There are many locations that have been home to long-standing Lexington dining establishments for a number of years and even decades, but the corner of East Main and North Ashland in downtown Lexington isn’t one of them. The building that sits there was most recently Onizim’s and previously Furlong’s but has taken on various other names as short-lived restaurant endeavors came and went.
If the location has fallen victim to multiple personality disorder, Coles 735 Main seeks to give the place a culinary identity that will stand the test of time.
The “Coles” of Coles 735 Main is executive chef/owner Cole Arimes. A hometown boy who grew up on High Street, he honed his skills at various restaurants in Cincinnati for the past 18 years, most notably at Embers Steak, Seafood and Sushi. When he was notified that the space at 735 E. Main Street had come available, Arimes decided to take both his passion and skill for cooking and opened his first restaurant in April.
If Coles 735 Main’s décor recalls anything in particular, it’s probably the location’s very first restaurant: 1938’s The Stirrup Cup. The original, rather large equine mural paintings hang proudly above the diners while the soft yellow walls and variety of chairs and decorations creates a “French country meets Anthropologie” feel. Couple this with the visual appeal of the restaurant’s gazebo with lattice panels and you have a place that immediately puts you at ease inside and out.
When it comes to the menu, Arimes’ philosophy is pretty straightforward: Emphasize fresh local ingredients and culinary variety to create four-star food without the four-star atmosphere. Whether you take a gander at Coles’ main menu or its list of more modestly priced “bar bites,” you will get an idea of the many places the restaurant’s food can take you.
On both menus, you’ll find some excellent smaller plates. The panko fried avocado is an appetizing balance of creamy and crunchy on its own before throwing in a dollop of crab salad on each avocado half and garnishing it with both spicy and lemon saffron aioli. Arimes shows off his Greek roots with a classic Mediterranean dish called spanakopita close to what his “Ya-Ya” used to make. It’s a savory “soufflé” of spinach and feta wrapped in phyllo resting atop a pool of caramelized shallot cream and balanced with the bright acidity of house-stewed tomatoes.
Having experience working with sushi at Embers, he couldn’t resist offering a dish like big eye tuna sashimi. This melt-in-your-mouth plate is topped with both yuzu soy and slightly smoked sesame oil, scallions and crispy garlic chips, not to mention homemade wasabi and pickled ginger that’s made in-house that will make you want to swear off the pink variety you’re used to.
Coles 735 Main’s entrees feature sautéed duck breast, several varieties of seafood and plenty for fans of red meat, whether they’re looking for a Kobe burger with house-made pickles and fries fried in duck fat or a Black Angus Falls NY strip with onion rings. Arimes is excited for a new menu offering like his Asian braised baby back ribs, cooked to fall-off-the-bone tenderness in the perfect amount of soy on a bed of sticky rice with roasted carrots and daikon. Whatever you’re craving for dinner, you won’t regret ordering the carrot cake, an extremely moist cake made with fresh pineapple and spiced pecans topped with a classic cream cheese frosting that doesn’t need any extra tinkering.
After a solid six months under its belt, this restaurant appears to be hitting its stride. With its delectable offerings, comforting surroundings and a chef/owner who puts his heart and soul into giving this downtown spot some new life, Coles 735 Main certainly seems to have what it takes to stick around.
859.266.9000 | 735 East Main Street | coles735main.com