Where to Eat and Drink, What to Do When Visiting Keeneland

Events / Travel
Visiting Keeneland in Lexington is one of the true ‘bucket-list’ destinations for any passionate fan of Thoroughbred racing. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Are you a horse racing fan that is planning a trip this fall to Keeneland Race Course, either for the fall meet and/or the Breeders’ Cup?  If you answered yes, you are not alone. As host of the 2022 World Championships, Lexington, Ky. will surely be a popular travel destination for horseplayers and racing fans from far and wide this season.

Whether you are a repeat visitor or a frequent visitor to the greater Lexington area, this may very well be the first trip to Keeneland you’ve made since the pandemic, and you may not be up to speed on the latest offerings on the local hospitality scene. And so, here are some spots to be aware of that are new and wonderful in an around Lexington to make a part of your upcoming trip to Keeneland, plus some tips on where to stay and some fun things to do while you are there. The Breeders’ Cup is what it’s all about, but if you are visiting Keeneland, the races aren’t the only game in town.


WHERE TO EAT

New and Notable

Courtesy of East End Tap and Table

East End Tap and Table

333 E. Main St., Lexington

859-785-2511

East End Tap and Table is a casual gastropub and tap house near the heart of the city that serves classic American dishes with an international twist. They serve brunch, lunch and dinner with good cocktails and a rotating beer list. Happy hour weekdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. offers a variety of great food and drink specials. This establishment receives a certified Seal of Approval from ABR’s resident central Kentucky foodie, Greg Charkoudian.

Frank and Dino’s

271 W. Short St., Lexington

859-303-4007

Frank and Dino’s is located in downtown Lexington in the Security Trust building, serving up traditional Italian recipes with fresh ingredients in a nostalgic Italian-American yet cosmopolitan atmosphere. The restaurant boasts a vast wine selection, which you can enjoy in the dining room or in the bar area, which features live music on select nights. They offer 50% off food and drink specials for happy hour until 6:30. Frank and Dino’s is co-owned by Carlo Vaccarezza, a longtime horse owner, breeder, and trainer based in south Florida.

ItalX

160 W Main St., Lexington

859-407-5100

ItalX promises elevated contemporary Italian cuisine with quality ingredients and inspired service in a space that is warm and inviting. It’s located downtown at City Center, the hotel and business development that opened in early 2020 and is getting back up to full activity after the height of the COVID pandemic. ItalX serves dinner six nights a week and lunch on weekends, with plenty of wines, cocktails, small plates, and pasta entrees and desserts made from scratch. Vegetarian and gluten-free options also available.


Old Favorites

Lockbox

167 W. Main, Lexington (corner of Upper and Main)

859-899-6860

Enjoy hearty food at this popular restaurant on the ground floor of the 21C Hotel (already booked for Breeders’ Cup) that serves seasonal local dishes for breakfast and dinner, plus brunches on weekends. You will have a selection of wines and inspired cocktails to go along with a variety of salads, and entrees such as steak frites, grilled quail, catfish, and the Lockbox cheeseburger, all served in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Courtesy of Epping's on Eastside

Epping’s on Eastside

264 Walton Ave., Lexington

859-971-0240

For a higher-end dining experience that should not disappoint, Epping’s on Eastside offers steak, chicken, pork, and fish entrees with a local-first mindset with ingredients sourced from the region’s faming community. Located in a renovated historic building on Lexington’s Warehouse block, this is a sophisticated space offering a top-notch dining experience for dinner six nights a week, with brunch on weekends. Weekly events are offered, such as wine dinners, live music nights, and happy hour specials weekdays from 4-6 p.m.

Keeneland Track Kitchen

Keeneland Race Course

4201 Versailles Road, Lexington

859-254-3412

You don’t have to be a horseman to enjoy breakfast or lunch at Keeneland’s Track Kitchen staring at 6 a.m. daily, but you certainly might end up rubbing elbows with trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, and other race fans at this iconic attraction. If you are staying near the racetrack and visiting Keeneland, you truly don’t know what you are missing if you haven’t been to the Track Kitchen, which is open to the public on the Keeneland backstretch all year long. Located near the barn area, just follow the on-site signage and look for the black water tower. You’ll be glad you did. Online ordering is available.


WHERE TO DRINK

The Break Room and Elkhorn Tavern

1178 Manchester St., Lexington

These two establishments are among several in Lexington’s hopping Distillery District, just west of downtown off of Manchester Street and following alongside the Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek. The Break Room is a classic dive bar, while the Elkhorn is a showcase for cocktails made from Barrell House Distilling products. Both places also serve food and feature live music. Other nearby places to check out are a location of the popular Goodfellas Pizzaria chain and, across the street, The Burl for live music and classic arcade games.–Patrick Reed

Courtesy of Creaux

Creaux

310 W. Short St., Lexington

859-469-8960

This Big Easy-inspired cocktail bar has a relaxed vibe through most evenings until the DJ starts around 11 p.m. on weekends, when the energy picks up. Before that, stop for a drink and a bite (gumbo, fried fish, beignets are on the menu) and especially check this place out for live music, again ending around 11. Creaux books excellent jazz and r&b bands from the area on Friday and Saturday.–Patrick Reed


WHAT TO DO

If you are visiting Lexington for the Keeneland fall meet or for the Breeders’ Cup and have a few extra days to enjoy some of the sights and attractions in the area, read onward for some entertainment options that may be appealing for horseplayers.

Keeneland Race Course

4201 Versailles Road, Lexington

859-254-3412 and 800-456-3412

The 2022 Keeneland fall race meet will feature 17 live Thoroughbred racing dates, Wednesdays through Sundays from Oct. 7 to Oct. 29.  Keeneland will attract big fields and quality horses befitting its status as the world epicenter of Thoroughbred horseracing. Gates open daily at 11 a.m. Plus, this year racing will extend another weekend at Keeneland as racing returns for the Breeders’ Cup World Championship meeting on Friday-Saturday, Nov. 4-5. Keeneland began requiring ticket purchases in advance as COVID-19 restrictions eased up and caps daily attendance – check their website and/or call ahead for availability.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The Lexington area is the world capital of bourbon whiskey, and there are 15 bourbon distilleries located within 45 minutes of the city. No visit to the area would be complete without vising at least one bourbon distillery, or taking a tour of multiple distilleries, many of which are not located far away from Keeneland. Among the many, many bourbon distilleries you might want to visit in closest proximity to Keeneland are Woodford Reserve, located at 7785 McCracken Pike in Versailles, Ky., and Four Roses, located at 1224 Bonds Mill Road in Lawrenceburg, Ky.

Courtesy of Kentucky Horse Park

Kentucky Horse Park

4089 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington

859-233-4303

Lexington is the horse capital of the world, and if you drive out of town in any direction you will soon find yourself in horse country surrounded by rolling hills and pristine Kentucky bluegrass. Most of the big farms like the famous Claiborne and Calumet and many, many more offer tours of the horse farms, either as scheduled public tours or on a call-ahead and make a reservation basis. Perhaps the best option for a day trip is the world-renowned Kentucky Horse Park, which is a showcase of museums, and exhibits where you can see 50 different breeds of horses and visit the Hall of Champions, which is the current residence of former equine athletes such as Funny Cide and Point Given. You can also visit the Memorial Walk and see the final resting place of horses such as Man o’ War and memorials to horses who were former residents of the park like Alysheba, Cigar, Forego, Go For Gin, and John Henry.


HOW TO GET TO LEXINGTON

Lexington, Ky.

Keeneland and Lexington are accessible via two Interstate Highways including I-75 to/from Cincinnati to the north and Knoxville to the south, and the east-west I-64 which connects Lexington to Louisville. Most people who visit Lexington will fly into Blue Grass Airport, which is conveniently located right across from Keeneland on the other side of Route 60 (Versailles Road).

As for hotel options, there are of course, many places to stay in Lexington/Fayette Co. and surrounding towns, but it’s best to plan your trip as soon as possible with the knowledge that most of the higher-quality lodging in Lexington is already sold out for Breeders’ Cup weekend, and many rooms are booked already for weekends in October when Keeneland is holding its traditional meet.

Blue Grass Airport

4000 Terminal Drive

An Official Partner of the 2022 Breeders' Cup World Championships, Blue Grass Airport is served by five commercial airlines offering 16 non-stop destinations at a terminal that neighbors Keeneland. New flights have been added for Breeders’ Cup weekend serving Denver, Houston, and Washington Dulles on United as well as flights between Lexington and New York LaGuardia on Delta.

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