Lexington, Kentucky is more than just the home of the prestigious University of Kentucky.
Whether you’re a Wildcat or not, you’re going to find yourself absolutely charmed by the city. It has the Festival of the Bluegrass, several horse race sites, and countless delicious restaurants.
Here are some of our favorite Lexington eateries that will have you braying like you truly belong in the Horse Capital of the World!
26 Walton Ave, Lexington, KY 40502
Lexington doesn’t mess around when it comes to BBQ, so you know Blue Door Smoke House has to be tasty since it’s been in business for nearly a decade.
Like any good BBQ joint, it’s all about the Plates, allowing you to enjoy a nice variety: one of their succulent smoked meats, white bread, pickle, onion, and two sides. Might we recommend you get a Sliced Beef Brisket plate with Potato Salad and Collard Greens?
904 Liberty Rd, Lexington, KY 40505
Enough about southern BBQ, let’s go even further south and enjoy some sweet and tangy Hawaiian BBQ. When you’re enjoying Big Kahuna, you might as well be eating straight from a luau.
Every plate comes with the fabulous macaroni salad as well as sticky rice dressed with house chili sauce, spicy mayo, and sweet soy. As far as your meat choice, it’s hard to beat Kalua Pork (pulled pork in a Hawaiian-style sauce), but Teriyaki Chicken and Coconut Shrimp are both divine choices that will leave you quite satisfied. Throw in an extra side of Spam Musubi (spam and sweet soy on sticky rice, wrapped in seaweed…think spam sushi) and you’ll be saying aloha to your hunger.
3280 Eagle View Ln, Lexington, KY 40509
Pepe’s serves up authentic Mexican food in a cozy and inviting atmosphere fit for students and families alike.
Fajitas are always a crowd favorite, and at Pepe’s, they’re served with rice, beans, pico de gallo, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, flour or corn tortillas, and obviously a killer sizzle that’ll make your table the talk of the dining room. Their chimichangas are absolutely massive, and that’s not even counting the Super Chimichanga. And what is a visit to a Mexican restaurant without a margarita? Luckily, Pepe’s serves a stiff yet tasty one.
3061 Fieldstone Way, Lexington, KY 40513
Ask anybody in Lexington one spot that you NEED to try and chances are, they’ll tell you Sahara. It’s consistently recognized as the best Mediterranean cuisine in the city (and even state). They don’t do anything fancy, but everything is done just right.
Don’t overthink your order: get shawarma with garlic sauce (or maybe two) and prepare to enter a state of bliss.
3061 Fieldstone Way, Lexington, KY 40513
Whether you’re a Wildcat or just a Lexington resident, chances are you love Indian food. Lucky for you, Masala serves the finest in town.
You’ll certainly love the Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Chop Masala (it is in the name, after all) but there’s plenty of other options if you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone. The Goat Curry is a unique treat, as is the Paneer Pakora (cottage cheese dipped in lentil flour batter and deep fried).
As an added bonus: if you’re vegetarian or vegan, Masala has a massive section of the menu just for you.
143 Jefferson St, Lexington, KY 40508
Stella’s Kentucky Deli includes the state in its name because it pays tribute to everything that makes Kentucky such a unique state. Stella’s emphasizes fresh and local ingredients (thanks to their many farm partnerships) to produce simple yet high quality foods.
This focus is best exemplified by the Kentucky Burger: a local Black Angus patty with lettuce, tomato, onion, dijon, mayo, and ketchup. The perfect burger lets the ingredients speak for themselves, and Stella’s knows that. The BLT is also perfectly restrained, with their basil mayo added to take things to the next level. Make sure you pair any of these with the house-made specialty sodas.
Stella’s also serves a weekend brunch (9am – 2pm both days), specializing in all the usual favorites, like eggs, ham, sausage, buttermilk biscuits (with chipotle gravy), hash browns, and more.
630 E Main St, Lexington, KY 40508
The story of Sav’s begins in West Africa in the country of Guinea, where Sav, who grew up there, met his future wife Rachel while she was serving in the Peace Corps. Once they moved to Lexington, Kentucky, they opened up a restaurant in 2008 and an ice cream shop in 2012, before combining the two into one limitless Main Street spot.
Anything you order will be a glimpse into Sav’s West African upbringing. The Peanut Goat is goat meat in a complex sauce of peanut butter and local tomato puree with onions and other veggies, served over rice but it’s definitely worth the upcharge to get it over fufu (a doughy African staple made from plantain flour). There’s several vegan options as well, like Mafen Vegan: fresh local eggplant and cabbage with carrots in a tomato puree with onions and dried organic lavender.
No matter what you get, it’s essential that you remember to get two things: Sav’s Piment, their house-made habanero hot sauce, and the gourmet ice cream, available in all kinds of lovely flavors, ranging from classic (Cookie Dough and Strawberry) to unique (Hot Banana).
1080 S. Broadway, Suite 107, Lexington, KY 40502
829 Euclid Ave., Lexington, KY 40502
Cajun and Creole food is all about comfort, and Bourbon n’ Toulouse knows that comfort food is a surefire way to guarantee that. This hole-in-the-wall joint specializes in all your favorites from a few states down south in Louisiana.
The award-winning Cajun Red Chili is the moneymaker, a beanless tomato chili loaded with beef and pork. There’s also the culinary classics, like Jambalaya and Red Beans with Smoked Sausage. Every dish you order can also be served half and half, so you can enjoy two half orders at extremely reasonable prices.
962 Delaware Ave, Lexington, KY 40505
The Pasta Garage aims to provide customers with casual food that never skimps on the quality and, thanks in large part to their fresh in-house pasta made by Lexington Pasta, they have become a Lexington sensation.
They serve up many of your usual Italian cafe favorites, like Chicken Alfredo, Chicken Piccata, and Ragu Alla Bolognese. One of the hidden gems of the menu, however, is the Mac & Cheese: pasta with smoked gouda mornay sauce and prosciutto. Also, whatever you do, make sure there are breadsticks. Lots and lots of breadsticks.
348 Southland Dr, Lexington, KY 40503
This family-owned sports bar has been the go-to spot for countless University of Kentucky fans to watch the Wildcats play for nearly three decades.
One of their most famous dishes is a Kentucky favorite: Kentucky Hot Brown. This regional food is made up of roasted turkey and shaved country ham on toast points, topped with mornay cheese sauce, shredded cheddar and parmesan, bacon, and tomato. A few other Southern favorites include the Shrimp & Grits and deep-fried Chicken Livers topped with country gravy.
926 Winchester Rd, Lexington, KY 40505
Since 1981, when Lexington residents have had a craving for fish, they’ve probably turned to Charlie’s.
It all comes down to Charlie’s Whitefish Sandwich Special, which includes a side of two: fries, slaw, or hushpuppies. The other seafood options are fresh full of flavor. Take your pick of the Clam Strips, Sea Scallops, Crab Cakes, Jumbo Shrimp, or more. Or go for broke and get the Seafood Platter: whitefish, jumbo shrimp, oysters, and all three sides.
1301 Winchester Rd, Lexington, KY 40505
This authentic restaurant will definitely scratch your Mediterranean itch.
You can get a gyro sandwich, Greek salad, or a wide range of platters. If you want the best bang for your buck, opt for the Ultimate Mashawi Platter: six skewers of chicken, beef, and/or lamb over rice with veggies and a side (baba ganoush, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, falafel, and more).
2750 Richmond Rd, Lexington, KY 40509
Columbia’s Steakhouse, one of Kentucky’s most prolific steakhouses, has been in business since 1948. Clearly they have plenty of goodness going on to stay popular for over 70 years.
Start your meal off right with the tangy Fried Banana Peppers or the savory Lamb Fry Appetizer. Columbia’s is perhaps most famous for their Nighthawk Special. It includes an 8-ounce tenderloin smothered in garlic butter with your choice of two of the following: a generous baked potato, the veggie of the day, steak fries, or their iconic Diego Salad, which is chopped lettuce with tomatoes, celery, onions, radishes, and a special seasoning salt. This meal will be elevated even more by the cozy ambiance, thanks to the roaring fireplace.
4391 Old Harrodsburg Rd, Lexington, KY 40513
Ramsey’s has been serving Lexington students and adults alike since 1989. While they may have relocated and opened several additional locations, the quality of the southern cookin’ and the passion of the customers has not dwindled.
No matter what meal you’re hungry for, they’ve got you covered. The Traditional Ramsey’s Breakfast is five eggs with bacon, sausage, hash browns, pancakes, and toast. They also serve a killer Meat & Three special with your choice of one meat – meat loaf, chicken livers, pan-blackened catfish, and plenty of others – and three veggies – mac and cheese, mashed potatoes with gravy, honey mustard carrots, fried green tomatoes, and even more. Good luck deciding what to get!
To learn more about the delicious food spots at other SEC schools, check out our Best Restaurants in the SEC guide, which includes all 14 college towns and their amazing eateries.