lexington's food and social scene.   

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Although Southern cooking is a staple, Lexington never ceases to surprise when it comes to food with cultural influences. One tip that has served us well when searching for best places to eat: Follow the locals. Often, they know where to find the unpretentious, just-plain-good food unknown to many tourists. One local favorite is Sahara Mediterranean Cuisine along Fieldstone Way. One sign it has good food? Lunch often means long queues that stretch outside its door. But who's complaining? For many locals, it's a small price to pay for the promise of a delicious serving of lamb and beef kebab with hummus, Greek salad, pine-roasted rice and pita bread.

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When it comes to upper-scale Cuban food, you can always count on Brasabana to deliver. Located at Lane Allen Road, Brasabana offers Latin favorites with a bit of an island flair. For instance, instead of the expected tortilla chips and salsa, Brasabana serves complimentary plantain chips, something I enjoy in flavor far better than traditional corn chips since the plantain's hint of sweetness offers a nice contrast to the salsa's citrusy flavor.

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I suggest starting your Cuban meal experience with Empanadas (Brian raves about them) or Papas Rellenes (Cuban-style potato and meatballs). We've tried the Peruvian Chicken and Havana Nueva (both good), but as creatures of habit, Brian and I often have a hard time deviating from our all-time favorite: Carnitas. The slow-roasted chunks of pork have a crispy exterior and remind me of flavors from back home in the Philippines, while the pickled onions and peppers elevate the taste a notch higher.

There's more food adventures ahead in Part II of this travel feature, including a new food spot that exclusively serves Ramen (perfect on days with bone-chilling temperatures), a Southern resto-chain that serves unique burgers (Ahi tuna burger, anyone?) and a Japanese restaurant where every sushi on a plate is a work of art.

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