When Andrew Suthers and Kyle Klatka of the popular Gastro Gnomes food truck approached Ralph Quillin about opening a restaurant, it was a no-brainer. Since 2014, Quillin has owned and operated Rooster Brewing in Paris – a microbrewery and a taproom of the same name. Quillin often invited rotating food trucks to set up outside the taproom, and the Gnomes were always a hit. Plus, he said, they all got along great from the start.
“We love working in Paris, but there is a limited market there,” he said of himself and his wife, Donna. “We enjoy doing this and want to continue, so we needed to be in Lexington.”
The hunt for an ideal space was not an easy one. They looked at potential properties all over the city, from Jefferson Street to the Distillery District, but weren’t able to make anything work. Then one day, the Quillin’s architect, Rebecca Burnworth, called and said she’d found the perfect space. “I had my doubts,” he said, “but once I saw it, I knew she was right.”
The large storefront building facing the Fayette County Courthouse had been home to Merit Furniture since the 1950’s. It took a year of extensive renovation, but in January 2018, the space was transformed into Oscar Diggs.
Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs is the full name of the Wizard of Oz. But Quillin says he’s “No Oz freak by any means.” One night, they were sitting at Rooster Brewing throwing around names, and everyone liked the sound of Oscar Diggs. With green glazed tile over the fireplace, the décor plays a very slight homage to L. Frank Baum’s 1900 book, but “You won’t find Dorothy or Toto here,” said Quillin.
What you will find is a mouth-watering array of both classic and adventurous pub food that changes every Tuesday. Very much like the food truck fare for which Suthers and Klatka are known, the menu focus on burgers, appetizers, salads and sweets—all designed with humor and creativity. For example, their menu for the week of Fourth of July featured funnel cake chicken wings and a grilled watermelon ceviche with roasted corn, avocado and house-made deep-fried tortilla chips. The burger selection included the Red White and Blue (tomato, brie and blueberry barbeque sauce), The William Howard Taft (bacon, Virginia ham and cheddar on a glazed donut bun) and the Thoroughgood Special, which included a cheeseburger, a shot of bourbon, a beer and fries. Other notable offerings from that week’s menu were the Detroit Coney Island (bratwurst, Coney sauce, mustard and onion) a mushroom leek tart and apple pie.
While the menu is completely reinvented every week, Quillin says that customers can always expect to see several burgers, as well as one or two vegetarian and/or vegan options. Every month, they also do a Chef’s Dinner—a recent one featured Hidenori Yamaguchi of Yamaguchi’s, which sold out in under 15 minutes. Customers wishing to keep up with the offerings at Oscar Diggs can follow them on Facebook at OscarDiggsLex.