LEXINGTON, Ky. — Founded in 1775 and named for the site of the first battle of the American Revolution, Lexington quickly became the sophisticated “Athens of the West.” Like their Bay State counterparts, Lexingtonians prize their city’s history and gracious architecture. But the city also has a soft spot for its utilitarian past. Several restaurants have upped the dining fun factor by offering good food in quirky old locations. Here are some of the most colorful.
Designers didn’t attempt to disguise the industrial feel of the low-slung concrete garage that houses County Club. With an open kitchen and a loud soundtrack, the funky spot is serious about barbecue, using hardwoods to smoke local pork, beef, bison, and poultry. The lunchtime favorite chopped pork sandwich is served with a housemade pickle and three choices of sauce, including a mustard barbecue sauce. Sandwiches and plates $7-$12. 555 Jefferson St., 859-389-6555, www.countyclubrestaurant.com
The Village Idiot
Local products are also featured at this self-proclaimed gastropub in the circa-1825 building that held Lexington’s first Post Office. Instead of queuing for stamps, the after-work crowd lines up at the bar to peruse the craft beer choices. The quieter upstairs tables are a good place to try the kitchen’s take on a Southern classic: The Duck & Waffles plate tops a cornmeal and cheddar waffle with a buttermilk fried duck leg confit. Sandwiches and entrees $10-$23. 307 West Short St., 859-252-0099, www.lexingtonvillageidiot.com
Coles 735 Main
Generations of Lexingtonians have enjoyed a big night out in the little brick building that houses Coles 735 Main. It was built as the Stirrup Cup in 1938 and hunt scene murals from 1949 still grace the walls. Chef Cole Arimes, a Lexington native, tempers local tradition with global flavors in dishes such as shrimp with smoked garlic grits, pickled onions, baby arugula, and truffle-infused lobster cream. Entrees $19-$33. 735 East Main St. 859-266-9000, www.coles735main.com
West Sixth Brewing
You never know whom you’ll meet at this craft brewery in an 1890s bakery building that turned out bread for a century. In addition to West Sixth, the 90,000-square-foot Breadbox houses a bike shop, an aquaponics food growing facility, artists’ studios, and a roller derby team. A piney, citrusy IPA is the company’s flagship, but brewers recently introduced a Lemongrass American Wheat beer. The bar serves only a few snacks, but food trucks often park outside on weekends. Tasting flight of five 4-ounce glasses $8. 501 West Sixth St., 859-951-6006, www.westsixth.com