When visiting Lexington, come hungry. In a short couple of years, the culinary scene in this charming Southern city has gone from grits to gastropub—thanks in part to young food-lovers with a sophisticated palate for unique food experiences. Proof to Lexington's continuing growth as a "food, craft beer and bourbon" haven is the number of dining options available, including more than 30 food trucks and well over 100 independently owned restaurants.
In historic Downtown Lexington, several new restaurants have popped up in the past few years, including The Village Idiot, which prides itself of being "Lexington's first gastropub." Housed in what was once a historic post office, the interior has an organic appeal and its food selection—from its vast array of craft beers to farm-to-table menu—are a delight to the senses. Brian's favorite, of course, is The Idiot burger, a blend of burger meat and pulled pork on a toasted pretzel bun topped with Tillamook Cheddar and an oversized onion ring.
Another one of our favorite burger spots is Bru Burger. Although it is a chain brand by the Cunningham Restaurant Group, it still has a bit of a Southern charm as the chain operates only in the tri-state of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. The menu offers a lot of surprises, making it ideal for foodies who love to experiment with their burger. My favorite is the Ahi Tuna burger, but Brian loves to explore new flavors, especially those that have a bit of a kick to the palate, like the Melt Your Face burger sprinkled with habanero sauce.
Craving for kimchi and bibimbop? We find it generally hard to find great Korean restaurants, but we've enjoyed Seki K Restaurant at Clays Mill Road during the many times we've been there. In fact, after introducing Seki to a few friends, we've converted them to Korean food for life. The interiors are cozy and quite intimate, with just the right amount of Asian touches. The appetizer platter, consisting of 10 side dishes, is a gastronomic experience on its own. If you're worried about anything too spicy or unusual, stick to the all-time favorites like bibimbop, dolsot and kalbi. What makes the place even better is that it's tucked behind Dong Yang Market, an Asian grocery store where you may buy sauces, noodles and homemade kimchi after a lovely lunch or dinner.
On days when you are in the mood for quick and affordable Chinese food, try Chengs Chinese Restaurant. Located near Seki, Chengs is by far the best hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant we've found. Hands down, we have yet to find another place that can rival its crispy General Tso's chicken. It is a delightful mix of sweet and spicy flavors with every bite. Try the homemade dimsum, hot and sour soup and beef with cashew nuts if you want other flavors. Lunch is very affordable, but if you are feeling adventurous, request for the Chef's Special menu. We've heard several friends rave about its eggplant dish, but we have never tried it yet as Brian—who can eat Gator meat and sea urchin—refuses to eat eggplant. Go figure that part out!
The cold Lexington winter months often call for hot soups, so it's a surprise that there are not that many Ramen-exclusive places around. But during our last visit, we've discovered Ramen Ya! located at S. Broadway. Ramen Ya! offers six different Ramen choices on the menu, all priced at $11. The noodles come in a good-sized bowl, but not large enough for sharing even for us who often split our meals (or we must really just be hungry that night!). I opted for a hot bowl of Shoyu Ramen, a bone soup-based dish with egg, scallion, mushroom, nori, corn and Chasu pork. Brian, of course, opted for the Spicy Ramen, which is just what Captain Cold ordered on a chilly December night in Lexington.
What better way to wrap up a week at Lexington than going back to one of our favorite Japanese restaurants, Miyako Sushi & Steakhouse. Located at Richmond Road, this Japanese restaurant is often packed, especially during weekend dinners, so reservations are recommended. Although we occasionally order gyoza or Katsudon, we go there primarily for the sushi. Our favorite is the spicy tuna, which has a delightful crunch at the end of every bite. This time around, we also tried their sashimi appetizer, which is a nine-piece sashimi platter of fresh, high-grade tuna, salmon and white fish. It was such a delight to the palate that even Ariana, who is very particular about her food, tried the tuna sashimi for the first time and gave it two thumbs up! It was so unexpected—we almost teared up as any proud parents would seeing their kid bravely try new things!