Husband and wife duo Matt and Betsy Borland are no strangers to the restaurant scene. With over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Matt knew a restaurant was always part of the plan. Still, travel for work and raising kids put their dream on the back burner until they decided to move from Miami, Florida to Lexington, Kentucky. "We had family here in Lexington and absolutely fell in love with the people and community in this town. We knew it was home," shares Betsy. And after making the move to Lexington, the couple spent over four years searching for the perfect place to open their dream restaurant. When 333 East Main Street, formerly the home of Dunkin' Donuts, came available, the Borlands jumped on the opportunity to turn what once was a basic chain restaurant into their vision of a comfortable, modern gastropub. "We have such great neighbors here at Main and Rose. We wanted to create something comfortable and casual for them to come to enjoy lunches and dinners, but also excellent food that's unique here in Lexington," shares Matt, "and the fact that we have parking just sweetens the deal."
Open just three months, when the pandemic hit the Borlands have been adapting to everything that has been thrown their way as new restaurant owners. "We were fortunate that business didn't slow down a lot during the pandemic, and we're looking forward to getting back to more normal hours and service in the summer months. From happy hour offerings to late-night drinks, there's so much more we want to do and share with our customers," reveals Betsy.
While the Borlands are passionate about hospitality at their core, they're also remarkably enthusiastic about excellent food. Betsy, who grew up in the kitchen cooking with her Thai mother, spent her early twenties exploring the culture and cuisines of Bangkok city. "I fell in love with the street vendors and the food of Bangkok, which sparked a passion for travel and exploring international food and flavors," shares Betsy. "Most of our menu comes from inspiration we've gathered from our travels."
2oz rye bourbon
1/2 oz Ancho Reyes
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz blood orange juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
4 dashes Hellfire Bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice, strain and serve in a coup-style glass
The spicy carrot margarita, a customer favorite, was inspired by a trip to Cabo, where Betsy tasted the margarita for the first time and decided she had to have it in her life. The Borlands wanted the menu to be unique yet also offer comfortable favorites for anyone who might come through the doors. The gastropub itself has a hip, urban feel and a vast amount of natural light from the large interior windows. A concrete bar furnished with local artwork and a garage-style window and exposed brick wall make you feel completely transported to some big city. When it comes to the menu, it's unlike anything you'll find here in Lexington. "When we sat down to create the menu with our head chef, Aaron Sheets, we pulled flavors and dishes from all of our travels," shares Matt. "You'll find everything from family recipes such as Betsy's mom's spring rolls and dumplings, our favorite Peruvian green sauce, and Cuban empanadas as well as a good old fashioned burger."
A few of the dishes not to be missed are the Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna appetizer. "I have always loved crispy rice and wondered why no one here in town does it this way," shared Betsy. "We take fluffy sushi rice and sear it off to create a nice crispy and nutty exterior and then top it off with spicy tuna and sesame seeds. It's simple but quite addictive, and the textures and flavors are just amazing together."
Moving into mains, the Siam-Wich is another dish, unlike anything you'll find around Lexington. The bread is brought in from a Vietnamese bakery in Louisville and topped with flavor-packed satay chicken or tofu. It is then dressed with classic Bahn Mi garnishes such as pickled carrots, watermelon radish, cilantro, jalapeno and garlic aioli for an out-of-this-world combination. The Siam-Wich is best when paired with a Watermelon Margarita from the Summer Frozen Libations Menu.
And then there's the NY Strip that's dressed with melty miso butter and served with sazon potato and garlic green beans for a flavorful, international twist on steak and potatoes. Wash it all down with the Blood Peach Sangria, another customer favorite that's fresh and flavorful, perfect for summertime.
As you enter East End Tap and Table, you'll be greeted by the warmest and most hospitable couple. The Borlands can't wait for you to taste some of their family's favorite dishes, savor a couple of housemade cocktails and enjoy a relaxed dining experience.
East End Tap and Table | 333 E Main St, Lexington | (859) 785-2511 | eastendtapandtable.com
What made you fall in love with food?
Matt: I grew up as one of six children, and my mom was very creative with her cooking. She always made delicious food. She’s the one who taught us how to make all of the salad dressings on our menu.
Betsy: I grew up with a Thai mom who showed her love by feeding people, and now that’s me. I love seeing people enjoy our food.
Matt: Bok choy steamed with oyster sauce. It's Betsy's mom's recipe.
Betsy: Brussels sprouts. More specifically, our Brussels sprouts. We flash-fry them and toss with fish sauce.
How do you stay inspired?
Matt: We travel, try every new restaurant that opens here in Lexington and read a lot of cookbooks.
Betsy: I love to eat, haha! Also, the Food Network and travel keep me inspired. Whenever we travel, we always come back with new ideas for dishes.
Matt: IPA—Homestyle Bearded Iris out of Nashville or our Dirty Ol' Fashioned.
Betsy: Our Carrot Margarita.
Favorite dish from your childhood?
Matt: Presidents Chicken. My mom makes this dish, and it's a casserole that's a combination of cream of chicken soup, lemon, rice, curry powder, broccoli, chicken and topped off with cheddar cheese. It's so good. I love it and our kids love it.
Betsy: Kuay Teow Kua Gai. It's a lot like pho. It's a dark beef-based broth and noodle soup, and it's so incredibly flavorful and tasty. We hope to add one to our menu soon.
What do you love most about Lexington?
Matt: I have family here, but I just love Kentucky. The people, the food, the horses. It's such a beautiful place and so centrally located.
Betsy: We've lived all over Florida, and most recently in Miami and the people there are nowhere near as friendly as they are here in Lexington. Everyone talks to me, and they're so personable here. We already had involvement here, so we did not doubt that this would be home.
When you're not working, are you cooking or grabbing carryout?
Matt: We do both. We love to cook, but we also like to try every new restaurant that opens up.
Betsy: I like to eat, so it depends on how much energy I have! If my mom is here, we cook and my mom always says, "I can make that for cheaper."
What's the last thing you ate or drank?
Matt and Betsy: Mai Thais
Can you give us a piece of advice for someone who dreams of pursuing a career in food?
Matt and Betsy: Have a plan. It's fantastic, but it's a lot of work. The most important part of a restaurant is the staff. You can have great food, but if the hospitality isn't there, then there's no point. We were lucky to have a lot of experience before opening East End Tap and Table, so we knew what to expect.