Grab a bite to eat and soak up the city views atop the Residence Inn at City Center.
Eight floors up in the City Center Mariott and Residence Inn hotel, you'll find what appears to be Lexington's best-kept secret, Infinity: A Skybar & Cafe. With retractable glass wall and ceiling panels and extensive city views, this creative new concept is designed to offer a unique dining experience not accessible anywhere else downtown. Whether you want to pop in for a drink pre-dinner or spend the entire evening on the eighth floor. You're in for a real taste of southern hospitality. "We really want to put on a show for our guests and use ingredients that get them to ask questions," shares director of food and beverage, Ricky Carpentieri as he describes his favorite cocktail on the menu, the Fire is Winter's Fruit—a mezcal and tequila-based drink intended to "open this area up to mezcal." The smoky liquor is paired with sweet honey, spicy habanero shrub, a pineapple foam designed to help wash everything down and finished with citrus ash, created from peels of oranges cooked eight hours in the oven, which gives the cocktail a uniquely bitter citrus scent and showstopping black ash.
The Moonlight Kiss is a stunning combination of Town Branch Gin, butterfly pea flower tea, prosecco and simple syrup. A splash of lemon juice is added as the drink heads to the table to turn the tea from a deep blue to a violet purple color. Garnished with an orchid it's almost too remarkable to drink. And if you want a quick cocktail before heading down to Rupp to cheer on the Cats, the New-Era Fashioned is prepared in large batches daily and served on draft so you can experience a high-quality craft cocktail delivered to your table in just minutes at a super competitive price point. "Serving our old fashioned draft-style makes it, so each cocktail is consistently produced at a high quality," shares food and beverage manager, Matt Schulte.
While the cocktails might steal quite a bit of the guest's attention, the cuisine is equally as impressive. Chef TJ Harville, a Winchester native, puts his unique stamp on what he describes as a modern American menu. While working in the restaurant business was not where he thought he would end up, Harville shares that he started working with his mom's catering company at the age of ten. While all of his friends were playing, he was busy preparing desserts for three hundred. "Growing up I hated the food business, I tried other options when I got older but kept coming back to food before realizing it was my true passion," shares Harville who now couldn't imagine doing anything else. "I didn't want to be all things to all people with this concept. When you come here, you know what to expect," shares Harville, who lights up as he describes his favorite dish on the menu, Roasted Bone Marrow. "It's been a big hit with our guests, but it's based on an old school French bistro-style dish." Once roasted, the bone marrow becomes a thick, jelly-like spread that is perfect for smearing on toast. It is topped with a red wine onion jam that is cooked down low and slow. The sweet jam pairs perfectly with rich, salty bone marrow and is finished off with bright lemon, an element of acid to help cut through the richness of the dish. Paired with a classic French herb salad of whole herbs such as chervil, parsley and tarragon, the dish is as beautiful and elegant as it is tasty.
Another dish that Harville is quite proud of is his Grilled Octopus Salad. "The octopus is something I have had on every menu for the past ten years; it's so unique and fantastic". He also recommends giving the Bluegrass Burger a try, "We get the meat from Purely Meats out of Chicago where they hand-cut their steaks. The beef patties are made from all of their scraps ground together, and they're insanely high-quality," shares Harville. Served atop a brioche bun made by in-house pastry chef, Tyler Donahue, the burger is paired with housemade pickles and topped with Harville's famous "secret sauce."
Last but not least, Pan-Seared Catfish is another dish that will steal the show. "You typically see blackened or fried catfish, but we brine our local Kentucky caught catfish in saltwater to tighten up and season the fish. We can then pan-sear the fish without it falling apart while basting the filet with butter, garlic and thyme," shares Harville. Paired with beans and rice and a light, buttery chowchow piccata, you really can't go wrong with this elevated southern classic.
It's clear the mission behind Infinity: A Skybar and Cafe is hospitality and service, but the passion for unique food, showstopping cocktails and a one-of-a-kind dining experience is unparalleled.
Sunchokes. They're super versatile and different. The texture is kind of like a potato, so they're fun and interesting to cook. I never get bored with them.
What made you fall in love with food?
Food has always been a big part of my family. We traditionally had big, homecooked meals and I love being able to provide that same experience for others.
How do you stay inspired?
I read a lot of culinary reference books to give me ideas, and then I visit the farmers' markets. The farmers do the hard work, and I am just trying not to mess it up.
I love a good old fashioned.
Favorite dish from your childhood?
My mom is such a great cook, but I would have to say her vegetable soup. It has more meat than veggies, but every time I would come home from college or get sick, it's what she made for me, and it was always delicious.
What do you love most about Lexington?
Everyone supports and lifts up one another. I truly believe the chefs here are about trying to make one another better. I know I can call a friend if I'm out of romaine, and they're eager to help me out.
When you're not working, are you cooking or grabbing carryout?
A little bit of both. I hunt, so I often cook with my freezer full of meat, but after those 18 hour days, you'll frequently find me calling uber eats on the way home.
What's the last thing you ate?
The octopus off our menu.
Piece of advice for someone who dreams of pursuing a career in food.
You better love it. It's tough, but it's the most rewarding thing you'll ever do in your life.
Bacardi 4yr - 0.75 oz
Bacardi Superior - 0.75 oz
St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram - 0.25 oz
Triple Sec - 0.5 oz
Pistachio Orgeat – 1 oz
Lime Juice - 0.5 oz
Add all ingredients to a shaker, add ice and shake.
Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass.
Garnish with dehydrated lime wheel and orchid.
Photos by Keni Parks