Where you can eat the lamb next door
by Will Samson, author of Justice in the Burbs
The average food item travels 1,546 miles to get to your grocery store. The average food item at Stella's travels about 15 miles. And you can taste the difference.
There is a growing movement toward restaurants that serve local food. Perhaps the most famous is Chez Panisse founded by Alice Waters in the 1970's. Waters began serving local food simply because the taste was better and the ingredients fresher. Since the advent of her establishment, the Slow Food Movement and the concept of food routes has inspired many more restaurants to look around their area and ask how they can bring local food to the table. Stella's Kentucky Deli, launched in 2006 on Jefferson Street in Lexington, Kentucky, is part of this movement.
Walk into Stella's and you might think this was any other neighborhood diner. The tables are cozy. The glass showcase reveals delicious pies. The drink machine highlights Ale-8, a Kentucky version of ginger ale that is required serving for all respectable Lexington restaurants. And, the plastic menus already have been worn to a comfortable diner level.
But open those menus and you know you have left diner land. You might choose a lamb burger of premium local lamb, topped with Kenny's local cheese, one of the best quality cheeses I have ever tasted, local or not. Or, try the Big D, which is a local, organic braut. My personal favorite is the Apple and Kentucky Bleu Cheese, which the menu describes as "Grilled Apples and Kentucky Bleu Cheese on 7-Grain or French With Toasted Walnuts & Balsamic Mayo." One bite would have made a local food convert out of me. Not that you are confined only to local ingredients. They serve The Elvis, a grilled peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich on french bread which I have never tried but the woman at the table next to me on my last visit raved about.
If you are coming to Stella's for lunch, expect a crowd. This is a small restaurant and, with the quality of the food, is packed during peak hours. You might consider Stella's for breakfast, which, with the good amount of local bacon and sausage available around Lexington, makes their breakfast dishes to die for. Combine that with a bottomless cup of fair trade coffee and you will leave Stella's happy.
The owners of Stella's are committed to the local area, with long ties to the community. They recently purchased Al's Bar at the corner of Sixth and Limestone, a less genteel section of town, in the hopes of offering healthy food to the bar crowd. Al's has a lunch special of a local burger, sweet potato fries and your choice of a beer or coke, all for five dollars.
Stella's Kentucky Deli is open during the week from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm and serve a Saturday brunch from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. They are located at 143 Jefferson Street, Lexington, KY. Their phone number is 859-255-DELI. Bon appétit.