5 More Gotta Try Local Restaurants in Lexington

January 27, 2020

Coming to Lexington? We have an incredible variety of locally-owned restaurants in our beautiful city. I shared some of my favorite local restaurants in Lexington earlier. Now I’m back to share more!

These five gotta try local restaurants are some of the best restaurants in Lexington, Kentucky. They feature local favorites, BBQ, Italian cuisine with a Kentucky spin, and the best place to eat with a hangover.

Winchell’s Restaurant & Sports Bar

Winchell’s is unique in that it definitely has a sports bar vibe with over 30 TVs and a large bar in the middle of the restaurant, but it serves high-quality food from chef/owners trained at the Culinary Institute of America. In business for 25 years, Winchell’s is a Lexington staple. And it’s in my neighborhood so I eat there a lot.

And while I eat here frequently, I almost always get the same thing. A Reuben sandwich with turkey instead of corned beef and homemade french fries. Not only does Winchell’s have the best Rueben in Lexington, but it’s also the best one I’ve had anywhere. Their sauerkraut is slightly sweet and the sandwich is grilled. It’s perfection! And the fries are made in-house and always perfectly fried.

Reuben sandwich and french fries at Winchell's restaurant in Lexington, Ky.  Best places to eat in Lexington.

Winchell’s serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And their menu pays homage to Kentucky dishes and ingredients like fried banana peppers, Kentucky beer cheese, white bean soup, and a Kentucky hot brown while offering a variety of options that will appeal to everyone. Some of the more unique menu options include Elvis Pancakes and the Funny Farm sandwich with a fried pork chop topped with country ham, bacon, a fried egg, and pepper jack cheese.

This is a great place to get traditional Southern dishes too. I’m getting hungry just thinking about Winchell’s!

Winchell’s Restaurant – 348 Southland Drive, Lexington, KY 40503

Red State BBQ

Red State BBQ is just barely located in Lexington. And it’s location near the interstate and the Kentucky Horse Park have made it very popular with tourists and locals alike. This is a hole-in-the-wall roadside barbeque joint. Definitely not fancy, but a fun place to eat some fantastic barbeque.

Exterior of Red State BBQ restaurant in Lexington, KY.  Great restaurant in Lexington near the Kentucky Horse Park.

A Kentucky Proud restaurant, Red State BBQ serves products that are grown or raised in Kentucky. Kentucky not only has an incredible agricultural tradition and industry, but we also produce some delicious products. I support Kentucky Proud products and businesses as often as possible and I encourage those visiting Lexington to do the same.

Interior of restaurants with gingham tablecloths and graffiti on the walls.  Red State BBQ is a popular restaurant in Lexington, KY.

Now on to the food! All of the barbequed meats are dry-rubbed and smoked low and slow like good BBQ should be. The brisket is fabulous but I’m a big fan of their sides, especially the beer cheese grits, corn pudding, and green beans. They also offer six different types of barbeque sauce from Memphis sweet, to South Carolina mustard, and North Carolina spicy vinegar. If you are looking for gluten-free restaurants in Lexington, Red State Barbeque is a good choice as they offer several gluten-free options on their menu.

Red State BBQ – 4020 Georgetown Road, Lexington, Kentucky 40511

Lexington’s horse farms are stunning and a visit to one is a must on any trip to Lexington. Click here for more details. Oh, and you gotta try bourbon when you visit Kentucky! This full-day tour takes you to three distilleries in the Lexington area. You get to sample lots of bourbon and you don’t have to drive! Click here to find out more!

Bella Notte

If you’re looking for the best Italian restaurant in Lexington, look no further than Bella Notte. Bella Notte has been providing Lexingtonians romantic Italian meals since 1996. The restaurant is lovely and will make you feel like you are eating at a trattoria in Italy.

Plate of baked pasta at Bella Notte, one of the best restaurants in Lexington, KY.

One of my favorite things at Bella Notte is that their menu focuses on fresh, local, and seasonal food. In addition to always-available classics such as pasta, wood-fired pizzas, and grilled options including fish, chicken, pork, and steak you’ll find a seasonal menu using ingredients at their peak. As much as I love their regular menu, I almost always order something from the seasonal menu. All menus indicate local ingredients used and where they were sourced. Bella Notte is another Kentucky Proud restaurant.

In addition to dinner, Bella Notte offers lunch specials and brunch on Sundays. The wine menu includes a long list of reds and whites and bottles are available half-price on Thursdays. If you prefer beer with your dinner, you’ll find a list of bottled beers including local, regional, and international choices. This is Kentucky, so the bourbon menu is comprehensive. Looking for a cocktail in Lexington? Try one of Bella Notte’s signature drinks including a Bella’s Lemon Drop made with housemade limoncello.

Bella Notte – 3715 Nicholasville Rd, Lexington, Kentucky 40503

Tolly-Ho

Looking for some unabashedly bad-for-you food? Tolly-Ho is the place.

Trays of food including burgers, fries and drinks.  Tolly-Ho Restaurants is a great local restaurant in Lexington, Ky.

Tolly-Ho has been serving University of Kentucky students (and the rest of Lexington) since 1971. After being located on campus for years, they moved to a location that is campus adjacent and is now easily accessible for anyone near UK or looking for Lexington restaurants downtown.

Known for its burgers including the Super-Ho and Mega-Ho, Tolly-Ho features a huge menu of burgers, sandwiches, hotdogs and a variety of fried food. They also serve breakfast all day. Oh, and definitely get a milkshake. I enthusiastically recommend Nutella.

Open 24 hours a day, Tolly-Ho is not going to win a James Beard award anytime soon, but it’s hard to beat when you want simple, delicious food. Tolly-Ho is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s the perfect stop to grab a bite after a night of hanging out in Lexington downtown bars or for refueling the next day.

Tolly-Ho – 606 South Broadway, Lexington, Kentucky 40508

Wallace Station

Adding Wallace Station to a list of local restaurants in Lexington is cheating, just a little. Wallace Station is actually located in Versailles, Kentucky, about 20 minutes from downtown Lexington. Take the backroads and it’s 20 minutes of some of the most beautiful scenery you will see not only in Lexington, but anywhere.

Wallace Station is one of Ouita Michel’s restaurants in the Lexington area and sits in a building on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been a country store, a post office, and now a great place to get delicious food in an idyllic setting.

The Wallace Station menu includes a variety of unique hot and cold deli sandwiches including many that feature a Kentucky spin on a classic. A traditional club is Kentuckified with the addition of bourbon barbeque sauce and the ham and swiss features country ham. Be sure to try the Inside Out Hot Brown, a handheld version of the classic Kentucky hot brown.

You will also find burgers, salads, and nightly specials. As with all of Michel’s restaurants, Wallace Station features Kentucky Proud products and a commitment to using local ingredients as often as possible. A trip to Wallace Station is perfect if you are in the area touring horse farms, taking in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, or just spending some time taking the backroads.

Wallace Station, 3854 Old Frankfort Pike, Versailles, KY 40383

Looking for something sweet to eat in Lexington? Check out the best bakeries in Lexington.

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More about Candy Wafford

Candy Wafford is a US-based travel blogger and while she travels frequently for her job, she is happiest when traveling for pleasure. Preferably strolling along a cobblestoned street with an ice cream cone in her hand.

5 Comments
    1. A hidden gem in Stonewall plaza off Clays Mill is a Korean restaurant in the back of the Korean supermarket. It’s not just my opinion but also my Korean friends if you want homestyle Korean. The Bul Goke is the best around as is the kimchee.

      1. Thank you! I know where you talking about and live less than a mile from there. I’ve shopped at the grocery and will now have to try the restaurant!

      1. That place is amazing! Chef San is a great guy as well.

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