Lexington: Alfalfa’s Restaurant Is a Hidden Gem Downtown
by Kindsey Bernhard
I have lived in Lexington for almost four years now and I didn’t learn of Alfalfa’s Restaurant until three months ago when I was waiting for my friend outside the Lexington Public Library.
As I sat inside my car waiting for her, I looked over to discover Alfalfa’s Restaurant for the first time. After asking friends and coworkers about the downtown restaurant, I knew it was one I needed to try.
Alfalfa’s Restaurant was founded in 1973 by a group of University of Kentucky students who put together $2,000 to start a restaurant in an old luncheonette, not far from campus.
Alfalfa’s became the first restaurant in Lexington to serve brunch. The restaurant featured Cajun and Creole style food way before most people during that time heard of blackened redfish.
“Stories about the early years abound. On opening day, still short of chairs, Alfalfa promised a free meal to anyone who brought a chair. Bringing in a set of salt and peppershakers earned a dessert. For a short time, one of the Top 10 Most Wanted, according to an FBI wanted list, worked as a cook, unbeknownst to everyone,” the Alfalfa’s website records.
In 2004, the restaurant moved from its first home where it spent 31 years across from the University of Kentucky to its current location on East Main Street.
One thing that Alfalfa prides them in is their business with local suppliers. Popular ones include Lexington Pasta (Fayette Co.), Sunrise Bakery (Fayette Co.), Weisenberger Mill (Woodford Co.), Lexington Farmer’s Market (Fayette Co.), Blue Moon Farm (Madison Co.) and Henkle’s Herbs & Heirlooms (Jessamine Co.) and so many more.
When you enter a hostess greets you and sits you at your table. The sit-down restaurant is full of colorful paintings and art created by local artists. My cousin and I were seated at the front of the restaurant where we were able to see downtown Lexington from the large glass windows in the front.
Alfalfa’s Restaurant has several different options for all the different kinds of eaters. As a vegetarian, I have never seen such a vegetarian-friendly menu. However, they have plenty of meat options for the carnivores.
For an appetizer, we ordered the Beer Cheese Nachos. The blue corn tortilla chips were topped with habanero Newcastle beer cheese, pico de gallo, avocado and sour cream with a side of roasted tomato salsa.
There’s really nothing better than a good plate of nachos. I’ve tried a lot of nachos in my life at all kinds of different restaurants, but I think Alfalfa’s take the crown as my favorite. I prefer blue corn tortilla chips to regular chips in general, so that was an added bonus. The beer cheese was a different twist to normal cheddar or American cheese you find on most restaurant nachos. The salsa was restaurant style, which I prefer over chunky salsa.
When I told people I was going to Alfalfa’s for the first time, most people told me to order their signature dish, the Hoppin’ John. The dish is comprised of black-eyed peas, brown rice and Creole tomato sauce topped with white cheddar, diced onions and bell peppers.
As much as I wanted to enjoy the dish, unfortunately I did not. I found there were too many tomatoes from the Creole tomato sauce for my liking. Finally, I gave up on the tomatoes and picked around, eating just the rice and black-eyed peas.
My cousin, who is a very picky eater, ordered the French toast. Alfalfa’s serves part of their breakfast menu all day. The toast is four points of whole wheat bread dipped in egg and cream with sugar and spice then cooked on the griddle. It is topped with powdered sugar and butter and served with syrup. Despite her finickiness, my cousin loved the French toast.
Although I didn’t find the right dish for me on the first visit, I do plan on going back to Alfalfa’s Restaurant to try something else. The staff was friendly and my water was always filled to the top. The atmosphere is warming, comfortable and very homey and nothing like you would experience at any chain restaurant.
141 East Main Street
Lexington, KY 40507
Wednesday-Friday: 11 AM – 2 PM, 5:30 PM- 9 PM
Saturday: 9 AM – 2 PM, 5:30 PM – 9 PM
Sunday: 9 AM – 2 PM
Kindsey Bernhard has written for Kentucky Sports Radio and currently interns for the Northern Kentucky Tribune. She is a journalism student at the University of Kentucky.