Jaclyn M. Johnson: Eatin’ Good at Pony Finals – Best Eats in Lexington

It’s been a long horse show day… You’ve sweated, worked hard, probably cried a little, and hopefully celebrated some successes. But don’t make the mistake of being lured into Chick-Fil-A. The Bluegrass has so much more to offer. Work hard, eat well… a pony finals motto to live by.

As the ponies and mothers converge on Lexington this week, I hope to offer suggestions to a few local gems that will have you wishing you could stay in Lex year round. Our local economy and your stomachs will thank you for the decision to support the little man rather than the big chains. This post might also be useful for those of you heading to Lexington for USHJA Derby Championship, Aug. 18-20.

Willie’s Locally Known

photo credit: chevychaser.com

Willie’s Locally Known photo credit: chevychaser.com

The first stop on this culinary tour is a barbecue joint that I simply can’t get enough of. The food is fantastic. I recommend the fried green tomatoes as a starter, pulled pork plate or fried catfish

for entree, and you HAVE to try the brownie dessert that is covered in raspberry habanero sauce. Those are my favorites, but the entire menu is good. The best thing about this joint is there is always live music after 8 or 9 p.m. … and it’s good live music. If you visit during lunch, the playlist is on point. The beer selection is great (*nudge, nudge horse show moms*). The service is usually great and you can rank order your favorite pair of thick-rimmed hipster glasses on the wait staff. Let’s just say, there’s plenty of flannel and skinny jeans.Pro Tip: There’s a burger called the “Willy Stiff” that is not on the regular menu, but it is dynamite. They offered it during Lexington’s annual burger week and it was so popular they decided to keep it around.





Or, as the regulars call it “Su’s”. Su is the owner and manager of Osaka. It is a beautifully run sushi restaurant with the best rolls in town. Su is fantastic – if she’s not too busy, she will likely stop by

your booth and chit chat. She is as genuine and sweet as they come. The Rockin’ Salmon roll and the Y2K roll are my personal favorites. If you have a birthday, make sure you let the wait staff know. It’s a smaller building, so often times at peak hours there is a small wait.Pro Tip: Su’s sister is learning how to mix cocktails, and she is incredible at it. I usually just tell her something vague like, “mix me something with bourbon” and wait to see what her creativity produces. It is always delicious.

Bourbon and Toulouse Chicken etouffee, jambalaya, gumbo, red beans and sausage, homemade hot sauce, omg, omg, I love this place. For $8-10 you get enough food to feed two people. And it’s the best comfort food in the world. If you show in Lex more than a few times a year, it’s worth grabbing a punch card. So many meals, and then you get a free one on the house. This place is super down to earth, so don’t hesitate to walk in in breeches and a t-shirt.

Pro Tip: The Jambro – B&T’s jambalaya topped with gumbo. A beautiful, beautiful thing.

Bourbon n Toulouse Photo credit: visitlex.com

Bourbon n Toulouse. Photo credit: visitlex.com



Farm to table restaurant located in an old post office in a part of town that used to be known as “Pine Grove”. Small and quiet, perfect if you’re meeting up with friends you don’t get to see very often. The best part about this place is the sunsets you can catch right off the front porch. It’s located out of town about 15 min. but it’s worth the drive (it happens to be right near the farm I board my horses at). The rib eye is amazing. Everything is completely locally sourced. The menu changes daily, so recommendations are a bit hard to make.Pro Tip: You should most definitely order The Don Pedro dessert. It is like an adult milkshake with brownies and bourbon.

Athenian Grill 

Photo credit: kentucky.com

Photo credit: Kentucky.com

Casual and quick. The best Mediterranean food in town. The pastitsio is so delicious. It is a Greek take on lasagna served with a Greek salad. Several vegetarian options here. I don’t honestly have that much more to say about it, other than it is just darn good food.

Pro Tip: Parking sucks, especially if you drive a truck. You are better served to park on Ashland and walk then try to navigate the small parking lot.


About Jaclyn Meg Johnson: My name is Jaclyn Johnson (although those that knew me as a kiddo know me as Meg Johnson, which is some cruel joke my parents played on me- making me go by a name that isn’t actually my name at all). I am constantly battling the reality that I can no longer wear bows and jods in the show ring, and I have actual bills to pay. My discipline de préférence is the hunters, although I admire, follow, and dabble in others. You can find my in the Adult Amateur ring counting strides and dreaming of future Derby glory!