Atomic Cafe drink recipe: Lexington bar, restaurant closed


Atomic Cafe’s Rum Runner, left, and Champagne Caribe.

Herald-Leader Folder Photos


Dinner with the past

Sometimes local bars and restaurants come out of nowhere, change our palates and leave far too soon.

Such was the case with Atomic Cafe, the latest restaurant to be part of our ongoing “Cooking with the Past” recipe series where we dig up favorite menu items from closed restaurants.

Unlike DeSha’s cornbread or Brooking’s chili, Atomic Cafe brought something new: Caribbean cuisine.

And Lexington fell in love. Virtually since opening at 265 N. Limestone in January 1992, the North Lime pioneer has been a hit.

Menu favorites included island flavors such as coconut shrimp, jerk chicken, conch fritters, mahi-mahi in banana leaves, fish fritters, ceviche, ropa vieja, black beans and rice and spicy cornbread.

For a while, there was no happier place than the patio behind the popular restaurant, sipping a fruity drink while munching on sweet potato chips and salsa (such a revelation for the times!) .

And then there were their signature drinks.

These are the recipes we want to highlight this time: The Rum Runner and Champagne Caribe.

A rum runner was one of the signature drinks at the famed Caribbean restaurant Atomic Cafe. The Lexington restaurant closed in 2015. Pablo Alcala personnel file photo 2008

Atomic Cafe bartender Dominick Starosky made a Rum Runner at the North Limestone Restaurant. In 2008, the drink cost $5. Pablo Alcala personnel file photo 2008

Champagne Caribe, centre, was a popular drink order at Atomic Cafe in Lexington on North Limestone. To the left is a yellow bird and to the right is the Atomic Palm. Brooke Di Donato photo from personnel file 2011

Whether you sat on the covered terrace or inside the bar with its tropical flair, Atomic Cafe was fun. It was in an old building, renovated by Tim Mellin in the late 1980s for an elegant French restaurant called Acajou. After the French chef left to open his own restaurant, Mellin, Linda Hoff and Dale Holland opened the Atomic Cafe with colorful murals and reggae music.

Mellin remembered that the first few days were so fun, with the restaurant packed every night. “Mahogany was just a few years too early. Atomic Cafe was a better fit,” he said. “It was great energy.”

The Atomic Cafe’s brick-paved patio with an outdoor bar has made it a popular drinking destination in the summer. It was tucked away behind the restaurant and dotted with living plants with plenty of dining tables. Crowds would usually be strong on weekends for live music. Pablo Alcala personnel file photo 2008

Amber Scott serves a table on the back patio of the Atomic Cafe. Lexington’s Caribbean menu included coconut shrimp, jerk chicken, conch fritters, mahi-mahi in banana leaves, ceviche, black beans and rice, and spiced cornbread. matt goin 2004 Herald-Leader file photo

The Atomic Cafe closed over Labor Day weekend in 2015 after a tough rainy summer. Mellin hoped someone would resurrect him, but that didn’t happen. Still. Mellin said recently that there has been interest in bringing him back.

Today, the building is empty and for rent, after the upscale Grillfish closed in 2019.

The empty Grillfish restaurant at 265 North Limestone Street on April 7, 2022. The seafood and steak restaurant closed in 2019. Prior to that, it housed the popular Atomic Cafe. Brian Sims [email protected]

This story was originally published April 14, 2022 06:00.

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Janet Patton covers restaurants, bars, food and bourbon for the Herald-Leader. She is an award-winning business journalist who has also covered agriculture, gambling, horses and hemp.
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Michael M. Tomlin