Lexington: Chatham’s Southern Comfort Food Spotlights the Lowcountry
Chatham’s is a new restaurant occupying the former location of the original Ramsey’s (more on that below) on Woodland and High in Lexington. As the name suggests, Chatham’s offers Southern fare with a Low Country spin.
My wife and I had lunch during Chatham’s second week. My wife ordered their shrimp and grits in a nod to their Lowcountry theme (plus it’s my wife’s favorite dish). I chose the hot brown, a personal favorite of mine and a Kentucky classic. I was curious to see how they would do with what ought to be signature dishes.
Service by our waitress Amber was eager and attentive. The food arrived quickly.
The hot brown was at first surprising as the tomatoes and bacon were not baked in, but rather added on top after baking. This took a little getting used to, and I found I had to chase my bacon a bit since it was not pinned down by roux and cheese (don’t worry, I caught it). The hot brown was very good, with the ham making its presence felt. Don’t hesitate to order it.
My wife was very satisfied with her shrimp and grits, which is, again, her favorite food. I stole several bites, and found Chatham’s version of the Lowcountry classic worthy of the name. The amount of shrimp was generous.
I ordered the creamed corn and Hoppin’ John as sides, again embracing both Kentucky and the Lowcountry. I think the Hoppin’ John was the stronger of the two, although the corn was good, if a bit tepid when it arrived.
One of Chatham’s signature items is their cornbread, which is served in a mini-skillet. The cornbread is very good, although the texture a little cake-like, a concession to modern cornbread sensibilities. It has to be ordered, which I suppose I understand, but it would be nice to have an initial hot pone delivered to the table as a complimentary bread.
As it happened, a couple of days after my first visit, my friend Dave was in town and wanted to try Chatham’s out, so off I went again. This time I tried a sandwich my wife had eyed on my first trip, the PLT (Pimento, Lettuce, & Tomato). The tomato is of the fried green variety, which is a nice twist. The sandwich was very good, and I brought a half sandwich back home to the missus who raved about it. If you’re looking for something off the vegetarian menu, or just a good sandwich, the PLT is a good option.
Chatham’s will for some time to come both be haunted by, and benefit from, the specter of Ramsey’s, which was so popular and successful in that spot for a quarter century. The two restaurants can’t help but be compared, and while Chatham’s is not quite as good as its predecessor—yet—the potential is clear. The tight rope is for Chatham’s to fill the Ramsey’s niche, which will give them enough business to survive, while staking out unique territory to give them their own identity.
I would love to see Chatham’s more aggressively embrace the Lowcountry theme in their decor. A blend of Kentucky and Charleston on the walls would be nice, a good replacement for some of the generic “Diner” decor they’ve started with.
You won’t find a restaurant in its first weeks that isn’t finding its footing and working out the kinks. The good news is that the menu foundation is solid, the service prompt, and the food tasty. If Chatham’s plays to its strengths, a bright future lies ahead.
Chatham’s Southern Comfort Food
496 East High Street
Lexington, Kentucky 40502