It’s been nearly a year and a half since I was in Lexington, Kentucky, a city I’ve visited four or more times a year for nearly fifteen years prior. You know you’ve been to a city a lot when you don’t need directions to get around anymore. Being a provincial northeasterner I remember my first trip to the Bluegrass and how surprised I was at the overall quality of life and ease of travel around this city of 300,000.
Like many people that have never visited Kentucky before I had a somewhat hardscrabble and rustic notion in mind. While Lexington is not what you would call cosmopolitan, it does have many nice places in which to live, eat or play, (remember that the Keeneland horse track is prominent as is thoroughbred money). Not much has changed since I last visited although I have noticed that it seems the entire city never seems to eat at home.
Restaurants are crowded noon and night and I am not referring to Shoney’s or Waffle House. Last night at Malone’s, (part of the Bluegrass Hospitality Group) I had a terrific New York strip steak – as good as any I can have in New York, Chicago or any larger American city. Bluegrass Hospitality Group operates six restaurants in the greater Lexington area and all are a bit different but very well run – I’ve been to them all.
I was told by a friend here in Lexington that there are apartments and houses in town in which the kitchen has never been used. Based on my experiences going to restaurants here I can well understand. I cannot tell if it is a local cultural anomaly, if many of the people in Lexington all have good paying jobs (to eat and drink at BHG restaurants is not exactly done at bargain prices), or if Lexingtonians collectively are lousy cooks at home. Maybe it’s a bit of all three. What I do know is that people are friendly, like to enjoy themselves, and that you need to be prepared to wait on a weekend night even if you do have a reservation.
Lexington is also an active test market for new restaurant concepts. Apparently if you can make it here you can make it anywhere or at least other-where.
They sure love their UK Wildcats here in Lexington – particularly during college basketball season. Kentucky is also noted as being a ‘red state’ and you can hear some of that on local radio but aside from that I’ve never felt it in the city as a polarizing place.
Lexington is not necessarily a warm climate in which to retire – it was eleven degrees yesterday morning. But summers are hot and humid, winters are certainly milder than those in the northeast (well not this week), and because the city is about as far west in the Eastern time zone as one can be, the sun sets near 10PM in the summertime and even past 6PM here in late January. However, you have to live with the sun not rising until well after 7AM in the winter. Still in 2010 CNN named Lexington one of the ten best places to retire in the U.S.
If you haven’t visited Lexington, KY you should put it on your list. A tour of the nearby Kentucky Bourbon trail is a fun way to spend an afternoon or day as there are many working and interesting distilleries. If you go for the all-day thing you might want to hire a driver.
On my way out to dinner now. When in Lexington…