Alfalfa: Revitalizing a beloved local restaurant

Megan Martin

 

After closing “for good” at the start of the pandemic in March, Alfalfa opened under new ownership this summer. Wali El-Amin and Tiffany Bellfield El-Amin know the restaurant – which originally opened in 1973 – holds a special place in the hearts of many patrons, themselves included. In fact, one of their first dates was at Alfalfa.

“We are showing people that with hard work, communication, and humbleness we can work together to ensure the safety, health and wellness of our communities.”

The pair are no strangers to the food industry. Wali owns a food truck while Tiffany is co-owner of Ballew Estates, an agribusiness that she named after her grandmother. Their experiences in the business and in the Lexington community have shaped the revitalization of Alfalfa.

Providing healthy, Kentucky proud food at an affordable price is at the heart of their mission. The husband-wife duo added a shop inside the eatery where customers can shop for fresh farm goods and speciality teas. With a health care background, Tiffany says, “I realized I could continue to make an impact if I began educating people about clean eating and sustainable ways to grow food and eat.”

Those goals reflect some of the early ideals that Alfalfa Restaurant embodied. Community, local-first and farm-to-table food were all concepts at the heart of its founding. The couple aims to reinfuse that ethos into everything they do at Alfalfa.

“Partnering and networking with the representation of all that is Kentucky still stands as the base of our mission,” Wali says. “We are showing people that with hard work, communication, and humbleness we can work together to ensure the safety, health and wellness of our communities.”

Classic favorites with a new spin and Appalachian Southern-style food grace the menu alongside revolving seasonal specials. They are working to feed new moms, partnering with black farmers, and making sure every part of their business and the food they serve is Kentucky Proud. “Using resources and networks from all areas of our life that involve Kentucky’s local food system helps support our infrastructure as Alfalfa Restaurant,” Wali explains.

In response to current capacity restrictions, they have also expanded their outdoor seating. But COVID hasn’t diminished the dining experience at all. “We expect to have live shows every other Saturday if not every Saturday evening,” they say. “We are also hoping to have some socially distanced excitement as the holidays roll around!”

 

TOP Tips

Tiffany’s Favorite Dishes: Gluten-free French toast and breakfast sandwich with turkey, bacon and fried egg

Wali’s Favorite Dishes: Twisted T’s Red Beans and Rice – their version of the classic Red Beans and Rice – and the Fish and Chips

We’re Craving This Starter: Loaded Nachos: Jackfruit topped with vegan cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion. Garnished with cilantro, jalapeños and sour cream. Served with tortilla chips. Chicken available upon request!

Fall Flavors: “We will use apples and cinnamon a lot,” Wali says. “We love all the local squash ideas for that fall season, too!”

Friendly for Every Belly: Multiple gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options

 

Did you know?

In 1973, a group of young students pooled $2,000 to start a restaurant in an old luncheonette called Pax, not far from the University of Kentucky.  As a creative and hard working group, they served delicious and nutritious food in a warm, comfortable atmosphere... which quickly made Alfalfa a community hub. •