Article Written by Braxton Caudill
During my time in college, meeting and conversing with countless new faces, the topic of hometowns was always common. I have met people who moved to Lexington and seem disconnected, physically and mentally, from their life back home. In contrast, I have met others who could go on and on about how amazing their hometown was, and in talking about it brought a distinct feeling of affection for their roots. When it comes to me, I always explain that my hometown is a mere 30 minutes away from downtown Lexington, so there’s no way I could miss it that much. Yet, as I have grown older and wiser, the feeling is increasingly prevalent that although I still live close, it may not be close enough…
Versailles (Ver-SAILS) is the county seat of Woodford County, located in the upper portion of the Central Kentucky region. There are just over 9,000 inhabitants of Versailles and 23,000 spanning the overall Woodford County landmass. Sure, these statistics lack any noteworthy characteristics to get a nod by the Guinness Book of World Records; but after growing up here, I can assure you it’s plenty small. What I know for sure is there’s one (arguably two) stop lights downtown, everyone knows everyone and riding around the backroads is perpetually considered a thrilling Saturday night. Versailles is all I have ever really known and I am proud to call it home.
Despite living in Lexington now, surrounded by a plethora of dining options, I still crave Versailles cuisine. Here are a few places to check out:
Photos courtesy of www.yelp.com.
This Grill and Pub has become the most popular restaurant for Versailles citizens as well as anyone visiting the area. The original building was constructed in 1855 as a southern rooted railroad station. The external facade remains, giving the restaurant a cool and casual feel. Their true notoriety has been achieved because of the delicious “upscale diner” food being served daily. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu (trust me I’ve tried it all), but some of my favorites are the Fried Banana Peppers, Salmon Spinach Salad and New Orleans Pasta.
The title of “Best Mexican Restaurant” is a cut-throat competition that divides the hearts, minds and stomachs of Woodford Countians. I could very well lose friends for my public commitment to one side, but oh well! My family and I have enjoyed dining at El Tapatio since its opening in the mid 2000’s, and I crave this restaurant at least twice a week. Their food is fresh, authentic and delicious, accompanied by a friendly staff that will treat you like family. No telling how many times I have stepped through the threshold of this establishment, but I have never left without feeling full and content. For first-timers I recommend their Enchiladas Tapatio or Shrimp Ceviche.
Located in Midway, the smaller of the two towns in Woodford County, is this hidden gem. The uber-small town has multiple amazing options but this one has become my favorite. The building is split into two separate, yet equivocal dining experiences. The menu features fast-casual dining options, as well as upscale options that would impress anyone. For fast-casual I recommend the beef skewers on potato cakes. In terms of the “fancier” options, you cannot go wrong with the crab cakes, which are the best I’ve had anywhere north of Florida. Brown Barrel & Blind Harry’s features a charming bar area as well as a small store to purchase bourbon and other spirits of choice.
Photo courtesy of www.thebrownbarrel.com.
Backroads & Horsefarms
If any of my out-of-state friends visit Versailles, my favorite thing to do is take them on an evening drive through the backroads. They often say things like, “This is beautiful” and “I’ve never seen anything like this”, I would have to wholeheartedly agree. I have gone Jeeping on the coast of Cozumel and hiked Mountains in Colorado but when the sun perfectly illuminates the lush, horse-filled fields of Woodford County, nothing compares to its grandeur.
This has become somewhat common knowledge within the state, but in case you were unaware or reading from elsewhere, we have a castle! The legend goes that Rex Martin returned to Versailles after a trip to Europe and wanted to build a castle similar to those his wife grew to love during their excursion. At some point within the construction of the castle the couple divorced- talk about tough love! The piece of architecture remained internally unfinished and survived a massive fire, until it was rebuilt and refurbished into the beautiful sight it is today! It is now an event venue, bed and breakfast and delectable farm-to-table restaurant. Although it is no new sight to me, I enjoy seeing passersby taking photos of the Kentucky Castle.
Photo courtesy of www.thekentuckycastle.com.
Central Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon and stronghold of a massive worldwide industry. It is amazing to me that one of the best quality and most well known distilleries is in my hometown. Woodford Reserve has become famous for its desirably unique flavors created by the limestone filled water used during distillation, and fermentation process involving Kentucky’s ever-fluctuating temperature. The distillery offers tours around their 72 acre property through the distillation buildings as well as the many different stone barrel houses. Tours also include a thorough tasting of multiple Woodford Reserve varieties. I have become so proud to be associated with this infamous brand that has propelled my affinity for bourbon and the industry.
Photo courtesy of www.kybourbontrail.com.
Bourbon is an essential portion of the overall identity of Kentucky and its culture. Many people, like myself, enjoy trying the endless flavor combinations that are formed during each brand’s unique distilling processes. Unfortunately, it is increasingly difficult to get your hands on some of the rarest and most desirable bottles. The Amsden Bourbon Bar is one of very few places where you can do just that! The building is located in the heart of downtown Versailles, and offers a full service bar stocked with over 100 different bourbon varieties. This is a beautifully aged venue where you can taste the most sought out bourbons in the world.
Photo courtesy of www.amsdenbourbonbar.com.