Have you ever visited a place that everywhere you looked there was something interesting and unique to see? Lexington has waited a very long time for just such a place. Well, that long wait is finally over and was it ever worth it. Welcome, Jeff Ruby to Lexington!
On Friday I was invited to the party to celebrate not only Mr. Ruby’s 71st birthday but also to do the official ribbon cutting for his new restaurant in Lexington. While the restaurant has had several ‘soft openings’, the official opening day for dinner is Monday, April 22nd.
The party, or more accurately the extravaganza, was an over the top, stellar affair. Everybody was there…… from the management of Mr. Ruby’s organization to people he does business with, his children, and of course, his new Lexington family! Celebrities from the sports world, musicians, tv stars, high-level politicians, and others joined to welcome him with open arms.
I’ve traveled to several of Ruby’s other properties in Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and Louisville. They are lovely venues, each a little different than the last, but each offering a reliably first-class dining experience. In most of the restaurants, there’s a lively bar area and the signature dishes include steak and seafood.
However, there is a different feel to the Lexington restaurant in comparison with Mr. Ruby’s other venues I have visited. Absolutely, The Precinct, the original Jeff Ruby restaurant, has a very personal feel to me. After all, it was the firstborn in the corporation. But the Lexington restaurant has a personality that is tailored from tradition. Each room contains unique pieces of art that were either commissioned or picked specifically for that location and purpose.
It was raining when we arrived at the party, but the valet staff was waiting with umbrellas for the guests. Caring touches like these can be seen throughout the restaurant, and along with the professionalism of the service staff causes Jeff Ruby’s to uniquely stand out. Throughout the evening the staff was attentive on serving food and drinks. If you moved from your spot, they found you!
The large bar area will be a popular gathering place for live music. The semi-circular bar, with a blue baby grand piano, and crystal chandeliers, was where most of the people gathered upon their arrival on this particular evening. Each guest was greeted with a glass of champagne. Waiters were passing shrimp cocktail (some of the best I’ve had!), steak tartar, and Kentucky caviar, among other things. By the way, if you haven’t tried Kentucky caviar, you should. It’s great! Luckily, it’s on the menu.
What struck me during the entire evening is how welcoming the staff, management, and all of the people in Mr. Ruby’s organization were to me. They introduced themselves, we learned a little about them, they asked questions about us, and they were lovely and genuine. Their happiness and pride in the restaurant were on full display. That is special, too! It’s apparent that the concept of building relationships has been emphasized during the training process. To me, that’s what makes a great restaurant. It’s friendships and relationships. Take for instance the show Cheers, why do you think that Norm always went there? He felt appreciated and welcomed. It’s a simple concept, but many people in business don’t get it.
The restaurant is totally centered around Lexington and central Kentucky traditions. The first private dining room that we saw was, of course, the bourbon room. Lovely portraits have been commissioned of master distillers and Kentucky bourbon royalty. My photos of the paintings don’t do them justice. The portraits were absolutely beautiful. The ‘flying griffin’ dining table in the bourbon room is from 1895 and it’s made from beautiful Tiger Oak. The legs of the table are very ornate and hand carved, as are the chairs. A pharmacy cabinet from 1930, when bourbon was sold as medicine, sits in the back of the room. I’m pretty sure I saw a bullet hole on the side! Those were interesting days in the history of bourbon.
Of course, there is a private dining room that is dedicated to the horse industry, too! You might know that Mr. Ruby has been involved in the horse industry for many years. American Pharoah, the first triple crown winner in 18 years, was sponsored by Jeff Ruby. He obviously has a love for horses and you will see him often at Keeneland and big racing events. He also sponsors a Derby prep race at Turfway Park called the Bourbonette Oaks each year.
The dining room has several horse sculptures, and hanging from the ceiling are brightly colored jockey silks. Various equestrian paintings and photographs line the walls.
Kentucky Wildcats play a prominent role in one of the dining rooms. Wildcat blue velvet curtains hang from floor to ceiling and UK players and coaches portraits hang around the room. However, the most interesting thing that I found in the UK room were the chandeliers!. There were four very large chandeliers that had blue crystals. The manager explained to me that they originally hung in the old The Drawbridge Hotel in Northern Kentucky. When the hotel closed after 42 years, Mr. Ruby bought them and put them in storage with the idea that he would one day use them in Lexington. They have been in the warehouse waiting for a long time. I thought that was a cool story with a great piece of history behind it. Touches of history like these are found throughout the restaurant.
The Great Gatsby dining room is certainly a showplace. There’s one of a kind Swarvorski crystal chandeliers, as well as art deco wallpaper and carpet. The wallpaper, carpet, curtains, and other decorative features of the room all came from the set of the recent Great Gatsby movie with Leonardo Decaprio. All I can say is WOW!
The main dining room is gorgeous. What sets it apart is the massive chandelier that hangs from the ceiling. I’ve seen some lovely chandeliers in my travels, especially in Dubai, but this one is right up there with them. It’s a $600,000 work of art. There’s no way that when you dine in that room you won’t feel like a million dollars! It’s a showplace!
Like any big undertaking, there remain a few things to finish in the coming weeks. For example, there’s going to be an outdoor patio that looks like it will be great in warm weather; the outside landscaping is taking shape and looks very nice and inviting. I will be anxious to follow the progress and visit when it’s complete.
I really can’t stress enough what a lovely place Jeff Ruby’s restaurant is and how lucky Lexington is to have such a first-class place as this. Whether you live here and want a great dining experience, a fun evening of music, or whether you travel to Lexington for business or pleasure, you will certainly find Jeff Ruby’s to be a welcoming, exciting and unforgettable destination! Until next week xoxo.