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!


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.

Read more about Columbia Steak House →

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.

Read more about Ramsey's Diner →

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.

Read more about Dudley's On Short →


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.

Read more about Winchell's Restaurant & Bar →

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.

Read more about Hall's on the River →

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.

Read more about Stella's Kentucky Deli →