Since March 2020, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc worldwide, sparing almost no business sector in her wake, and the aftershock will be felt for years to come. Sadly, one of those hardest hit was the service industry, and our friends in the bar and restaurant businesses are on the slow path to recovery. BUT, many of them are hardy, and although we are bidding adieu to a few more than we were before, from their ashes will arise a new wave of contenders!

Help keep your favorites open

On November 10, an open letter was published by more than 60 Lexington restaurants asking for the community's help to make it through the pandemic winter.  On November 20, restaurants in Kentucky  closed to in-person dining until December 13.

If you fancy yourself a foodie, do your part by ordering delivery, curbside pick-up, or purchasing gift cards.  Ready to get started?  Just in time for the second round of shutdowns, Ouita Michel has spearheaded a new service - Delivery Co-Op - and here's how it works:

You join as a member for $25/month, which entitles you to free, on-demand delivery from participating restaurants. No additional fees for each delivery or added service charges. Once you join, you'll receive the co-op menus on your app.  What makes this service different is that it's owned by the local restaurants and full-time delivery drivers who are extensions of their teams.  Restaurants and drivers will get to know each other by working together.  By signing up now, you can help refine the service.  As an incentive, if you visit to join now, you receive $20 off an order from Zim's (Code: OUITA).

Let's raise a glass to those we've lost, and welcome the new kids on the block!
(If you think I've missed something significant, check out the original post. If it' still not there, let me know!)

Closed/In Danger

Bankara Ramen & Bar (1030 South Broadway): I know nothing of this establishment, aside from what reported upon their temporary closing via the health department. From live roaches in food prep areas to dead roaches on the floor throughout, I'm not digging any deeper. They are permanently closed, that's it. Maybe KSBar and Grille will expand, or diversify with another offering.

Bella Forno (Richmond Road): In late October the Bella Notte Restaurant Group announced that this beloved pizzeria (formerly known as Crust) would not be reopening, having been closed since the start of the pandemic. Keep reading (see ‘Coming Soon’) for some good news from the company!

The Chop House (2640 Richmond Road): After 26 years on the Lexington scene, this steakhouse has closed up shop, although maybe not forever. According to, the Tennessee-based chain may explore a future location in Pinnacle or Hamburg.

Dad's Favorites (Blue Stallion location): Was I the last one to find out that Dad's Favorites shuttered their Blue Stallion location at some point during the pandemic? I mean, you can't sit inside so I just assumed (first mistake) that the food service was temporarily suspended for COVID. This wrecks me. I hate this. Dad's is second-to-none in the sandwich biz. Keep scrolling (see ‘Already Open’) to find out what took their coveted place in the brewery.

OV Bistro (400 Old Vine Street): First and foremost, as of this writing, they are still open. I only included OV Bistro on the list because - just days before the second shutdown was announced - the owners and management made a plea for the community to help them pay their rent, otherwise they were facing certain eviction and closure. Practically speaking, I'm not sure how they hope to survive what's coming.
Portofino (249 East Main Street): Another long-time Lexington staple will be saying goodbye on January 1, as owners Wayne and Susan Masterson have announced plans to retire. While they still own Serafini in Frankfort and Goose & Gander in Midway, the Mastersons were also behind the now-shuttered Grillfish (in the former Atomic Cafe location), whose sister location in Florida closed in 2018.

Already Open

Favor (574 North Limestone): From local Chef extraordinaire, Wyatt Sarbacker, comes a concept that NoLi has been desperately devoid of for many years! Favor offers a permanent (i.e. not food truck) casual dining option behind Arcadium, specializing in burgers, empanadas, bar bites, and BRUNCH. Yeah, he went there, and I'm so glad. Admittedly, this was high on my hitlist for Burger Week, and it did not disappoint. I can't wait to try more.

The Futile Bakery (399 Waller Ave., Suite 130):  I don’t know much about this one, but the choice of location makes me wonder if they’re not looking for a target market of hospital employees or students.  Regardless, the cinnamon rolls look to die for, and their macarons and custom cookies are beautiful!

Jefferson Street Coffee (471 Jefferson Street): One of Lexington's hottest corridors got a shade more 'morning friendly' when the cutest little coffee shop opened in March - yes, right as the pandemic was taking hold. Owner David Barnes has given his brand - Smokin' Aces Coffee Co. - a permanent home, with an eye-catching PRHBTN mural, to boot! While that timing was obviously less than ideal, they have taken a partnership approach to promotion, featuring pop-ups from other local vendors like In Bloom Flower Farm, S'more Than a Feeling, and Toasties Gourmet.

The Rackhouse Tavern (1375 South Broadway, inside The Campbell House Curio): Opening a full month before COVID turned the world upside down, The Rackhouse Tavern quickly established itself as a 'go-to' for all things beautiful, rustic, and bourbon. More than 300 varieties of Kentucky's native spirit make up one of the most impressive menus in the region. If you haven't paid a visit to The Campbell House in a few years (or decades), prepare to be stunned. The interior of both the hotel and the restaurant have undergone a complete transformation; if not for the heavy equine decor throughout, one might imagine a similar setting in a cozy Rocky Mountain chateau (minus the frigid outdoor temps).

Rickhouse Pub (1170 Manchester Street, Suite 130): From the owners of Battle Axes comes the first and only tenant to offer full-time food in the Pepper Rickhouse! Once again boasting an impressive drink list, they have really fulfilled an unmet need by installing a bunch of TV’s, and therefore deeming themselves as the unofficial ‘sports bar’ in the Distillery District. Just don’t go here expecting a quiet date night; they removed the door between the axe-tion (see what I did there?) and the restaurant.

Texas Roadhouse (3116 Richmond Road): This isn’t really new, rather it’s a new location for an existing restaurant. The old, ‘small’ (although was it, really?) Texas Roadhouse in front of planet Kroger is now a big, new Texas Roadhouse in an otherwise empty former Walmart parking lot. I guess business is good!

Tudor’s Biscuit World (757 East New Circle Road): Giant corporate breakfast chains are admittedly not my thing, so I have yet to indulge in a Tudor’s gourmet biscuit. But once Biscuit Belly (see ‘Coming Soon’) opens, I will be sampling both for comparison.

Wild Deutschland (610 West Third Street, inside Blue Stallion): I'm not ready to acknowledge that there's a German in-house food operation taking the place of the former Dad's Favorites satellite location; to be quite honest, I'm not sure when or if I'll recover from this loss. Early indications are good, and I guess if I want legitimate schnitzel, wurst, or kartoffelsalat before December 13, I won't be going to Marikka's anyway. Might be a perfect time to give them a shot!

Coming Soon

Bella Cafe & Grille (890 East High Street): From the Bella Notte Restaurant Group comes another concept, this time housed in the former Le Matin storefront in Chevy Chase! What delights away our taste buds here? Only time will tell. For the immediate future, the owners have teased Le Matin’s favorites like baguettes, fruits tarts, and pies.
Projected to open post-COVID.

Biscuit Belly: This small Louisville-based chain is expanding to Lexington, times three! According to, the founder is looking at locations in the Beaumont/Palomar area, UK campus area, and the Richmond Road/Hamburg area.  Sure to be a foodie staple, their other locations are open seven days a week, and their specialties include gourmet biscuits, goetta (!), and brunch cocktails.  Think Wild Eggs or First Watch, but more upscale, and less corporate.
Projected to open in 2021.

Boonedogs (5902 Old Richmond Road): Next up on the frontier of 'upscale casual' dining, Boonedogs is foregoing traditional sausages in favor of wild game, like venison, pheasant, and boar.  Located in a former convenience store at the corner of Jacks Creek Pike, Boonedogs will also stock convenience staples, prepackaged hot dogs and sausages, to-go items, and of course bourbon, wine, and beer, according to Ace Magazine.  And, unquestionably, be a must-stop for everyone traveling to and from Raven Run!  
Projected to open post-COVID.

Carson's (The Fountains at Palomar): You heard it here first, folks! My foodie rumor mill has been abuzz with this very exciting little tidbit, and I sure do hope it’s true because my friends on the southside could really use some nearby Carson’s in their life. Stay tuned...but in the mean time, here are some fun references to browse! #1 #2 #3
Projected to open ???

Cornerstone Exchange (401 South Limestone): Miyako Hibachi Express (several different Miyakos have been tagged, so I'm not confident which one is the actual future tentant), Ethereal BrewingRolling OvenA Cup of Commonwealth, and Manna Juice & Ice Cream. According to, "two spots remain open in the food hall.  They’re in advanced talks with another local restaurant for one of those spots. For the final spot, they [aren't] necessarily looking for a particular type of food concept, but the space is lacking a sort of burger or sandwich location."  
Projected to open in January 2021.

DV8 Kitchen (Midland Avenue): Big CONGRATS to owner Rob Perez on his second location. Important things are happening with Community Ventures and the Midland Avenue development. The more the merrier, especially for businesses with a strong backbone. 
Projected to open ???

Frank & Dino's (271 West Short Street): Construction was moving right along on this 1950's-inspired Italian joint at the corner of Mill and West Short, until COVID. That's the story of our lives this year, right folks? Thankfully, this swanky second location (the original is in Boca Raton, FL) continues to chug along like the little engine that could, and on the heels of Portofino's closing, provides a little healthy competition for Italx.
Projected to open in early 2021.

Fresh Bourbon (Distillery District):  Lexington's first black-owned bourbon distillery is coming to downtown!  Owners Sean and Tia Edwards encourage drinkers of all experience levels to "Sip and Be Seen," abiding by the mantra that there is no one way to enjoy bourbon 'correctly.'  Although nothing has been officially announced, the rumor mill tells me their retail location will be near The Burl.  
Projected to open in 2021.

Genesis Coffee House (1403 N. Forbes Rd. Suite 130): According to LexGoEat, this coffee contender will essentially be a re-imagining of my beloved Gather on Main (RIP), featuring specialty drinks; breakfast, lunch, and dinner sandwiches; pastries and sweets; and soups. With the new Starbucks now open on Sharkey Way (near Leestown and New Circle), one starts to wonder how many coffee spots one corridor can support?  
Projected to open ???

Goodwood (200 Lexington Green Circle): Last month I visited Goodwood in Frankfort and tried - no, begged - to get them to relocate to HopCat's recently evacuated space on West Short Street. Was it mostly in jest? Yes. Was I also totally serious? ABSOLUTELY yes! Unfortunately (for me), they were too far along with construction and basically ready to open. Fortunately (for southsiders), it won't be too much longer, and they have a food menu to rival their extensive brew offerings.
Projected to open in January 2021.

Greyline Station (101 West Loudon Avenue): For almost 20 years this bus station sat empty at the corner of North Limestone and Loudon, until developer Chad Needham saw fit to give it new life. According to Smiley Pete, the 65,000-square-foot building (built in 1928) originally served as the headquarters and bus station for Southeast Greyhound Lines and, more recently, as the headquarters and a maintenance repair facility for LexTran, until they sold to Needham Properties in 2018.  Greyline Station has been described as a mixed-use retail, office, and hospitality project, soon to be home to such tenants as Julietta Market (see below), North Lime Coffee and Donuts, Black Soil, Wilson's Meat & Grocery, Old North Bar, Poppy & Pomelo, Forage and Koko (sister stores), Clerestory, Shares Community Kitchen, RadioLex, and Laura Lou Patisserie, to name a few.
Projected to be fully open in 2021 (but a few tenants have already opened up shop!).

Joella’s Hot Chicken (2305 Sir Barton Way): Who loves hot chicken? Apparently LEXINGTON loves hot chicken! The new store in Hamburg - replacing Blaze Pizza near bd's Mongolian Grill - will be the 18th location for the Louisville-based chain, and the second for Lexington.
Projected to open December 1.

Julietta Market (101 West Loudon Avenue): This year-round, multi-vendor marketplace will occupy the majority of Greyline Station (roughly 23,000 square feet), and therefore requires a bit more distinction. According to Smiley Pete, Julietta Market will include over 70 kiosks, eight food stalls, art exhibitions, shared meeting and kitchen spaces, a stage, play area, and farmers' market.  The project honors the spirit of late activist Julie Etta Lewis, who was among the leaders in Lexington’s civil rights movement and also led the fight against segregation in education, entertainment, shopping, restaurants and public transportation.  
Projected to open November 28.

LeanFeast (220 Ruccio Way):  Here again I find myself completely at the mercy of, as this is neither a chain I've heard of nor have any intel about.  The local franchisor describes the restaurant as "a fast casual-hybrid between Chipotle and Subway. You pick your protein, pick your carb, pick your veg and you’re out the door.”  Sounds enticing, and perfectly timed for New Year's resolutions!  
Projected to open mid-January 2021.

Lex Live (301 South Broadway): After more than a year of anticipation, the multi-level complex located across from Rupp Arena is almost ready to open! Lex Live will feature an arcade, sports bar, cocktail bar, concessions, bowling alley, and ten auditoriums, one featuring an LFX screen, making it the largest in Kentucky.  
Projected to open post-COVID.

Pho Kytchen (962 Delaware Avenue): What a great addition to an already diverse little stretch! Billing themselves as ‘Authentic Vietnamese Street Food,’ it’s clear from their social media that they aim to educate and bring diverse offerings to Lexington.
Projected to open December 1.

Postmaster’s Pub (307 W. Short Street): From the folks who brought you Pazzo's (RIP), The Beer Trappe, Bear & the Butcher, and The Village Idiot (RIP) comes a new concept! Will it ever get off the ground post-COVID? TVI had such poor service in recent years, which only served to diminish the overall dining experience. I am *very* hopeful that this iteration breathes new life and energy into downtown. It's such an iconic building (hence the name) and deserves to be done justice.
Projected to open ???

Ranada's Kitchen (496 East High Street): Everyone's favorite female Chef du Jour is reinventing herself again! Mere months after opening in the former Kitchen at A.S. Eats in Chevy Chase as a curbside and catering kitchen, diners will once again have the pleasure of enjoying Ranada's fare in an atmosphere that only she can curate. After Ramsey's, this location enjoyed a short tenure as Chatham's, and has remained empty ever since.
Projected to open post-COVID.

Sedona Taphouse (1950 Newtown Pike): The Clarion Hotel Sports Page Bourbon Bar & Grill is out and Sedona Taphouse is in! While surprising, this selection makes a lot of sense with easy accessibility (and visibility) from I-75, only moments from the Kentucky Horse Park and downtown Lexington. Their Palomar location is wildly popular and the happy hour is pretty fantastic, so without a lot of competition on the northside, I fully expect another home run.
Projected to open in 2021.

Wm. Tarr Distillery (1170 Manchester Street, Suite 190): Lexington's first federally-registered distillery (RD#1), founded in 1865 as the Ashland Distillery, is returning to the Distillery District! The first release, Manchester Reserve, is a blend composed of a 7-year bourbon and an 8-year rye. The second release, Inheritance, is a limited 12-year bourbon. The retail location will consist of a bar, tasting and tour experience, distillery, bottling operation, cigar patio, and gift shop.
Projected to open Q1 2021.

The Do-Over (222 Rosemont Garden): Just to be clear, that's not the name of the place, but I don't know what the name is yet! The Painted Taco was, for a fleeting moment, a real great concept next to everyone's favorite local pizza joint, PieTana. It really brightened up the block. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Word on the street is that Fitz & Foster are at it again with a new car-themed concept, slated to include burgers, hot dogs, and BREAKFAST, to name a few. Hopefully it won't be another 'garage,' as we already have one of those knocking it out of the park.
Projected to open ???

The Secret (170 Jefferson Street):  According to that ever-churning rumor mill, The Grey Goose will not be returning, which is sad all by itself.  After all, they do have Lexington's BEST PATIO.  However, if my source is accurate, a legacy restaurant will be relocating to take its place.  Stay tuned.  
Projected to open ???