As you walk through the door at 400 Vine Street you instantly have the feeling you’ve been there before. The space is cozy and welcoming with colorful walls and a variety of local artwork decorating the restaurant. Offering a diverse menu combining Southern with influences of Thai, Indian and Latin with an “everybody knows your name” ambiance there’s something for everyone at Ranada’s and that’s exactly how she planned it.
After receiving a phone call from Walker’s owner, Larry Dean mid-November 2018, Ranada Riley says the restaurant opening 11 days later was “truly a community effort.” “We painted the walls and floors, my local artist friends all brought me their artwork to display on the walls and my friend, Buffy Lawson did the staging. I couldn’t have pulled off our grand opening in such a short amount of time without everyone’s support.”
An eclectic new neighborhood restaurant opens in the former Wines on Vine location.
Several dishes on the menu pay homage to chefs Riley has worked with before. Former Natasha’s owner Gene Williams shared his recipe for hoppin’ John with Riley. She also created a lentil loaf inspired by Ouita Michel’s nationally recognized beet loaf. Churrasco steak, a dish she cooked with well-known Louisville chef Anthony Lamas is Riley’s favorite dish on the menu.
After leaving the Lexington Diner, Ranada worked as executive chef in several of kitchens from Louie’s Wine Dive to Chenault Vineyards and feels like opening Ranada’s has been her rebirth. “I’m finally in a great place, this is the style of food I have always wanted to do,” says Riley.
As far as what to eat when you visit Ranada’s, consider yourself warned; there are a lot of delicious options to choose from. Ranada suggests her personal favorite, the Churrasco Steak which is a hand-cut 10 ounce Angus New York Strip topped with house-made chimichurri, pickled red onions, arugula, and garlic parmesan roasted potatoes. The steak is served alongside the chef vegetable which is typically classic haricot verts. Another dish not to miss is the roasted brussels sprouts which judging by the extensive reviews of the dish on Yelp is a favorite of more than just Ranada. They’re roasted until crispy and tossed in a sweet chili and tangy white balsamic which makes them “perfect, just as they should be,” grins Riley as the bartender also shakes her head in agreement. And then there’s the charcuterie boards designed to rotate cheeses and highlight a variety of meats, pickled veggies, bacon jam and housemade chow chow. “If you’re vegan, check out the Tree Hugger Bowl,” says Riley “and if you like dessert, we have fantastic vegan ice cream and my personal favorite, Backroads Bakery Cheesecake.”
Patio now open!
400 Old Vine Street, Suite 108, Lexington
Riley doesn’t stop at lunch and dinner. She offers a killer brunch menu served Saturday and Sunday from 10-3 which she describes as “going all out”. The brunch menu offers dishes like Salted Caramel Apple Waffles, the classic Hot Brown turned into a 3 egg omelet stuffed with ham, turkey, bacon and tomato drizzled with mornay and spring onion. Then there’s the Beef Tenderloin Benedict, a combination of toasted English muffin, filet medallions, sauteed spinach, poached eggs, lump crab meat and hollandaise.
If you’re a fan of live music you can find local artists playing on Friday and Saturday and then there’s the not-to-be-missed happy hour, Monday-Friday 2-6 pm where you can find $1 off all draft beers, $2 domestic bottles, $5 select wines by the glass, $3 well drinks and $8 flatbread pizzas. “Starting in the spring, we will have happy hour all day on Monday,” mentions Riley, “which I am pretty excited about”.
“And every Wednesday we have Wine, Women and Song where we will be offering $5 wines by the glass and music 6-9. While our menu and service are consistent, in the 12 weeks we’ve been open, we work hard to give our guests a new experience. From the art to the music to the chef’s specials we work to change things up so it’s never the same place twice” notes Riley. “I truly have the best team and can’t wait to see where we take this thing.”
Q&A with Ranada Riley
Asparagus sautéed with a little salt and pepper. Simple is best!
What made you fall in love with food?
Watching my mom and grandmother cook. Some of their go-to’s were shake and bake pork chops and hamburger helper. My mom made eggrolls and it fascinated me.
How do you stay inspired?
By teaching. I love to watch it click and they take it and run with it.
Ranada’s Bistro Drunken Uncle.
Do you have a morning ritual if so, what does it look like?
When I get to the restaurant, I turn on lights, make a cup of coffee and turn on the music - I am in a big blues and jazz kick right now I love the 70s+80s.
Favorite dish from your childhood?
Pork chops and sauerkraut.
If you could cook for anyone who would it be and what would
Jack Nicholson. As a kid, I had a big crush on him, and I’ve always wanted to meet him. He has such a big personality, so I’d make a big dish.
What do you love most about Lexington?
I have been here so long it’s a small town feel in a city. I feel like I know so many people here. The support of the community I’m in right now, Chevy Chase is different - these folks are loyal. Ladies from the woodlands pile in and want to introduce me to their friends. It’s amazing.
When you’re not working are you cooking or grabbing carryout?
Carryout - I like to hit the restaurants downtown.
A piece of advice for someone who dreams of pursuing a career
Work in a year before you go to school. If you love it, then go!
Bourbon Bacon Jam
3 lb bacon baked and cut into small pieces
4 yellow onion, finely diced
5 tablespoons garlic, finely minced
2 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
11/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup bourbon
1 ¼ cup water
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
Bake off the bacon and then chop into small pieces.
Combine bacon and all ingredients in a pot and cook for about 20 minutes on medium heat until “jam like”.
Cool and put into clear quart containers with label and date (shelf life is about 7 days).