If your fall travel plans include a trip to the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, chances are you’ve already got a hotel room booked and tickets bought. But have you sat down and given thought to where you’re going to dine during your stay? Award-winning travel writer Patti Nickell shares some of her favorite bluegrass establishments, as told in her Horse Lover’s Guide to Kentucky.
Atomic Café A little bit of the Caribbean in Lexington, with its wall murals, funky décor, tropical courtyard, tiki lights, reggae music, and drinks with paper umbrellas. The food, however, is anything but a cliché. Try the jerk chicken, conch fritters, and Cuban pork. 265 North Limestone. (859) 254-1969. www.atomiccafeky.com.
Buddy’s Bar & Grill Named for a beloved cocker spaniel, it is the ultimate comfort food spot, whether you’re in the mood for one of the daily omelet specials, fish and chips, a vegetable plate, or the double Buddy burger. 854 East High St. in Chevy Chase Village. (859) 335-1283. www.buddysbarandgrill.com.
Cheapside Bar & Grill The second-level patio bar (named Lexington’s best by a local magazine) is what you notice first. With its faux palm trees festooned with lights and splashy colors, it looks like a psychedelic dream from the ’60s that you never woke up from. The extensive menu, however, has all the usual choices — burgers, salads, wraps, and what they call “the social grazing items” — a shrimp bowl, giant stuffed pretzel, and white veggie pizza among others — that are meant to be shared. This place is always lively, especially when UK students are in town. 131 Cheapside. (859) 254-0046. www.cheapsidebarandgrill.com.
Malone’s Recognized as one of “America’s top 10 steakhouses,” Malone’s has three Lexington locations that offer the finest in USDA prime beef along with fresh vegetables, luscious desserts, and a Wine Spectator award-winning wine list. 3347 Tates Creek Rd. in the Landsdowne Shoppes. (859) 335-6500; 1920 Pleasant Ridge Dr. in Hamburg Pavilion. (859) 264-8023; and 3735 Palomar Centre Dr. in Palomar Center. (859) 977-2620. www.malonesrestaurant.com.
Furlong’s The owners are from Louisiana so specialties here are straight from the bayou. They offer Cajun dishes such as blackened frog legs over jambalaya, soft-shelled crabs, shrimp Creole, and shrimp and crawfish etoufée as well as more traditional fare. 735 East Main St. (859) 266-9000. www.furlongs.com.
Portofino Chic setting in a converted downtown warehouse with exposed walls, high-beamed ceilings, artwork, and a patio for summer dining. Excellent Italian fare, from the crispy fried ravioli with Angus beef and goat cheese to a variety of pastas and main dishes such as tenderloin cognac and lavender chicken. 249 East Main St. (859) 253-9300. www.portofinolexington.com.
Midway/Versailles (15 miles outside Lexington)
Heirloom Another of the culinary hot spots on Main Street. One dish that has received raves from Wendy Miller, food writer for the Herald-Leader, is the sautéed chicken livers, paired with rich and slightly tart lemon-ricotta ravioli, with a suggestion of garlic, basil, and crème fraiche. 125 Main St., Midway. (859) 846-5565. www.heirloommidway.com.
Wallace Station If restaurants, like cats, have nine lives, then Wallace Station has gone through four of them. Beginning as a train depot, then a post office and country store, it is now an upscale bakery and sandwich shop. Located near Midway in the midst of horse country, Wallace Station is owned by CIA-trained chef Jared Richardson and his wife Paige, who — in addition to their sandwiches, salads, and pastries (the best blueberry muffins ever) — do lots of fun stuff (fried chicken night every Monday and the occasional Friday night fish fry). 3854 Old Frankfort Pike. (859) 846-5161.
Bistro La Belle The restaurant, which opened in 1998, was instrumental in helping put Midway on the culinary map. It features locally grown or raised products such as pan fried organic liver from Pike Valley Farms, tossed with red onions, bacon, baby spinach, sweet mustard dressing, and topped with Capriole goat cheese, and cheese grits made with flour from nearby Weisenberger Mill. 121 Main St., Midway. (859) 846-4233. http://bistrolabelle.googlepages.com.
Frankfort (26 miles)
Serafini’s From its name you might expect this to be an Italian restaurant, and while they do have a few pasta dishes, the menu, for lack of a better description, is “just good old American food.” One dish they are known for--not surprising considering the proximity to the Executive Mansion--is the Governor’s Hot Brown. 243 West Broadway. (502) 875-5599.
Upcoming Horse Lover’s Events:
A Gift from the Desert: The Art, History and Culture of the Arabian Horse, International Museum of the Horse, Lexington: May 29-Oct 15
Old Friends Evening Tours, Georgetown: June 11-Oct. 30
Horse Mania, Lexington: July 15-Oct. 15
Turfway Park Fall Race Meet: Sept.9-Oct. 3
Henderson Bicentennial Celebration Horse Show, Henderson County fairgrounds: Sept 11
West Kentucky Horse Sale, Bowling Green: Sept. 12
Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Keeneland Race Course, Lexington: Sept. 12-26
Kentucky Bourbon Festival, Bardstown: Sept. 14-19
Asbury University Draft Animal Day, Wilmore: Sept. 18
The Georgetown Equine Expo, Georgetown: Sept 24-Oct. 10
Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington: Sept. 25-Oct.10
Alltech Fortnight Festival: Sept 25-Oct. 10
International Equestrian Festival, Lexington: Sept 25-Oct. 10