As the sun descends over downtown Lexington and gives way to the city’s own twinkling lights, guests take the Chase Building elevator 15 stories up to gaze out the windows of the aptly named Vue Restaurant. Executive chef Ray Cameron can hardly take a moment to enjoy the view, as he presides over a bustling kitchen that churns out creative American fusions alongside traditional steak and seafood dishes.
As Chef Cameron’s creations arrive at their oversized booths, guests shift their eyes from the downtown landscape to artful plates of Kentucky Alltech Angus steaks, bacon-wrapped scallops, and pan-seared pork tenderloin medallions. A wood-burning stove—used for baking the restaurant’s signature pizzas—adds a warm, crackling soundtrack to meals illuminated by hanging lights above. Behind the trapezoidal, granite-top bar, mixologists craft drinks such as the bourbon-based Bluegrass Sundown and Absolut Vanilla–based Godiva Chocolate Kiss. Aside from these and other cocktails, guests may order wines and craft beers to enjoy with views of Lexington’s most famous landmarks and Spiderman impersonators.
In the middle of July, alfresco diners at Le Deauville might dive headlong into a Bastille Day celebration, watching as servers light red, white, and blue cupcake towers with sparklers or mediate street-side matches of pétanque. Though they bathe their sidewalk bistro in patriotic colors on state holidays, the staffers also immerse visitors in French culture year-round. Chefs populate seasonal menus with traditional French dishes such as steamed mussels in tomato and herbs, roasted rack of lamb with bordelaise mint sauce, and sea scallops with wild-mushroom risotto. They sometimes augment these dishes with globe-hopping guests including Caribbean lobster and Spanish mackerel, introducing new flavors to French preparations without having to pass sushi off as really, really strange-looking ratatouille.
In warm weather, servers ferry these dishes to sidewalk tables draped in white tablecloths next to the restaurant's French-door-covered façade, which is illuminated each night by strings of colored light bulbs. Gray tiled floors inlaid with intricate designs spread out inside, running between dark-wood-paneled and exposed-brick walls. Here, patrons gather at café tables or sidle up to an old wooden bar, where servers pour from a full stock of beer, wine, and spirits.
An open-flame hearth is at the heart of Cosi's kitchen space, giving sandwiches and pizzas their toasty crunch. But there's a lot more to the menu than what happens under the flame. The T.B.M. sandwich piles tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella inside warm flatbread and the tandoori chicken sandwich brightens up grilled chicken breast with red peppers. Even salads are hearty meals here, with choices such as the cobb mixing greens with grilled chicken breast, bacon, and gorgonzola in a sherry-shallot vinaigrette. The crown on top of any meal here is undoubtedly the s'mores, in which two to four diners roast their own marshmallows over a tabletop fire pit, then sandwich the sugar cloud with chocolate and graham crackers before dragging their sleeping bags into the kitchen for a night's rest.