Smiley Pete’s (Completely Subjective) Guide to Lexington’s Top 5 Local Burgers
From campus classics to gastropub delights, there’s never been a better time to feed a burger craving in the Bluegrass.
Lexington’s self-proclaimed “first gastropub,” The Village Idiot delivers a slightly more outrageous take on burger deliciousness. Sure, they have a regular burger, and it’s great. But their signature burger, The Idiot, makes for a truly interesting burger experience. They start with house-ground beef from Marksbury Farm, a Garrard County farm, market and processing facility so obsessive about their beef that each patty comes from the same cow.
Next, they top the patty with Tillamook Cheddar and a huge onion ring filled with braised short rib meat.
Served with fries and one of 20 draft beers or dozens of bottled, The Idiot is a great choice if you’re feeling adventurous.
The Village Idiot
307 West Short – Downtown
Sawyer’s Classic Burger
Sawyer’s began as a sit down, table service restaurant specializing in chili. Over the years it has morphed into one of downtown’s favorite burger joints. Popular with downtown lunchers and huge on game days, the Sawyer’s Classic Burger is always a hit. Inspired by his grandfather’s hamburgers, owner Jim Sawyer changed the restaurant to a line order when he introduced flat iron burgers to the menu.
What makes Sawyer’s burgers special? First of all, you’ll likely be welcomed by Jim, one of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Order your burger, and they’ll get to work, cooking it up on a flat iron griddle that came from a Navy ship. Next comes the interesting part, the toppings bar. Think salad bar, but for your burger. Sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions, melted cheese … dress your burger just the way you like it. Add fries or house-made chips and you have an American classic.
325 West Main – Downtown
Since 1981 Lynagh’s has been the campus version of the laid-back Irish pub. During this time, they have been
serving up what is arguably the most iconic burger in town. Offered eight different ways, this beauty has been a staple of locals and college students alike.
It just works.
The only thing holding the O’Round back from burger immortality is … potato chips. Potato chips just don’t cut it as a side unless they are house-made. Mercifully, they have added some optional sides in the past few years. But, get a fryer!
Burger + fries = win.
Lynagh’s Irish Pub
388 Woodland – Campus/Chevy Chase
The O’Round is also available at:
Shamrock Bar & Grille - Patchen Drive & Hartland Parkway
County Club’s 193 Burger began as a fundraiser for local non-profit art gallery Institute 193, but was so popular that it quickly became a regular menu item. Chef/owner Johnny Shipley and crew create this little marvel from a blend of 80/20 Creekstone no-ash beef seared on a griddle. The patty is topped with bacon jam created from bacon, jalapeño, coffee, maple syrup and vinegar, finished off with smoked portobella and sharp cheddar, and served on a Sunrise Bakery bun smeared with gochujang ketchup (a savory, pungent and generally awesome fermented Korean condiment, made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt).
Pair the 193 with some poutine — County Club’s version of the Canadian dish featuring French fries smothered with homemade gravy and cheese curds — and a beer from the well-curated menu, and you’ll be happy.
555 Jefferson – Western Suburb
Sidebar Grill is as laid back, friendly and unpretentious as the name of its signature burger.
Opened in 2008 by Jonny and Lisa Cox, Sidebar quickly became known as a place to get a great burger and a beer at a reasonable price. The burger is hot, fresh and delicious. The hard part is deciding what you’d like to accompany your burger — choosing among beautiful house-cut fries, thick sweet-potato fries or house-made, seasoned chips can be agonizing.
They are also known for great veggie burger options.
147 North Limestone – Downtown
Other Burgers of Interest
What kind of list would be complete without a trip to Tolly Ho? It has been the quintessential college hangout for the past 43 years and shows no signs of slowing. This greasy spoon will serve up a classic Tolly-Ho burger or one of its several variations 24 hours a day.
Late-night trivia answer: The name “Tolly-Ho” was formed from the names of the founders, Bob Tolley and Bob Hollopeter.
606 South Broadway -Off Campus
Bacon, egg and cheese hamburger on a Spalding Donut. That is all.
1415 Leestown Road -Meadowthorpe
Steakhouse Kobe Burger
A half pound of premium Kobe beef, char-grilled with melted gruyere
on a butter-toasted Brioche bun with parmesan-garlic mayonnaise,
crunchy onions, crisp lettuce and ripened tomato.
3347 Tates Creek Rd -Lansdowne
1920 Pleasant Ridge Dr. -Hamburg
3735 Palomar Centre Dr. -Palomar
Harry’s Mini Cheeseburgers
The menu description — “our signature burgers are grilled to perfection
and served with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and pickles” — doesn’t really
do these guys justice. Hot and juicy, they slide down easy.
3373 Tates Creek Road -Lansdowne