New Local Eatery “Zim’s Cafe” Beats Expectations

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As my high school career winds down to an end, it is blatantly obvious my parents are wanting to spend more time with me. Our discussions around the dinner table usually revolve around my day and our long- standing tradition of “TV Time” has turned into whatever Julia wants. As the third child of my family with two older siblings who have grown up and don’t live with us anymore, I don’t mind the extra attention at all!

A new tradition my parents and I have started, in order for me to spend more time with them, is going to a dinner and a movie. As an avid movie watcher and food fanatic, I am always ecstatic to try new restaurants with my parents and catch a flick. This week, we went to a new restaurant called Zim’s Cafe located in the old courthouse in the heart of downtown Lexington.

Zim’s Cafe is owned and operated none other than by Lexington legend Ouita Michel. Michel is an esteemed cook and entrepreneur known around the bluegrass for her restaurants such as Windy Corner Market, Wallace Station, and Honeywood. The restaurant is honoring her Great- Grandpa Zim whom she claims to have fed her and her family with vegetables from his garden growing up.

Upon entering the establishment my senses were pleasantly overwhelmed with warm air and the smell of baked goods. On my left was a bakery filled with traditional baked goods as well as some Kentucky favorites mixed in. Up straight ahead was the bar titled “The Thirsty Fox” that also served food but looked less family- friendly. On my right was another set of doors that led to the cafe.

I decided upon the steamed vegetables topped with salmon and a side of fries. The entree came with a choice of sauce and, after witnessing my indecisiveness, the waitress helpfully recommended the balsamic- miso. My dad ordered the Bourbon Barrel Deluxe burger which came with homemade bacon jam, homemade barbecue sauce, and homemade bourbon barrel beer cheese. His burger came with a side of chips that he subbed for fries. My mom ordered the Wallace Cubano sandwich which was topped with pulled pork, swiss cheese, ham, a honey dijonnaise, and homemade pickles. She also got a side of their soup beans and cornbread.

The service was fairly quick and we had our orders in about fifteen minutes later. My steamed vegetables came with zucchini, squash, potatoes, and kale and were cooked to a perfect tenderness. The salmon was very flavorful and the miso-balsamic sauce added a unique, Asian flair to what one would expect to be a plain dish. The portion was quite large but that did not stop me from finishing a good majority of my plate. The fries were mediocre but warm and crispy; the portion did not seem extremely large but I was unable to finish them as I was becoming too full.

My father had raving reviews saying, “I loved the bourbon barbecue burger. The beef patty was juicy, the sauce was zesty and tangy, and the beer cheese was spicy and tangy. The burger was one of the best I have ever tasted and I loved the atmosphere. It was enjoyable looking from my table out the old courthouse window onto Main Street with all the downtown activity bustling.”

My mom also enjoyed her food saying, “I loved the walk in entrance with the bakery case. The first thing you see is full of homemade bakery items. The Wallace Cubano was a unique and wonderful sandwich, an option you might not expect at a family-owned Kentucky cafe with an emphasis on comfort food. I love how the location is in downtown Lexington in the historic courthouse next to the Farmer Market venue. I love how the restaurant brings in local homegrown meats and vegetables as well.”

I would also agree with my parents that although the food was delicious, the main selling point of the restaurant was the atmosphere. Nothing beats a hearty meal with the hubbub of city life in the background. Everyone was seated in the same room, making the atmosphere warm and welcoming. Thanks to plentiful seating, I did not feel cramped or as if I was in someone’s way.  Their multiple windows provided a pleasant view of the urban landscape while not making the restaurant too cold. The waitstaff was friendly and helpful, though they could be a bit inattentive at times.

Overall, the restaurant was a charming experience for both my parents and me. Restaurants may come and go, especially in the center of downtown, but it’s safe to say that this little gem will stick around at least for another Saturday night out with my parents.