Ramsey’s Diner

19 Jul

People in Lexington love Ramsey’s. Whether it’s the fried chicken, the green beans, catfish, cornbread or pies, you would be hard pressed to find someone who would say any disparaging comments about their food.

Well here’s a few.

Let’s start off with some info: Ramsey’s Diner has four locations, most notably in downtown Lexington on East High Street. The tiny dining room gives it that down-home-country feeling, simple dishes that allows one to reminisce about simpler times when they were children, when mom would cook all their favorites.

However as adults we don’t forget the terrible meals or service. Sadly I’ve experienced both multiple times at several Ramsey’s locations. In fact before I started this blog I swore off ever going to Ramsey’s again.

I don’t take lightly the task of giving an establishment a bad review. I don’t think so highly of myself where I believe that my review will make or break a restaurant, but I always hold out hope that there’s a chance I just visited a place at the wrong time. It happens; no one place is 100% on their game all the time. Waiters can have rough days, cooks can get bad produce or get overworked, and there can be one of those days where everything collapses. No restaurant should be judged off of one visit, but sadly that’s the way it works the majority of the time.

That being said, I’ve been to Ramsey’s no less than five times and had a decent meal once. Once. Out of five times. I’ve tried the fried chicken twice, since I was told it’s the best in the city. I had their breakfast once, since it’s supposedly flavorful. I even had their “famous” meatloaf, since it’s…well, famous. Yet the only decent meal I’ve had been when I ordered the spicy catfish, and even that occasion was nearly ruined.

The breakfast didn’t really taste like anything. Their pancakes are made in front of you at the end of the bar (This was a Sunday; they may do it differently during the week), but they just tasted like air. Very bland. I appreciate that you’re giving me a lot of food, but that doesn’t mean I don’t expect any taste. The meatloaf was spongy, and except for the sauce it wasn’t worth $10. The fried chicken tasted like it was the cook’s first time working with oil, and was – yet again – bland.

The visit where I ordered the catfish was about two weeks ago. Our waitress was prompt with taking our orders and getting our drinks. Thankfully the service was not a problem.

Now it looks a little overcooked but it was actually cooked well, not overdone at all. It was actually very delicious. Not too fishy (which is surprising since catfish is normally very fishy), with just the right amount of spice and complimented by the hush puppies. Every part of the meal, including the mac & cheese, was worth the price: about $9 for a lunch portion. This was also during “Corn Daze” so they were offering local corn prepared in various ways, including fried corn, which is what I ordered. Fried corn consists of yellow and white corn (as Kentuckians love white corn), bacon and normally some peppers, however there wasn’t any in this dish. I finally got a good meal! Maybe I was wrong about Ramsey’s all along. I thought Ramsey’s had turned it around.

This last time I ordered the fried chicken, because it’s one of the dishes Ramsey’s is known for, plus my first foray into Ramsey’s – and tasting of their chicken – was so horrendous I was certain it must have just been that one night. There was no way the chicken could be that bad twice. Well…

This. Was. Awful.

Kat and I visited Ramsey’s on Tates Creek around four on a Monday. Now everything in that sentence should tell you when we had in store for us when we walked in. Monday’s and Sunday’s are normally the B/C crew at restaurants. At 4pm on a weekday, the service is in limbo as the restaurant moves from lunch to dinner staff. Also the 4pm meal means it’s the dinner cook’s prep time, meaning we’re getting what’s left over from lunch. That time slot is normally reserved for the old ladies and the random straggler, so you’re not getting the restaurant’s best.

That being said, this was one of the worst meals I’ve ever had in Lexington, and I’ve eaten sandwiches at 3am from food trucks on Versailles. It was like they knew I knew I was expecting the worst, and they gave it to me in spades. Kat’s chicken dumplings were luke warm and tasted old. My chicken, while hot, was too sweet and not worth eating. I had to drown it in ketchup to make it edible. Both the mac & cheese and fries tasted gritty and cold. I realize you’re keeping this stuff in a freezer, but can you at least attempt to make it taste good? It’s mac & cheese, guys: I shouldn’t be this angry at the fact that the mac & cheese wasn’t up to my supposed standards for old pasta and cheese sauce. The fries were your normal Ore-Ida fries that are just bland. I didn’t even attempt the cornbread as it’s always so dry and hard, and could easily be filed down into a shiv if need be.

Since I had more than enough room for dessert, we decided to order a slice of the Raspberry pie.

Their pies are from “Missy’s Pies”, which may or may not be own and operated by the same people as their logos look similar and the two are located right next to one another downtown. The top was all whipped cream, with swirls of chocolate and raspberry sauce. On the bottom was raspberry filling and a chocolate graham cracker crust. My only complaint was that there was WAY too much whipped cream, but other than that it was pretty good. I don’t believe that one slice is worth $4.50, but if they can get people to pay them for it, good for them.

All in all, I can’t recommend Ramsey’s. In fact I recommend you avoid it. Unless you’re starving and really need large portions of breakfast food while not caring at all about the taste, just go enjoy an evening or afternoon at one of Lexington’s better establishments.

Overall: D

- John G

Ramsey's Diner (Tates Creek) on Urbanspoon


About greatshatnersghost

New York native, pizza snob and UK shill.

Posted by on July 19, 2011 in Restaurants


2 Responses to Ramsey’s Diner

  1. Val

    September 30, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    ha! Finally, I’m not alone in wanting to like Ramsey’s but really not being able to. It’s like a horribly broken relationship. I like the pie (owned by the same people, different name), but the service is always spotty and the food ho-hum. I could get better chicken and dumplings at Cracker Barrel, yeah, I said Cracker Barrel.

  2. Amanda

    October 2, 2011 at 8:17 am

    If you happen to like Reuben of any sort, their turkey Reuben is consistently wonderful. The open-faced pot roast sandwich was a bit salty (my mom loves it) but the open-faced turkey sandwich was delightful. I always find their mac and cheese to be gritty.


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