By Kristina Rosen
If 2022 can be characterized as “post-pandemic,” this would be Ace’s first Food Year in Review post-pandemic.
2020 was a blur. The year of lockdowns brought with it many closings and left many in the food world unemployed, before setting the stage for 2021 — a building year to figure out the new footing — while 2022 was about learning to survive and thrive in what is clearly a new and permanently altered era of food, drink, and hospitality.
Collaborations remained steadfast. Businesses come and go but some locations remain the same: cursed. Elevated pub food is still a trend, COVID lingered, heartaches and heartbreaks continued, and a few phoenixes still managed to rise from the ashes.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The more things change, the more they stay the same. And some locations can’t seem to make a go, regardless of concept.
In Chevy Chase, Saratoga’s curse prevailed for years at the corner of Euclid and East High. The restaurant, which closed in 1995, was replaced with a shuffling lineup that included Roy’s East High Diner, Buddy’s, Glenn’s Creek Brewery, Macho Nacho, Louie’s Wine Dive, and more before giving up on food and becoming a real estate office.
Willie’s Locally Known and Nash’s Southern Table on Southland Drive were among the many rotations at the railroad overpass before that spot gave up as a restaurant concept and transitioned to something else.
This year’s “cursed” location is the corner of Cedar and Broadway, where a few months of service has almost become the norm. The former JDI space sat vacant after Napa Prime opened and closed in the span of less than a year in 2019 until Louisville’s RecBar team opened Tilty Bob this year. The restaurant—featuring dining, a bar, and arcade games on both floors of the massive space—opened in March only to shut its doors six months later.
MORE THAN PUB FOOD
A trend that’s remaining strong in “The After” — craft breweries continue to rely on food trucks, often rotating, to provide on-site food.
Luna opened at the Grove in 2021. The vintage food truck from Chef Stephania Sharkey relocates to Al’s Bar in the winter.
Salt & Vinegar took off at Blue Stallion Brewing Co. before opening a second location at Ethereal Brewing’s Public House on Vine in the spring.
Whiskey Bear relocated from the Summit to Beaumont and added a sister concept, Addie’s Pizza.
Little Fork, which dubs itself as farm-to-table “trailer gourmet,” opened at Wise Bird Cider in the Distillery District.
Emerging from the Covid ashes has proven harder for many than the actual mandatory shutdowns as the food scene figures out how to navigate, survive, and reinvent during this new era.
Staffing shortages persist.
Longtime campus area staple, Mellow Mushroom closed, citing rising costs in labor/food. Gluten Free Miracles cited staffing and production costs as they closed their storefront. World of Beer closed in the Summit in July, after a few rounds of reducing hours of operation to accommodate short staffing.
The daytime downtown business foot traffic has still not fully recovered in this new era of remote work — making a thriving weekday lunch scene more difficult to resurrect — while DoorDash and DashMart may harm more than they help.
Although industry standard has long meant a Sunday or Monday day of rest for many culinary crews, very few restaurants are now open seven or even six days a week now, and this trend isn’t likely to change in 2023.
HEARTACHES AND HEARTBREAKS
It was November 12,1952—to be exact—when Parkette made its Lexington debut, dubbing itself as the “Largest Drive Inn in Kentucky” in an ad.
It was almost 70 years later when the stalwart diner shut its doors abruptly in June. Rumors in the food scene spread quickly, everywhere, all at once.
Bruised by the pandemic, it suffered from supply chain issues, staff shortages, and customer indifference.
Customer indifference was not a worry in July when a large crowd turned out to purchase remaining pieces of memorabilia from menus to booths to Pepsi chandeliers.
The building has been demolished but the iconic neon sign is still in place.
What was once promoted as a spot for “parking for 100 cars!” as described in a vintage ad, will now become a parking lot to hundreds of used and new cars for neighboring dealerships.
The sign remains. There’s still “parking for 100 cars.” Technically.
HOT DOGS & HOT CHICKEN
Has a new hot chicken spot opened on nearly every corner, every neighborhood this year?
Dave’s Hot Chicken, the popular L.A.-launched fast-casual hot chicken chain, opened. Chic Char specializes in Pervuian style chicken in Eastland. TKK’s Fried Chicken opened on South Limestone near campus. Fans of David Chang’s Momofuku in NYC will notice Fuku is available as a ghost kitchen on Lexington delivery platforms.
There are now three Sam’s Hot Dog Stands, the latest opening in Lexington Green over the summer.
A taste of Chicago also found a home on the southside of town when South of Wrigley opened on Southland Drive in the spring (recently expanding their hours).
And Sidebar does serve hot dogs for one week out of the year, in a good-natured challenge to the burger week concept.
Births, Obits, and Transitions in Lexington, KY
A small sampling of 2022 activity follows.
Year in Review: Births
Andy’s Frozen Custard opened on South Broadway, with another location planned for Richmond Road.
Big Blue Deli opened on North Limestone.
Biscuit Belly opened on East Main Street.
Bourbon n’ Toulouse opened a second location at the former Gumbo YaYa location on Broadway.
Buzzed Bull Creamery opened in the Summit.
Chic Char, serving peruvian style chicken, opened on Eastland Parkway.
Dave’s Hot Chicken opened in the former Qdoba on Richmond Road.
Drake’s opened its fourth Lexington location on Leestown Road.
Everest, offering Nepalese and Indian cuisine, opened on Alexandria Drive.
Halligans, a bar and grill with first responders in mind, opened in the former Rickhouse Pub in the Distillery District.
La Folie, the latest concept from the owners of Frank and Dino’s, opened in the former Graze space in the Woodlands.
Local Taco opened a second Lexington location in the former TGI Friday’s in Hamburg.
The Mad Horseman opened in The Sire, in the space once occupied by Distilled and Jonathan at Gratz Park. (Distilled is now on Jefferson in the former Nick Ryan’s.)
Mama Tequila Bar and Restaurant opened on W. Short in the former Shakespeare and Co. location.
Mehak Indian Cuisine opened in the former Crumzz space on Limestone
Nic and Norman’s opened on Main Street in the former home of West Main Crafting.
Chevy Chase once again has walking-distance sushi with the opening of Omakase Sushi & Sake Bar.
Parlor Doughnuts opened on Euclid Avenue.
Olive’s Apron bakeshop and tearoom opened in a little stone house on Rosemont Garden.
Salt & Vinegar opened a second location at Ethereal Brewing’s Public House in downtown.
Sam’s Hot Dogs opened a spot in Lexington Green in June.
South of Wrigley’s opened on Southland Drive, and has recently extended hours to keep up with demand.
Sultan’s Mediterranean opened at Hartland Parkway.
Sumo2 Hibachi and Sushi opened on Nicholasville Road in the former Sakura 13 location.
Ume Handcrafted Ramen opened Thanksgiving weekend at South Broadway.
Villainous, a new pub, opened on the corner of W. Second and Jefferson Street.
The new ramen and donburi concept, Zundo Izakaya, opened in the former Outback space on Tiverton.
Year in Review: Obits
Chrisman Mill Winery hosted their final events in October, sunsetting the business, after 25 years of winemaking.
Gluten Free Miracles bakery closed their retail outlet at the end of October.
Graze closed permanently after two tries at Lexington locations, first at Limestone and later at the Woodlands.
Fusion Brewing closed in the Distillery District.
Max’s Loudon Square Buffet closed in April, after nearly 50 years in business. Owner Max Flannery, who’d been in failing health, died shortly after the restaurant closed.
Mellow Mushroom, a longtime pizza staple near the University of Kentucky, closed in October. But stay tuned.
Oscar Diggs, a popular brewpub located near the busy corner of Limestone and Short for the past five years, closed in July.
Parkette closed abruptly in June.
Pour Decisions closed on Main.
Soundbar closed in November.
Tilty Bob’s closed at Cedar and Broadway after a six month stint.
A new boutique butcher storefront VanMeter James opened on Main earlier in the year and then closed before the year was out.
World of Beer closed in the Summit.
2022 Year in Review: Transitions
Athenian Grill reopened its Ashland Avenue space after a winter remodel.
Busalacchi Treats expanded to add Cafe Emporio by Busalacchi, a general store and eatery.
Caramanda’s Bake Shoppe is relocating from Southland Drive to the former Critchfield’s location on Nicholasville Road.
C&P Market on Manchester announced retirement for the owners, but plans to operate under new ownership.
Hall’s on the River reopened in the Spring after a lengthy post-flood renovation and restoration.
The Ketch property on Regency Road has been listed for sale. The business is being sold separately and remains open while the current owner has announced plans to retire.
Lynagh’s is for sale and has been closed for several months. (Former longtime owner John Lynaugh, who sold the iconic Irish pub in 2008 after nearly three decades of ownership, died on Thanksgiving 2022.)
Two Keys Tavern reopened in a new spot less than 900 feet away from its original home on South Limestone.
Saul Good at Fayette Mall was sold to new owners.
Sav’s closed after 14 years in the restaurant business and almost three years at its most recent spot in the former Subway on East Main Street. La Taquiza, which started as a food truck, opened its second Lexington brick and mortar location in the former Sav’s space.
Sawyer’s reopened in a new home at City Center on Main Street, just down the street from their former longtime home at Main and Broadway, which closed in May 2021.
Whiskey Bear left the Summit and later reopened in Beaumont, with the addition of Addie’s Stone-Fired Pizza.
Dutch Bros Coffee is planning two locations for Lexington, with one planned for the vacant Arby’s on South Limestone near UK campus and another on E. New Circle Road.
Georgetown’s Far Out Espresso announced plans via social media to occupy the long vacant space at the corner of High and Woodland (longtime home to Ramsey’s, and then a rapid rotation of successors, most recently Ranada’s.)
Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger is opening in the former Oscar Diggs space on North Limestone.
Main Event Entertainment is expected to occupy the South Park space that was once projected to be home to a Lexington Dave and Buster’s (a project shelved by the pandemic).
Par 6 Social, a new sports bar with Topgolf Swing Suites, is planned for the former Bar Louie at Fayette Mall.
Pub subs?! Florida-based Publix announced the grocery chain will enter the Lexington market in 2024.
The first central Kentucky Taco John’s location is opening in Brannon Crossing.
This article appears on page 16 of the December 2022 issue of Ace. To subscribe, click here.