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Tag Archives: Lexington

Alfalfa | Lexington, KY

Alfalfa (Facebook / @AlfalfaDining)
141 E. Main St. (map it!)
Lexington, KY 40507
(859) 253-0014
Open Mon-Fri, 11a-2p, Sat & Sun 9a-2p; also Wed-Sat, 5:30-9p (bfast specials served w/lunch; brunch served Sat & Sun)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 9:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Having been to Alfalfa once before for dinner, we’ve been excited to return for breakfast on a recent trip to Lexington, KY. Alfalfa is my kind of place: urban setting, colorful decor mixed with old building elements like exposed brick, eclectic menu catering to a variety of tastes. And it’s right in the heart of beautiful downtown Lexington.

ATMOSPHERE: We met with some friends on a fairly busy Sunday morning, but they had no trouble fitting in our group of nine. The space is in a rough U-shape, curved around a thin wall that clearly houses a stairway going up to the next floor. The entryway is thin, but there are a few tables grouped toward the front. The center of the space has a long bar and serving area, and then the bulk of the seating curves around down the right side. Near the host stand, a set of doors opens into the lobby of the Downtown Arts Center, with a theatre and galleries. How handy to have the two connected!

There’s lots of bright, natural light from the front windows. Plenty of seating. Artwork on the brick walls. Very comfortable.

FOOD: The food is a big hit, too. Again, something for everyone. First, the breakfast burrito with a side of cheesy grits (you’re in Kentucky – get the grits, of course!)

The specialty of the house is the buttermilk blueberry buckwheat pancakes. Served with real maple syrup. Above is a smaller portion that comes as a “side” with a larger meal.

This is the typical plate-sized portion of the blueberry buckwheat pancake. It’s one of the better pancakes I’ve had in recent memory. The buckwheat keeps it from being too sweet, which offsets the tart blueberries and the maple syrup.

And the eggs benedict arnold: an eggs benedict on wheat toast with city ham (as opposed to country ham, I’m guessing?) and avocado slices. Topped with tomatoes. Overall, a very tasty benedict. Not the best I’ve had, but it makes you realize that avocados deserve to be in nearly every dish, especially benedicts.

SERVICE: Our one dedicated server did a fine job. Even on a busy morning, with a fairly big group, he handled all the details of drinks and orders very well, and all with a smile. I’ve been to some places similar to Alfalfa where customers can get the impression that the servers are a little “snooty” or “hipster-ish,” but that was certainly not the case here.

OVERALL: Alfalfa is a very worthy stop on a Lexington breakfast tour. In fact, I’d make it one of my top one or two stops, along with Doodle’s. The atmosphere and restaurant is colorful and well-connected to the surrounding neighborhood. The menu offers a wide enough variety to please everyone, including some creative vegan options. And it’s easy to get behind their focus on using local eggs and produce. (Columbus readers: if you’re in Lexington and nostalgic for Northstar Cafe, hit up Alfalfa.)

OTHER LINKS:

Alfalfa on Urbanspoon

Spalding’s Bakery | Lexington, KY

Spalding’s Bakery
760 Winchester Rd. (map it!)
Lexington, KY 40505
(859) 252-3737
Open Wed-Sat, 6:30a-12p; Sun, 7a-12p
Accepts cash only
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 7:20 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Early on a Sunday morning – earlier than normal, given that we had just sprung ahead into daylight saving – I convinced my youngest brother Greg to drive out to a little bakery he had told me about in Lexington, Kentucky. My two younger brothers and their families, all of whom live in Lexington, had had donuts from Spalding’s Bakery before. The best donuts become local legends in their own right. In Columbus people whisper, “Are those Der Dutchman donuts? Are those from DK Diner?” In Lexington, apparently, the equivalent is, “He brought a box from Spalding’s.” So it was that Greg and I trekked out to this tiny, nondescript little bakery, across an industrial road from the biggest peanut butter plant in the world.

ATMOSPHERE: The space, while newer, is about as simple as can be. Cream-colored walls. A few pictures. A couple display cases loaded with donuts (clearly the focal point of the room). A low, white counter with an old cash register. When we visited, there were two people seated at a table off to the side, there as fundraisers for some local cause. It was a little funny and awkward, as they sat there silently, crammed behind the small table together at 7 a.m.

Just behind the main wooden case, many more donuts stay on trays, yet to put out for display. Other shelves were loaded with boxes, already filled and labeled, just waiting to be picked up.

FOOD: Oh, the donuts. If you look at their reviews on Yelp and UrbanSpoon, Spalding’s is clearly one of those places that’s beloved by locals, but suffers from the dual reviews of “these are the greatest things on earth!” / “everyone says they’re the greatest things on earth but they don’t live up to the hype!” This is typical of incredibly popular restaurants and bakeries, and hard to avoid when loyal customers are passionate and vocal. The key is to keep your expectations up, but not too high. (Besides, if you’re trusting everyone else’s opinion to judge the best ____ in the world, you need to think about judging things for yourself more often.)

All of this is to say that these are some delicious donuts, especially when they’re soft and warm in the morning (the benefit of braving the time change and visiting early). We nabbed a mixed dozen-and-a-half: blueberry, cinnamon roll, apple fritter, chocolate cake, creme-filled, chocolate glazed.

Their signature are the glazed donuts. Sweet, misshapen, and delicious. Krispy Kreme has nothing – NOTHING – on Spalding’s.

SERVICE: There was also the bonus of meeting the sweetest, most grandmotherly woman alive. If this place is run by the Spalding family (I’m guessing), then she must be Grandma Spalding. She was incredibly sweet, making jokes with us and suggesting donuts to try. She added up the order by hand on a notepad, then rang us up at the old register (they take cash only, btw). When I asked how early she arrived there that morning, she said about 3:30. “But I wasn’t the first one here,” she added, “Being a grandmother has it’s perks!”

OVERALL: I’m still learning the Lexington breakfast scene, but from what I’ve tasted, Spalding’s seems to be the top spot for donuts around town. The hours are limited – only until noon, Wednesday to Sunday – and we’ve heard multiple reports of donuts selling out quickly. But it’s worth the early morning trek for a box or two. These are donuts as they should be made, and by a business that’s over 100 years old. Worthy of your support!

OTHER LINKS:

Spalding's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Doodles | Lexington, KY

Doodles (Facebook)
262 North Limestone
Lexington, KY 40507
(859) 317-8507
Open Tues-Sun, 8 am – 2 pm
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 8:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: In Lexington, Kentucky, visiting with my three brothers, we started an amazing day today together that involved a bourbon distillery tour, playing with sound systems, shooting guns (not immediately after the bourbon), drinking beer, eating Cajun food, and playing video games. Of course, that day began awesomely with breakfast. We did some triangulating of online sources, and came up with Doodles as a best bet. You can find it close to downtown Lexington, with a handy parking lot out front.


ATMOSPHERE
: Doodles is my kind of place. Bright colors on the walls and plates. Open design. Big windows, nice patio outside. It was pretty quiet when we arrived, with a mix of businessmen, studiers, and families eating breakfast, but it got busier by the time we left.

There’s something very open and welcoming about Doodles. For instance, they have a community table, with a sign encouraging you to share the space with strangers.

Plus, they’re willing to teach you how to properly steep you coffee in a French press.

I’m related to these nerds.


FOOD
: The good vibes established by the space are continued in the menu. Doodles is another great example of a small menu featuring dishes they do really well. And you’re in Kentucky, so you can get some good Kentucky cooking, too. Here’s the Dirty Shrimp and Grits. Made with local grits and a tomato gravy. Definitely spicy and rich. You can add bits of country ham to it, too.


They serve a couple different types of breakfast quesadillas, and this one is the Kentucky Hot Brown Strata version, with the classic mix of turkey, bacon, cheddar cheese, and tomatoes. A great way to mix up a classic Kentucky dish.

One of my favorite dishes is the fried-egg-in-a-piece-of-toast. It goes by many names; I know it as Eggs in a Nest. So I was delighted to find a new version – the Egg Doodle – using biscuits. The biscuits worked just right – puffy and soft enough to cut with your fork, but a little crispy around the edges. The eggs are automatically served “dipping.”

Came with a side of some spicy cheese grits – actually, probably the best I’ve had. They were so rich and flavorful, with just the right texture.

Close-up of the biscuit “nubbin.” Great, now people are going to Google “biscuit nubbin” and find my site.

SERVICE: Very friendly and welcoming, although you don’t get a lot of interaction. Doodles has you order at a counter, then take a number and find a seat. The woman at the register made helpful suggestions (she recommended the amazing grits), and the kitchen staff gladly talked about the restaurant. You can easily chat with them over the long open bar that crosses the space. The bar has a lot of self-serve details: coffee and soda, butter, extra plates, condiments, plus little cups of chocolate chips and sprinkles (for your pancakes; pictured above) or locally-made jams (see below).

OVERALL: We’ve had some good breakfasts in Lexington, but this is the best so far. Right up my alley, from decor to mission to dish preparation. Lots of room in the restaurant, lots of fun, and lots more dishes to try on return visits. We loved everything we had, and we still haven’t tried the Johnny Cakes (cornmeal pancakes), Pigs & Puffs (bacon & beignets), or the Oatmeal Brulee. Guess I’ll have to visit my brothers again!
Doodle's Breakfast & Lunch on Urbanspoon

Winchell’s Restaurant | Lexington, KY


Winchell’s Restaurant

348 Southland Dr. (map it!)
Lexington, KY 40503
(859) 278-9424
Serves breakfast Mon-Fri, 8-11 am; Sat & Sun, 8-11:45 am
Accepts cash and credit cards

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.


What everyone needs: a detail shot of the country ham. Oh yeah, zoom in. You can see the salt.


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.

OTHER LINKS:

Winchell's Restaurant & Sports on Urbanspoon

Coffee Pub | Lexington, KY


Coffee Pub
(Facebook)
4401 Harrodsburg Rd.
Lexington, KY 40513
(859) 224-0099
Open Mon-Fri, 8 am – 2 pm; Sat & Sun, 8 am – 3 pm (breakfast only)
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.


IMPRESSIONS
: Coffee Pub, a newer addition to the Lexington breakfast scene, has a cool sounding name, right? Coffee Pub. Two cozy words wrapped up together in an oldish-looking stone building in a city surrounded by picturesque horse farms and Shaker buildings. Dubbing itself, “The Breakfast Place,” Coffee Pub hopes to score a solid “awwww…” from you with it’s name and lovely location, but it lands a definite “meh” when it comes to the food and service.


But I feel bad, because my brother and his wife took us to the Coffee Pub for breakfast, and we really did have a good time with them. It’s not you, guys, it’s me. I’ve ruined breakfast for us all.

ATMOSPHERE: Like I said, Coffee Pub goes for a cross between the I’m-taking-a-break-to-read-a-book coffee shop and the pub-with-plush-chairs-and-a-roaring-fire feel. All of this is crossed with a common theme in Lexington: horses. Pictures of horses, articles about horses, knick-knacks relating to horses, puns about horses in the menu (see below). It’s all there. And it adds up to something: big wooden beams, close quarters, some exposed brick. You do get a fairly cozy feeling.

FOOD: The menu picks up on the horse theme. First, there are entire pages dedicated to different coffee drinks and the smoothie bar. The comes the “Starting Gate,” with dishes like Two Eggs +, Chicken Tamale, Breakfast Burrito, Belgian Waffles, Chicken Soft Tacos, Pancakes, Biscuits & Gravy, and an Egg Sandwich. Subsequent pages featuring Omelets & Scrabbles, a children’s menu titled “For Lil’ Colts & Fillies,” and a page of Thorough-Breads. Get it?


First up was the bourbon bun. Their version of the cinnamon roll, again with the play on Kentucky culture (buns). This was low, wide, and warm. The frosting supposedly had bourbon in it, although the flavor wasn’t too strong. A dash of cinnamon on top. Overall, good, and not too sweet.


The classic diner brown coffee mug. Every restaurant supply store must have warehouses of these.


Grits
. Another southern staple. The right thickness, a little cheesy, but overall not exceptional.


I tried the most “Southern” thing I could find on the menu: the biscuits and gravy. Two soft and somewhat flat biscuits covered in a peppery gravy. Not too bad, but the gravy tasted of chicken stock, like it was made from a mix.


Another dish ordered at our table, but I forget what it is. Standard combo: eggs, sausage, potatoes, and grits.


The breakfast burrito – small, but an appropriate portion. Comes with salsa and sour cream, plus a side of potatoes. It tasted good, but it was made from fairly simple ingredients


Another look at the burrito, this one with grits. The burrito highlights one of our overall impressions of the food: that we could make much of this ourselves. I like eating somewhere that offers food that I generally couldn’t make at home.


Waffle with strawberries. Again, pretty good and very visually appealing, but not exceptional.

SERVICE: The service scored an “okay” with us. Our server was nice, and he handled a fairly large group well, but he didn’t communicate all that well with us. So we never knew exactly when he would return with silverware (which he forgot repeatedly) and when our food was coming (which took a while… long enough that we noticed). He wouldn’t have to do much to step it up, but just a couple more visits to the table would make us feel more noticed and cared for.


OVERALL
: In the small breakfast scene of Lexington, Coffee Pub is a good addition, but one that needs some improvement in food and service to make it really noticeable. They do the breakfast standards well, and it seems like their coffee drinks and smoothies are worth noting, but they just don’t quite deliver on the promise of their beautiful location and decor. A few small improvements and the place could be really exceptional.


Watch for the sign to guide you in!

Coffee Pub on Urbanspoon

Ramsey’s Diner (High Street) | Lexington, KY


Ramsey’s Diner
(Facebook / @RamseysDiners)
496 E. High St. (map it!)
Lexington, KY 40507
(859) 259-2708
Mon-Fri 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sat & Sun 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 9:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: On a recent visit to some family in Lexington, Kentucky, we hit up a breakfast joint called Ramsey’s Diner. Ramsey’s has five locations around Lexington, and – after unsuccessfully trying one closer to their home – we hit up the location closest to downtown.

Ramsey’s reminded me of a less-kitschy Aretha Frankenstein’s, in that it’s a bar and restaurant that also serves breakfast. We all discussed the tradition of going out to breakfast on weekend mornings, particularly on Saturdays. Most of us grew up with it, whether it was a family brunch after church on Sundays, a group of friends with a weekly meeting, or like my parents, who are Saturday-morning regulars at the Real Food Cafe. But apparently this tradition isn’t necessarily a southern thing. Ramsey’s, despite being known as a breakfast joint, doesn’t open until 10 a.m.! In my mind, a true breakfast joint opens around 7 a.m.

ATMOSPHERE: From the outside, Ramsey’s seems like an easy-to-pass corner pub, and the inside kinda reflects that. Again, echoes of Aretha Frankenstein’s here. The low ceiling and dark-ish lighting, long bar with rows of bottles and taps, and wall pictures – combined with the wooden tables and chairs – gives a bar-like feel with a dash of family restaurant to boot.


Hoping for an earlier breakfast, the group of us showed up right at 10 o’clock. Shortly after we were seated, the restaurant started to fill up. So clearly Ramsey’s breakfast draws a crowd, despite the later opening time.

FOOD: Ramsey’s is known particularly for the Traditional Ramsey’s Breakfast, which at $8.45 includes your choice of any or all of the following: 5 eggs (prepared any way except poached or as an omelet), bacon, sausage, hash browns, pancakes, and toast. This is an absolute steal if you’re starving and can’t make up your mind. If you’re hungry for just some eggs and toast… try something else.


My version of the Traditional Ramsey’s Breakfast included the pancakes, bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast, and two eggs over-easy. The pancakes, we saw, were prepared by one of the servers over a griddle on the bar. These bad boys came out first, accompanied by packets of butter and syrup. Simple and straightforward. The pancakes weren’t bad by any means – they were plate-sized and puffy – but they reminded me of something I could easily make at home using Bisquick.


Here’s my plate. It is a good-looking breakfast, isn’t it? Meat-wise, the breakfast did well. The bacon was definitely good, and the sausage patties okay. Sausage can always be iffy, you know? Especially when in patty form. I’ve tasted some nobly-homemade varieties that are bland, while some store-bought versions I’ve sampled are over-processed and more than a bit frightening. These patties landed square in the middle of the sausage spectrum: probably not homemade, but still tasty.


Here’s my breakfast in wide shot. The hash browns needed some seasoning, and all of us noticed that they looked suspiciously like cut-up fries, but it’s hard to argue with fried potatoes. The eggs were excellent – probably some best specimens of over-easy eggs I’ve tasted. Look at those! They’re nearly aesthetically perfect. (Beth tried her eggs scrambled, and they were great as well – a little bit slippery; just how I like ‘em.) Finally, the toast was lightly buttered, a little floppy, and a good accompaniment to a whole symphony of breakfastness. Round this off with some coffee that classifies as good brown, and you’ve got a fair-priced, plenty filling, all-around decent breakfast.

SERVICE: Because we caught Ramsey’s right at opening, the employees were all ready and raring to go… perhaps a little too much. We noticed a total of seven employees plus a manager working the place – and Ramsey’s isn’t huge. This doesn’t count anyone who was in the back cooking everything but the bar-griddle pancakes. The employees all wore T-shirts and jeans, with tool belts strapped to their wastes and ties loosely tied over their shirts. Funny little get-up. Where it got a little uncomfortable was when the over-abundance of employees just stood in a corner and stared at the handful of customers while they ate. I know work might be boring at first, before the big breakfast crowd, but do you have to stand their awkwardly in the corner and stare like you’ve never seen a human eat before? (Hint: the answer is no.)

OVERALL: Ramsey’s certainly wasn’t the most exceptional breakfast I’ve ever had, but it’s definitely filling and the food isn’t all that bad. Again, if you’re really hungry for a big meal, the Traditional is sure-fire bet. You can get up to 5 eggs, in addition to all the meats and carbs. But if you only want 2 eggs and toast, you’d be wasting money to order it. Overall, though, I would go again – it’s a good breakfast with a few quirks that make the place interesting.

Ramsey's Diner (Downtown) on Urbanspoon

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