Go On a Downtown Lexington Food Tour!

May 23, 2022

Last Updated on September 8, 2022 by Candy Wafford

Finally, a food tour in downtown Lexington, Kentucky! It’s no secret that I love taking food tours when I travel. I recently discovered taking one in my hometown was just as much fun. Bites of the Bluegrass offers fun and informative food tours in Lexington. I’ll be telling everyone I know visiting our lovely city that this is one of the best things to do in Lexington.

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Downtown Lexington Food Tour

Erin started Bites of the Bluegrass after discovering that a food tour is a fantastic way to get to know a city. She has taken her love of travel and food and combined it with her passion for Lexington and its rich history. This is such a fun thing to do for couples in Lexington. It’s also the perfect activity for a group of girlfriends, foodies, or a great corporate event!

A stone building behind a Pavilion. The former courthouse in Lexington, Kentucky, it now houses a meeting space, restaurant, bar, and the Lexington Visitor's Center.

History of Downtown Lexington, Kentucky

As a lifelong Lexingtonian, I was AMAZED at how much I learned during our tour. I knew that Lexington is hands down one of the best places in the United States world. Part of what makes this such a special place is the beautiful juxtaposition of modern amenities with a fierce pride in our history. You’ll learn fascinating tidbits about the infamous madame Belle Breezing and Sweet Evening Breeze, a pioneer of LGBTQ rights. (Lexington has an interesting LGBTQ history, take a self-guided walking tour to learn more.)

I especially enjoyed hearing the history of many of Lexington’s architectural gems, including the former Courthouse where the tour starts.

Trip map created with Wanderlog, an itinerary planner on iOS and Android

Restaurants in Downtown Lexington

Bites of the Bluegrass’s Downtown Walking Tour includes five stops. You’ll make a leisurely loop through downtown, interspersing restaurants with stops at spots of interest.

Note: These are the restaurants and dishes served during the tour I was on. The stops and/or food offered may vary.

Zim’s Cafe

Zim’s Cafe is part of Ouita Michel’s restaurant dynasty in Lexington and neighboring Woodford County. I’m a huge fan of Ouita’s and have raved about her restaurants in previous articles. She’s the Queen of Kentucky Cooking in my book.

We had a Benedictine and Bacon sandwich and Pimento Cheese Macaroni Salad at our first stop. I wanted to kiss whoever came up with the brilliant idea of combining pimento cheese and macaroni salad, it was delicious. I have lived in the birthplace of benedictine my entire life and have managed to never try it.

What in the heck is benedictine? It’s a spread made with cucumbers and cream cheese and was created by Jennie Carter Benedict in Louisville Kentucky in the early 1900s. I don’t like cucumbers and therefore assumed I wouldn’t like benedictine. Boy, was I wrong! It was a pretty tasty spread between housemade sourdough bread and locally sourced bacon.

Zim’s Cafe is located in the former courthouse smack dab in the middle of downtown Lexington. It’s an architectural gem and also houses the Lexington Visitor’s Center which is the starting point for the tour.

PS – Ouita’s cookbook is amazing and I recommend it if you are interested in Kentucky dishes.

Agave & Rye

A quick stroll took us to the downtown Lexington location of Agave & Rye. This wasn’t my first visit to Agave, but the first time I visited this location sandwiched between Rupp Arena and the Lexington Opera House.

The first thing you’ll notice when entering is the electric decor. Colorful murals and artwork are paired with chandeliers dripping with crystals in pinks and purples. As stunning as the space is visually, the food is equally impressive. Chef Yavonne Sarber is french-trained and set out to create restaurants that elevate the taco. Diners will find knock-your-socks-off cocktails and a wide variety of tacos stuffed with everything from kangaroo (yes, kangaroo), pepperoni, hot dogs, and a cauliflower version I’m particularly fond of.

During the food tour, we had the opportunity to sample a variation on the Bee Sting. The Bee Sting is a part margarita and part whisky. The buzz button is what makes this an epic experience. This unassuming little flower has an unusual effect on your mouth. I won’t give it all away here, just head to Agave & Rye and try it for yourself!

Can’t forget the food! We had a Mac N Cheese Beignet, and yet it’s as delicious as it sounds. Bright and crisp Elote corn paired perfectly with the rich beignet.

Check out their full menu!

Check out my favorite travel shoes!

The Southern Deli and Tavern

The next leg of the tour took us past the Stand statue. This recently erected piece of public art by Barbara Grygutis celebrates suffragists that fought for women’s right to vote. I had driven past this gleaming metal statue before but didn’t realize the emotional impact it would have until I stood next to it.

Erin provides a fascinating commentary about the history of downtown Lexington throughout the tour. I love the recent additions to downtown and how the modern and historical are beautifully juxtaposed. Our next stop is The Southern Deli & Tavern located in a former home where downtown and the University of Kentucky intersect.

Historic house in downtown Lexington with navy siding and gingerbread trim and maroon trim. A sign hangs in front for the restaurant - The Southern Deli & Tavern, one of the stops on the Downtown Lexington Food Tour offered by Bites of the Bluegrass.

The Southern Deli & Tavern is small in size but big in charm. The patio area is the perfect place to grab a bite and a beer (or bourbon). The menu here reflects the Chef’s love of travel blended with classic southern ingredients. We sampled the Savannah, a unique sandwich with bacon, fire-roasted peaches, arugula, and a lemon-basil spread on multi-grain bread. Something I wouldn’t have ordered on my own, and now I can’t wait to eat it again!

Salt and Vinegar at Ethereal Brewing Public House

Once upon a time, I worked in downtown Lexington and used to frequent a it-will-do-in-a-pinch Mexican restaurant where Ethereal Brewing Public House is now located. The brewery has an old-world pub vibe, with dark walls and antique paintings hung gallery-style.

White plate with a variety of foods including spatzle, hanger steak, asparagus, and part of a pretzel. A sampling of the food available at Salt & Vinegar located inside the Ethereal Public House in downtown Lexington.

Chef Greg Spaulding opened his first Salt & Vinegar at Blue Stallion Brewing Company and the location we visited at downtown Lexington brewery Ethereal Public House in 2022. The menu is small and features gourmet riffs on classic German dishes including schnitzel and spaetzle. We were served a dishful of generous samples of several menu items, each delicious. I especially enjoyed the Spatzel Primavera with pan-seared dumplings tossed with grilled vegetables, garlic, and aged Parmesan.

At this point of the tour, I made a promise to get out of my culinary rut and make a point to come downtown more often. Downtown Lexington has some amazing food and drink options.

The Grove

Our last stop was to The Grove, a magical place I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about.

Large mural of the blue night sky with a yellow menu and tree branches. The name of the restaurant, The Grove, is emblazoned in white. The Grove is a popular bar in downtown Lexington.

The Grove calls itself a downtown Lexington micro-community. Inside you’ll find a bar oozing with cool, moody vibes and small businesses where you can get coffee, charcuterie, or a cocktail. Make your way through the little labyrinth of hallways into a beer garden. Which may be one of the most instagrammable spots in Lexington.

Our food tour group sat under the warm May sun and enjoyed not one, but two, sweet treats. First, a pillow of whipped cream topped with macerated berries and a shingle of dark chocolate. A perfect combination of textures. Next was a sunny golden apricot stuffed with a dollop of goat cheese. Again, something I wouldn’t have ordered on my own, but I loved it. And that my friends is one of the best parts about food tours – opening your eyes, and taste buds, to things you may not have tried.

Should I Take the Downtown Lexington Food Tour?

Yes! This walking tour should be at the top of any visitor’s list of things to do in Lexington. You’ll get to try amazing, local food, see many of the sights in downtown Lexington, and make friends along the way.

Big Blue Horse with a gold frame around it. Big Blue is the symbol of Lexington, the "Horse Capital of the World." Every visit to Lexington should start at the Lexington Visitor's Center.
Big Blue at the Lexington Visitor’s Center

Book your Lexington food tour today at Bites of the Bluegrass – enter code whereivebeentravel10 for $10 through June 2022!

Dietary Restrictions

The tour can accommodate vegetarian diets. I had a chance to peek at the vegetarian options and they looked delicious! Make sure to indicate your preference for vegetarian meals and/or any food allergies when booking the tour.

Vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free diets cannot be accommodated at this time.

How Much Walking on Lexington Food Tour?

The Downtown Walking Tour is about a mile in length. It is mostly flat, but you will encounter a few stairs or steps. You will be walking in a busy downtown area that includes crossing streets, construction, etc. Wear comfortable shoes. Also, plan on wearing sunscreen and bringing hats, umbrellas, etc.

Read more of my tips on how to get the most out of a food tour!

How to Book

Visit Bites of the Bluegrass to book your tour today!

Check Out These Articles for More on Visiting Downtown Lexington!

Best Places to Shop in Lexington

Unexpected & Cool Street Murals in Lexington, Kentucky

A Local’s Guide to the Best Things to Do in Lexington

25 Best Places to See Fall Colors in Kentucky

Horse Farm Tour in the Horse Capital of the World

Irish Acres – Putting on the Glitz

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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.

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