For appetizers and drinks in a beautiful courtyard, visit Kentucky Native Cafe! This shade-filled oasis is in downtown Lexington.
By: Alisha Trenalone
It’s been a couple of years now since I first heard about Kentucky Native Cafe. It sounded like my kind of place: a beautiful outdoor setting and delicious appetizers.
But it was surprisingly difficult to make time in my schedule to visit. And when I did try, the line for ordering was so long that I couldn’t quite stick it out (yes, it’s popular).
Happily, I found it much easier to visit this year, thanks to the cafe’s extended hours. Plus my strategy of visiting as soon as they opened, to avoid the crowd.
Three of us visited for an early lunch one bright day in May. We were thrilled with the hidden gem concept, which works incredibly well here.
Would you like to visit Kentucky Native Cafe? Here’s what to expect if you go!
Parking at Kentucky Native Cafe
If you use GPS to drive to Kentucky Native Cafe, it may direct you first to Michler’s Greenhouse.
That’s because the cafe is tucked away in a courtyard behind the greenhouse.
Parking is very limited at the greenhouse itself, but you may be able to find metered street parking, which is what we did.
We then walked through the greenhouse until we found our way out to the courtyard.
Or you can drive around to East High Street and make use of a parking lot that lets you approach the cafe from the other side. If you do that, you’ll see a wooden gateway, a sign, and a boardwalk.
Ordering + Dining
There’s no online menu, because the options change somewhat frequently. You’ll have to wait until you can lay eyes on the chalkboard to see the day’s offerings.
But you can get an idea of the beers, wine, and other drinks from their website. The beers come from Kentucky breweries, especially Lexington’s West Sixth.
The cafe specializes in appetizer-type dishes, which you can combine to make yourself a light meal.
We were given our drinks before we even left the ordering counter, so we could settle in and sip on them at one of the cute little tables scattered around.
We had ordered a wine spritzer (made with riesling), a sparkling lemonade, and a flavored prosecco. (Grapefruit prosecco was on the menu, but it turns out rhubarb was also an option that day. It got rave reviews from the friend who tried it!)
Going early in the day was definitely the right move, as there were hardly any customers at 11 a.m., though more started to trickle in over the next hour. We had very little wait for our food.
Both ordering and food pickup are at the little wooden hut that backs up against the greenhouse.
We tried combinations of tomato soup, roasted cauliflower, French green beans, and roasted red pepper goat cheese sandwiches.
The roasted cauliflower was served cold and had hazelnuts and a maple vinaigrette — in fact, that hint of breakfast-like sweetness reminded us a bit of bread pudding. Yum!
The French green beans featured quinoa, roasted onions, and herb dressing.
I loved my roasted red pepper goat cheese sandwich. The bread was light and buttery!
While we didn’t opt for dessert this time, they do sell gelato here.
One of the best things about this cafe is just how shady it is. At many places, outdoor dining can be hit or miss depending on the temperature and time of day. But there are lots of trees here, and they provide an ideal canopy over much of the courtyard.
It’s such a welcoming green space.
Looking for more outdoor dining in Lexington? We recommend The Cellar Bar & Grille or Honeywood!
For the kids, there’s even a sand pile with some toy trucks.
During the winter, dining moves indoors to the greenhouse. But I’m glad my first visit was on such a pleasant day in spring! It was a delightful discovery in the heart of the downtown area. I would love to return to meet up with friends or just take a mindful mid-day break.
Have you visited? Let us know in the comments what other menu options to be on the lookout for!
About Alisha Trenalone
I’m Alisha and I live in eastern Kentucky. Discovering good food is one of my joys in life, but you will also find me doing lots of reading and dreaming of travel. Having worked at a local newspaper for several years, I’m avidly interested in the written word and the art of sharing stories. Now I help Sarah out in various ways here at Champagne Tastes!
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