Date of Visit: Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: Breakfast in a sports bar? That’s right, folks. Typically, when I think of a sports bar, I think bright TVs, chicken wings, and pale beer. But Winchell’s Restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky defies these initial impressions, and when you see the Sunday morning brunch crowd descending on the strip mall restaurant, you know you’re on to something. Don’t let their motto of “Better Food, More TVs” fool you: they do breakfast well.
ATMOSPHERE: That said, Winchell’s atmosphere is definitely that of a sports bar, although I’m guessing Sunday morning breakfast is a little quieter than your average weeknight sports extravaganza. But you’re still treated the lights, TVs, movie posters, neon beer signs, and sports pennants you’d come to expect. The handy thing about the sports bar setup is that there’s plenty of seating. I saw room after room of tables and booths, not to mention the bar itself. At the very least, they were able to seat a large family without a reservation that morning.
FOOD: Winchell’s has a sizable breakfast menu that’s made even bigger by a kinda ridiculous amount of specials. In the waiting area stood a big board listing the specials, and there must have been 12-15 of them! There were certainly too many for the servers to remember and too many for us to read. We jotted the list down on a napkin and passed it around. Even aside from the specials, their menu covers all the standards (omelets, steak and eggs, pancakes, what have you), plus a couple Southern specialties (like trout and eggs!). Everything’s in the $6-9 range, so it’s perfectly affordable, even with a big family.
One nice they do is to really push the a la carte ordering. You can order your main meal, and then choose from a big list of sides. For some reason, I always find that easy to navigate. Makes the meal infinitely customizable. Pictured above is the pork chop platter with eggs, potatoes, and toast.
Here you’re looking at a breakfast sandwich: fried eggs, cheese, and bacon on English muffins. With a side of potatoes.
My wife and I split two meals (awww…). First up is the country fried steak. It was a fairly thick piece of steak – we couldn’t cut it with a fork, which is usually my judging point. But the breading was nice and crispy, the gravy peppery enough. Came with eggs, toast, and one of the sides we ordered: jalapeno cheesy grits. Nice take on grits, with that delicious bite from the peppers.
Here’s my meal: the Blue & White pancakes. Also known as pancakes with blueberries and white chocolate chips. Um, yes. Great shot of comfort food. I chose the biscuits and gravy and country ham as my sides. All of it delicious. These pancakes, which had a great balance of sweet chocolate chips and tart blueberries, exemplified the rich, hearty food at Winchell’s. Same with the country fried steak. It’s big comfort food, and we couldn’t help but honestly tuck right in to it.
SERVICE: Our server expertly handled a large group during an apparently busy rush. This is on top of all the a la carte orders that she had to remember with each meal. The whole restaurant seems to run fluidly, broken down easily by the separate rooms. I just can’t believe they list so many specials – no one can be expected to remember all of those!
OVERALL: Winchell’s is my favorite breakfast in Lexington so far, although I know I have more exploring to do. But if a sports bar is synonymous with comfort for you, then think of their breakfast as an extension of that. Big portions, rich food that’s easy to love. And, yes, more TVs than any other sports bar in town.