Kentucky Wildcats: Top 10 Restaurants in Lexington on Gameday

by Bryan Fyalkowski

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Kentucky Gameday Guides: Restaurants | Bars | Activities | Tailgates | Parking

We’re not here to discuss whether Kentucky is a football school or a basketball school. We’re here to say that – regardless if you stand with Coach Cal or Coach Stoops – as long as you bleed Big Blue, you’re gonna get well-fed if you’re in Lexington restaurants on gameday.

The No. 20 Wildcats have EIGHT (!!) home games this season at Kroger Field. Key SEC matchups include a November 19 game vs. No. 3 Georgia and Homecoming tilt on October 15 vs. Mississippi State. Plus, Kentucky hosts Louisville on Thanksgiving weekend for the Governor’s Cup, aiming for a fourth-straight win over the Cardinals.

We also checked in with Drew Franklin and Nick Roush of KSR for their opinions of the best Lexington restaurants to eat at on gameday. Buckle up, Cats fans. Here are the top Lexington restaurants on gameday.

KSBar & Grille

  • Location: 1030 S. Broadway
  • Distance to Kroger Field: 1.3 miles (26-minute walk)
  • Saturday Hours: 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.
  • Gotta Try: Smoke N’ Fried Jumbo Wings
  • Website

Born from the mind of Kentucky Sports Radio and Matt Jones himself. KSBar & Grille is the perfect sports bar to go to pre-game, post-game or even during the game to cheer on the Cats. The go-to has to be the Smoke N’ Fried Jumbo Wings, which come in 11 different sauce options.

If wings aren’t your thing (somehow), there are so many quality options up and down the MENU. KSBar & Grille has it all – apps, burgers, BBQ and other southern favorites. Drink-wise, there are up to 32 beers on tap and most of the domestic favorites available in bottles.

In fact, KSBar & Grille was just voted Best of Lexington in a few major categories.

KSBar & Grille is a restaurant that thrives on gameday in Lexington in particular.

“KSBar is the headquarters of Kentucky Sports Radio and the unofficial biggest gameday tailgate. There’s a live, two-hour KSR pregame show on-site before kickoff, plus a LexTran bus shuttle over to Kroger Field for one dollar each way.”

Drew Franklin, KSR

That atmosphere’s absolutely out of this world.

The Local Taco

  • Location: 315 S. Limestone
  • Distance to Kroger Field: 1.5 miles (30-minute walk)
  • Saturday Hours: 10 a.m. – 12 a.m.
  • Gotta Try: Korean BBQ Taco
  • Website

The Local Taco is open 14 hours on Saturday’s, making it the perfect place to swing by before or after the game if you’re in the mood for Mexican food. The MENU has a little bit of everything you would expect to see at a taco joint, with some extra pizzazz. Get things started with the queso-guac-salsa trio. Then move on to the main course consisting of enchiladas, quesadillas or tacos.

The tacos come in a lot of different options, including steak, brisket, chicken, fish and more. My personal favorite is the Korean BBQ Taco – it has Korean-style beef, sesame seeds, Asian slaw and a BBQ sauce that hits just right. Also, be on the lookout for the special taco of the day. The Local Taco posts that one on its social media accounts and has it posted in the restaurant.

Plus, The Local Taco isn’t just for lunch or dinner:

“Located near campus, The Local Taco lets visitors see where the students spend most of their social time, without the crazy antics. The best time to visit is in the morning before early kickoffs. The Local Taco offers inexpensive breakfast tacos, mimosas and Bloody Marys to start your football Saturday with a bang.”

Nick Roush, KSR

Joe Bologna’s Restaurant & Pizzeria

  • Location: 120 W. Maxwell Street
  • Distance to Kroger Field: 1.6 miles (31-minute walk)
  • Saturday Hours: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
  • Gotta Try: Joe’s Specialty Breadstick
  • Website

There are obviously many pizza places in Lexington, but there’s only one Joe Bologna’s Restaurant & Pizzeria. And no, it ain’t pronounced “baloney.”

The MENU is simple, yet extensive. Along with pizzas, Joe Bologna’s serves pasta dinners, sandwiches, salads, soups and appetizers. All dishes are homemade and the staff buys and uses fresh ingredients across the board.

Pizzas come in three sizes, with the choice of hand-tossed or Sicilian pan-style. The “Supreme” pie is exactly what the name says – with every available topping except chicken. Whatever you end up ordering for your entrée, Joe’s Specialty Breadstick served with spicy garlic butter as an add-on is a must.

Joe Bologna’s doesn’t take reservations, but you will have no problem getting served. On a record day of business, they once served over 1,400 breadsticks, 300 dinners and 700 pizzas – sending everybody home happy. 

“I love taking care of people and I love cooking,” Bologna said on an America’s Best Restaurants featurette. “We just love people to come have a good total experience when they come out to eat. Nobody leaves hungry here.”

Tony’s of Lexington

  • Location: 401 W. Main Street
  • Distance to Kroger Field: 2.1 miles (9-minute drive via S. Limestone)
  • Saturday Hours: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Gotta Try: Sir Barton (N.Y. Strip Steak)
  • Website

For you Men of Means who are looking to visit the best steakhouse in town, look no further than Tony’s of Lexington. The place doesn’t open until 5 p.m., so a victory dinner (after drinks) on September 17 following that 12 noon kick against Youngstown State looks like a pretty good possibility.

Tony’s of Lexington has everything on the MENU that you would expect and demand from a top-of-the-line steakhouse. Seven prime cuts of steak, braised short ribs, rack of lamb, pork chop and even oven-roasted chicken. Not to mention the raw bar, seafood appetizers and array of salads if you’re looking for something lighter.

In 2017, Tasting Table named Tony’s of Lexington the best steakhouse in the Commonwealth. The site’s Meredith Heil wrote:

“Opening in 2015, Tony’s of Lexington has quickly become one of Kentucky’s finest. The glossy, post-industrial ambiance feels at once edgy and stately, and the Italian-focused menu features a perfectly curated array of originals … And, as you might expect, Tony’s stocks enough award-winning bourbon to kill a horse (you know, figuratively).”

Tony’s of Lexington also offers a smaller bar menu, as well as full bourbon and wine lists, plus a special cocktail menu. Be sure to call ahead to make reservations if you want to ensure your place in the beautiful dining room.

Josie’s Restaurant

  • Location: 821 Chevy Chase Place
  • Distance to Kroger Field: 1.2 miles (24-minute walk)
  • Saturday Hours: 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Gotta Try: Pancakes and Breakfast Potatoes
  • Website

The best breakfast in Lexington is a little off the beaten path. It’s not just my opinion – Josie’s earned that title for 2022. The first part of Josie’s open hours are from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., so it’s one of the premier restaurants in Lexington to begin gameday with a delicious breakfast.

The MENU is a thing of beauty, highlighted with omelets, eggs benedict options and traditional breakfast plates. But the featured item here is the big, fluffy Pancakes. If you do order the flapjacks, there are some great sides to pair with them. The cheese grit casserole is excellent, but the top-tier choice is the Breakfast Potatoes.

Be on the lookout for the daily specials, which can include unique styles of pancakes, waffles, French toast and eggs benedict.

If breakfast isn’t your thing (somehow), the lunch menu has a wide array of burgers, sandwiches and salads. Josie’s might have a little bit of a wait to get into the small dining room, but it’s absolutely worth the wait.

Winchell’s Restaurant & Bar

  • Location: 348 Southland Drive
  • Distance to Kroger Field: 1.6 miles (31-minute walk)
  • Saturday Hours: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Gotta Try: Shrimp & Grits
  • Website

Winchell’s Restaurant & Bar is essentially a Lexington institution. It’s family-owned and operated by locals Eric “Abe” Lansdale and Graham Waller, who both graduated from Henry Clay High School. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1997, Abe and Graham returned home to continue the tradition.

“Our goal is to make the people of Kentucky proud by serving fresh, homemade food in a casual and friendly environment,” the website says. How can you go wrong with that kind of attitude? They also add, of course: “Go Cats!”

Winchell’s Restaurant & Bar has a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. Some favorites to check out are the Rueben grill sandwich (below) and fried chicken dinner. But the blue ribbon item has to be the Shrimp & Grits, which is just on another level.

The bar selection is impressive, with pretty much any beer or wine you could hope for on gameday in any of Lexington’s restaurants. And the cocktail menu is really quite nice. The Maker’s Old Fashion, Man O War and Woodford Manhattan are some awesome bourbon drinks, as well as the classic Mint Julep.

Plus, Winchell’s Restaurant & Bar goes the distance. It opens early and keeps the lights on late:

“A Lexington staple of over 25 years, Winchell’s opens its doors early – 8 a.m. every day – for the early birds wanting a bar with breakfast. It’s only a five-minute drive to Kroger Field.”

Drew Franklin, KSR

Saul Good Restaurant & Pub

  • Location: 3801 Mall Road #120
  • Distance to Kroger Field: 3.5 miles (15-minute drive via Nicholasville Road)
  • Saturday Hours: 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
  • Gotta Try: Kentucky Hot Brown Pizza
  • Website

There’s nothing quite like the warm embrace you feel when you walk into a pub. You get that exact feeling from Saul Good Restaurant & Pub, which has the stellar combination of food, drinks and atmosphere you look for on gameday. It’s not within walking distance of Kroger Field, but the short drive down Nicholasville Road is worth the trip.

I would describe the food from Saul Good Restaurant & Pub as a little bit elevated from what you might normally see from a pub. Case-in-point is the beautiful array of pizzas on the MENU, including crab rangoon, Thai peanut and Kentucky Hot Brown pies. But Saul Good Restaurant & Pub also has the classics, like nachos, wings, sliders and fish & chips.

As for drinks, you’ll find a long list of drafts, and the local brews are 1/2 off on Saturday’s. An inviting setup, friendly staff and an A+ menu are basically begging you to come and try it out. And you won’t leave Saul Good Restaurant & Pub disappointed.

Bad Wolf Burgers

  • Location: 350 Foreman Avenue
  • Distance to Kroger Field: 1.6 miles (32-minute walk)
  • Saturday Hours: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Gotta Try: Th Bad Wolf Burger
  • Website

This place doesn’t mess around. The Bad Wolf Burgers MENU is simple, and Bad Wolf Burgers absolutely crushes each offering. Each burger has the option of a single patty, plus an additional 6 oz. add-on for $5.

I’ve heard good things about the mushroom burger, as well as the cajun burger. The most recent burger of the month was the cherry bomb, which had pimento cheese piled on top with a single cherry pepper. Seriously drooling all over the screen right now.

But the cream of the crop is the spot’s namesake: The Bad Wolf Burger. It comes with bacon and unbelievable house-crafted beer cheese. If you’re craving more of a breakfast-y vibe, look no further than the “Spalding” – which Bad Wolf Burgers says is “scientifically proven to cure the hangover.”

Bad Wolf Burgers is an understated place, but everything totally smacks. It is a must-go on gameday in Lexington if you can’t get a burger restaurant out of your mind.

Carson’s Food & Drink

  • Location: 362 E. Main Street
  • Distance to Kroger Field: 1.5 miles (31-minute walk)
  • Saturday Hours: 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
  • Gotta Try: Carson’s Nachos
  • Website

According to their website, Carson’s Food & Drink “brings Lexington to life” with its “old Kentucky elegance.”

Walking into the Lexington restaurant on gameday is jaw-dropping – it looks luxurious and spacious, yet feels cozy and comfortable. The MENU completely rocks. A full page is devoted to entrées and steaks, with another that lists all of the sandwiches and salads. Carson’s Food & Drink has a lot of options, but they do them well.

The larger plates are definitely delicious, but the appetizers are incredibly appealing in their own right. You surely can’t go wrong with the béarnase truffle fries or the pretzels & beer cheese. But Carson’s Nachos are the golden ticket.

Enjoy with a drink (or two, or three) to get gameday started for lunch, or keep it rolling after a big Cats win. The cocktail list is expansive, with classic concoctions as well as seasonal creations. The bourbon list has anything a Kentuckian could dream of, with over 50 (!!) different ones to choose from.

Charlie Brown’s Restaurant & Lounge

  • Location: 816 Euclid Avenue
  • Distance to Kroger Field: 1.5 miles (31-minute walk)
  • Saturday Hours: 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.
  • Gotta Try: Hot Pepper Cheese
  • Website

Last but not least is Charlie Brown’s Restaurant & Lounge, a one-of-a-kind joint that has been around for over 30 years. It has unique couch seating, coffee tables and regular bar top tables, as well as an outdoor patio.

This is the kind of place you could come to with your parents, or your grandparents, or your friends. Whoever’s your +1 to the Kentucky game, they would love Charlie Brown’s Restaurant & Lounge. In this laid-back atmosphere, everyone fits in.

For food, you’ll find a wide selection of bar-type sandwiches and burgers. Thirty total, actually. Plus, there are new specials on the board all the time. But if you need something to munch on (who doesn’t?), the Hot Pepper Cheese is the way to go. They’re little fried cheese balls with sides of ranch and salsa as dipping sauces. The fried mushrooms with horsey sauce are also a great choice for fantastic finger food.

Plus, the staff is friendly, the beer is cold and the drinks are cheap. Not much more you can ask for!