Gastronomique roadtrip: Midway’s independents form top-notch culinary medley


“One of my favorite restaurant venues, and also one of the more interesting ones in the Bluegrass region, is the Midway area. It’s one of my favorites because of some interesting independent restaurants and other independent retailers in the antique and gift sectors. However, from a trade area perspective, it also bears some note. While the town itself has a small population, it is merely a short drive from Frankfort, Versailles, Lexington and Georgetown and is in the “heart of the Thoroughbred industry.” The town also sharpened its business game by completing its Midway renaissance project a couple of years ago, which resulted in an upgrade of its business district. I still believe it has unfinished work in that more parking is needed and perhaps some new high traffic draw. In any case, it is special, and Holiday Travel recognized this by naming it one of America’s 10 best small towns. Go visit the town, and also check it out online at www.midwayky.net.

As for high-quality independent restaurants, I think you have to salute those with proven staying power. Bistro La Belle is entering its tenth year in business in Midway, and proprietor Laura Wolfrom has earned respect for her ability as a business-savvy restaurateur and for leading the way in bringing fine dining to Midway. There are some in this business who know the business side and some who know the food side, and she has proven she knows both. She also knows that team members are key, and she has a fine staff and first-rate chef in Dewayne Hoskins. Additionally, she is always looking to fine-tune and improve her business model. Currently she is only open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday. Also, she did something that from a restaurant business strategy standpoint I find interesting. Over time, she has reduced her operating hours, but within the remaining operating hours, she has expanded with her Gallery Bar area. This is a classic example of figuring out the niche that works for you and working that niche. Experience this culinary gem by having dinner there soon, but reservations are suggested.

Holly Hill Inn is another first-rate restaurant as is their affiliated country store, bakery and deli, known as Wallace Station. Holly Hill Inn offers dining for dinner and lunch Wednesday through Saturday and a traditional Sunday brunch. Owners Chris and Quita Michel have created an outstanding destination dining venue, and reservations are also strongly recommended at their establishment. The restaurant’s Web site, www.hollyhillinn.com, is a great information resource.

On Old Frankfort Pike, diners will also find their Wallace Station restaurant, which has fantastic sandwiches and other items developed by Chef Jared Richardson in a very casual atmosphere.

At the end of Main Street is the Black Tulip, which features a great patio and also indoor dining. This restaurant has fine food, and on a typical Friday or Saturday evening when the weather is great, it’s a happening gathering place and a great atmosphere for drinks or a meal.

A relative newcomer to the Midway scene is Heirloom Restaurant (www.heirloommidway.com), which features “eclectic contemporary cuisine” by Owner/Chef Mark Wombles, who trained at the California Culinary Academy. Like many of the nicer restaurants in the area, it is not open on Mondays. And once again, reservations are strongly recommended.

Quirk Cafè fills another important niche in that it offers lunch and free WiFi connectivity, which in this mobile workforce environment is critical in certain restaurant categories. I have had many great lunches there and was able to pop open my laptop and catch up on e-mail at the same time. It’s quick, and with moderate prices, which is key to a solid lunch business.

There are other options, such as The New Cafè at Le Marche’ and some other small and seasonal foodservice options. Additionally, the next time you are in Midway, take a moment to stroll down to Dudley Street and visit Susie Quick’s Honest Farm “Pure Kentucky” Market (www.honestfarm.org).

To summarize, this is a very charming town that Kentucky should be proud of. I predict that, with proper planning and preparation, the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games will put this town on the map in a much bigger way. The restaurants that are there today exist in a sort of synergistic relationship, in that they all serve a niche and compliment each other. Together, they offer to the consumer a portion for every appetite, a taste for most every culinary palette and a price for every pocketbook. They do this with a small number of independent establishments, so I encourage everyone to support them and those like them. With its food and beverage traditions, Kentucky is a world-class culinary destination in the making and one of the “culinary power centers” in this state just might be this cool little gem of a town!

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