Hot Browns

Certain restaurants are known for their expertise at turning out signature foods really well. They've pinned down the ingredients, mastered the process, and gained a strong following as a result. Lexington has had much success cultivating great restaurants and creating a substantial market for Hot Browns. Locals can't get enough of the city's excellent food, and you'll often find them, along with eager tourists, at popular Ramsey's Diner or at deSha's, a major player in the field. Make sure you see what all the fuss is about!

9 Cheapside Bar & Grill
Pub ambience colors this local mainstay, especially in the front room, dominated by a large bar, wood paneling, and memorabilia from days past. The back room looks out on the patio and features exposed brick and artwork. Both venues attract frequent downtown crowds, who come for well-prepared pub fare and great draught and bottled beers. Sample a tavern battered halibut sandwich or maybe a smoked turkey reuben or a steak hoagie. Salads, soups, and daily hot entrees make appearances too, along with beef and veggie burgers. Their version of the hot brown, the "downtown brown," features grilled chicken strips beneath the cheese and bacon. (859-254-0046)

8 Columbia Steak House
This restaurant, the flagship of the local chain, is a time-tested destination for a pleasant dinner, whether it be business-related or just among friends. Of the steaks, the filet is the premiere cut, although practically anything you order is certain to be tasty — even lamb fries (testicles), a dish for the adventurous. The signature Diego salad boasts cold iceberg lettuce marinated in seasoned ice water, spun dry, and topped with tangy blue cheese dressing. Other options include chicken, fish, ribs, and sandwiches, including the famed hot brown. In business since 1946. (859-253-3135)

7 Ramsey's Diner
Although Ramsey's has several locations in town, this one — set in a big, white house — is the original. Everything's casual, nothing matches, and folks love it that way. People come from all over to indulge in big portions of incredible, home-cooked food, and the much-loved signature dish is the hot brown: toast, turkey, bacon, tomato, and cream sauce, broiled to perfection. You can also sample old-school fare like chicken and dumplings, pot roast, and plenty of good vegetables. Brunch is a weekend tradition in the area, and hot biscuits and frosty, bottled Cokes are reason enough to visit. (859-259-2708)

6 Dudley's On Short
Occupying a one-time school house, this long-lived local favorite sits not far from either downtown or the UK campus and attracts a professional crowd. Along with the cozy dining room, it boasts an outdoor patio, and a great bar. The menu features roasted salmon, coriander-glazed chicken, veal Milanese, Australian lamb rib chops, and grilled pork. Pastas and steaks are also available, and the restaurant serves dinner quite late, a boon to folks with busy schedules. The hot brown at Dudley's goes by the name "The Downtown Debbie Brown." Look for it on the lunch and brunch menus. (859-252-1010)

5 Jonathan at Gratz Park
Named for chef Jonathan Lundy, this charming restaurant has a refined, Old World feel, thanks to its presence in the Gratz Park Inn. Deep, ochre-toned walls and polished woodwork surround diners, who delight in the kitchen's "redefined regional cuisine." The hip, upscale menu includes lobster and dumplings, black-eyed pea-crusted sea scallops, coffee-seared pork chops, fried oyster-stuffed filet mignon, and barbecued yellowfin tuna. A wonderfully cozy bar makes a terrific hangout for the professional crowd, and private events are welcomed. Jonathan's hot brown is a welcome standard at lunch and Sunday brunch. (859-252-4949)

4 deSha's
An historic building, right across from Triangle Park, sets the scene for this downtown mainstay, whose interior boasts a traditional, genteel Victorian charm. Amid jewel-toned appointments, diners indulge in prime rib, one of the city's best hot browns, roasted pork loin, Maryland crab cakes, Kentucky outback shrimp (grilled, then dressed in spicy tomato sauce), and sugar spiced char-grilled salmon (glazed with raspberry almond butter). Private rooms and a full bar add to the restaurant's appeal. (859-259-3771)

3 Winchell's Restaurant & Bar
Native sons, high school friends, and CIA compatriots from way back, "Abe" Lansdale and Graham Waller own and operate this easygoing enterprise. While the bar/restaurant concept is familiar, these guys kick things up a substantial notch with their experienced take on down-home comfort foods. From fried catfish to chicken livers, almond-crusted trout to barbecued pork, all your soul-soothing favorites are here — along with that Lexington mainstay, the cheese-laden hot brown. Friendly bar scene too. (859-278-9424)

2 Hall's on the River
It's hard to beat sharing food and conversation in the great outdoors, especially when intriguing regional dishes and a beautiful riverside locale come into the picture. That's just what you can expect to find at Hall's, which takes its heritage and its hospitality seriously. Seafood options range from snow crab legs and sea scallops to catfish and grouper filets, not to mention frog legs (if you consider them part of the genre). Locally inspired selections include chicken livers, lamb fries (look it up!), country ham, and the hot brown, a hefty sandwich that unites turkey, bacon, ham, and a luscious cream sauce. Add a tall glass of Hall's Lemonade (spiked with vodka), and you'll feel right at home on the deck. (859-527-6620)

1 Stella's Kentucky Deli
While lots of high-end restaurants are promoting locally sourced foods, more casual eateries often find it difficult to compete. Not so Stella's. The easygoing place proves that premium foods don't have to come at premium prices. Fresh produce, baked-nearby breads, and local beef, lamb, and cheese figure into the menu, as seen in the classic hot brown sandwich and the seasonal fried green tomato BLT. Fair trade organic coffees and local ginger ale can also be had. Plan for crowds at lunch time. (859-255-3354)

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Maps and Directions

1
Cheapside Bar & Grill 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Live Music, Non-Smoking, Smoking (outdoor area)
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
COST: $
2
Columbia Steak House 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Steakhouse
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Group Friendly, Non-Smoking
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
COST: $$
3
Ramsey's Diner 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Diner, Soul Food
Dining Options: Family Friendly, Group Friendly, Smoking (outdoor area)
Neighborhood: CHEVY CHASE
COST: $
4
Dudley's On Short 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Continental
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Non-Smoking, Parties / Private Rooms, Wine Cellar
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
COST: $$
5
Jonathan at Gratz Park 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Southern
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Disabled Accessible, Parties / Private Rooms, Take Out
COST: $$
6
deSha's 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Continental
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Group Friendly, Non-Smoking, Parties / Private Rooms, Take Out
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
COST: $$
7
Winchell's Restaurant & Bar 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge
Neighborhood: AIRPORT - LEX
COST: $
8
Hall's on the River 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Regional
Dining Options: Parties / Private Rooms
Neighborhood: WINCHESTER
9
Stella's Kentucky Deli 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Diner, Regional
Dining Options: Catering
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
COST: $
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