Cuban food might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you're looking for a meal in Blue Grass Country, but Old San Juan does it, and does it well. Their portions are a good value for the price, and menu items like tostones (fried plantains) and Cuban sandwiches will please even unadventurous eaters.
Local Expert tip: For an authentic sip of Cuba, order an Ironbeer Soft Drink (non-alcoholic).
Tucked into an unassuming strip mall, Yamaguchi's Sake & Tapas serves the best Japanese food (and maybe even the best food, period) you'll find in Lexington. Portions are on the small side, as you'd expect from a tapas menu, but the quality makes it worth the price tag. Try the Tontoro Misoyaki, a pork jowl broiled in a garlic miso broth, and you'll want to order more!
Local Expert tip: Come on Tuesdays for half-price sake.
There's nothing fancy about this counter service joint in Lexington, just amazing Mediterranean food. The lunch specials, which offer a lot of food at a very reasonable price, often mean you'll find a line going out the door at midday. Everything's made from scratch, including the very popular and very tasty hummus.
Local Expert tip: Get there early for lunch, as it gets packed and some items sell out.
While off the beaten path and a bit difficult to find, Windy Corner Market is well worth the effort. Set amid the horse farms just north of Lexington, Windy Corner uses local Kentucky ingredients to inspire a menu famous for its po'boys and hearty breakfasts. Pretty much every wall of the place is covered in local products for sale, making it a great place to pick up some gifts to bring back home.
Local Expert tip: Even with the heavy emphasis on comfort food, Windy Corner Market has a gluten-free menu.
While gumbo is in the name of the restaurant (and it's certainly good), the étouffée and jambalaya are killer as well at this Cajun joint in Lexington. All the sauces (including a few vegetarian options) come served over either rice or pasta.
Local Expert tip: Save room for the homemade pralines for dessert.
In previous days, Merrick Inn was a private manor house, but for more than a generation now, it's been a preferred destination for local folks, especially those in the horse industry. The interior boasts fireplaces and civilized details, and the menu offers good American standards like steaks, fresh fish, pork tenderloin, and fried chicken. When the weather's warm, the poolside patio is sublime, and the popular bar draws folks throughout the week, especially the 30- and 40-something crowd.
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. Old-school fare like chicken and dumplings, pot roast, and plenty of good vegetables are standard, and brunch is a weekend tradition in the area. It's available all day long and features simple dishes like bacon, eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns.
Evoking a Tuscan farmhouse, this inviting restaurant boasts plaster walls, rustic beams, touches of greenery and wrought iron, and even a life-sized "tree" growing from the floor. In keeping with the name ("beautiful night"), cut-out stars hang above, and small, white lights add nocturnal ambience. The menu was designed for both group or individual dining (portions come "solo" or "family") and includes such rustic fare as Tuscan roasted chicken, grilled marinated smoked pork chops, beef tenderloin spiedini, steaks, and fresh fish. Wood-fired pizzas and plenty of pastas are also available, and a full bar accommodates with wines and other appropriate beverages.
Brightly painted and adorned with bold art, this little eatery delivers classic Cajun fare at incredibly reasonable prices. Entrees ring up at $6 each, which is an amazing bargain considering the zesty, well-portioned dishes you get. Jambalaya often goes fast, thick with sausages and chicken, but you can also indulge in gumbo, red beans, crawfish, etouffee, and more. A half-dozen options stay on the menu, supplemented by daily specials. If you want to try a couple of different items, they'll supply you with two half-orders for just $6.