Anyone who decides to open a restaurant has their reasons for doing so. Affection for food. Fulfillment from providing great hospitality. Fun. Excitement. Profit. What have you.
With Kentucky-born restaurateurs Brian McCarty and Bruce Drake, co-owners of Bluegrass Hospitality Group, you can add one more to that list: To chase the perfect dining experience. With the company’s expansion at restaurants like Malone’s Palomar, the continued step towards that lofty goal carries on.
Of course, the latest Malone’s on 3735 Palomar Centre Drive on Lexington’s south side wouldn’t exist without the idea born of a single bite. A visit to a USDA Prime Beef steakhouse in Chicago in 1998 introduced McCarty to the flavor-filled ecstasy of a great piece of red meat. He knew this was something that Lexington didn’t have at the time, but after this experience, he felt it was something it needed.
McCarty and Drake opened the first Malone’s Prime Beef steakhouse on Tates Creek Road the same year, followed by a second location a few years later near the Hamburg Pavilion.
This brings us to Malone’s Palomar, which opened three-and-a-half years ago. It was a way to give almost every part of Lexington its own Malone’s location. But with this expansion, they made sure the experience didn’t get lost in the growth.
One step into the dining room of Malone’s Palomar and you’ll get an atmosphere with a familiar feel if you’ve visited a Malone’s before. Warm lighting, dark wood, cream-colored walls with stone accents and the framed, autographed Malone’s menus from local and national celebrities surround the expansive dining area, which has undergone recent remodeling to accommodate increased business.
There’s an ever-present amount of noise that reverberates from the interactions of the guests inside, which BHG Director of Operations John McNamara said is an energetic vibe he’s fond of in the restaurant business.
As far as the menu goes, it’s practically been the same since 1998, minus a few select additions and occasional tweaks.
Even though I’m a shrimp cocktail addict, I found a new chilled seafood appetizer that I fell in love with in the king crab cocktail, served with a traditional cocktail sauce and a creamy, spicy mustard that’s a welcome changeup.
Or, you can get things started with one of Malone’s newest popular appetizers, the crab Rangoon roll, courtesy of the restaurant’s in-house sushi restaurant, Aqua Sushi. The hybrid sushi roll is based on the fried Asian appetizer that puts the cream cheese, crab and scallions inside a sushi roll and giving it the tempura-fried treatment before topping it with a sweet teriyaki glaze. Even though I am more of a raw sushi fan, I could eat this roll by the truckload.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with one of Malone’s USDA Prime steaks. Fork over the dough for a 12 oz. bone-in filet, throw in a pound-sized baked spud and its bottomless Lexingtonian salad tossed with creamy ranch, tomatoes and bacon and you’re in classic steak-and-potato heaven. If red meat isn’t your thing, dishes like the ahi tuna steak, seared and cooked to rare or medium rare with citrus aioli on a bed of mixed greens, shows there’s a refined hand in the kitchen. Regardless of how full you might feel, save room for its best-selling dessert – a Frisbee- sized, fresh-baked Toll House cookie topped with a scoop of ice cream – for the sweetest type of comfort food.
But for anyone who has visited Malone’s in Palomar or elsewhere knows that they’re not JUST visiting Malone’s. BHG makes sure each location is linked to one of several satellite bars with their own distinct menus, price points and atmospheres. These include Harry’s Bar and Grill, with its knack for constructing a sizable set of sliders and sports bar surroundings with an equestrian tilt, or Drake’s at the Landsdowne location, a youthful, loud and exuberant bar and restaurant with 24 different types of draft beer that can turn into a full-on nightclub when the sun goes down. And no matter where you choose to dine, you have access to menus of almost any of BHG’s restaurants (Malone’s, Aqua, Harry’s or Drake’s), allowing you to pick the price, meal and dining atmosphere of your choosing.
Malone’s Palomar is just another example of the expansion and realization of the BHG vision – a way to try to be everything for everybody. It’s a challenge, to be sure, but these guys sure do seem to be getting close.