James Beard Award-nominated executive chef Ouita Michel’s Lexington, Kentucky, seafood spot is all about sourcing local ingredients.
Founded after the Civil War as a community for formerly enslaved people, Lexington’s Smithtown has seen many changes over the last 160 years. Recently, that has included converting the 90,000-square-foot former Rainbow Bread Factory into lively spaces for West Sixth Brewing, FoodChain (Kentucky’s largest aquaponic production facility) and Smithtown Seafood.
The latter is owned by James Beard Award-nominated executive chef Ouita Michel, an avid locavore and successful owner of six Lexington-area restaurants as well as a bakery. Michel developed a passion for fish beginning at age 16 when she and her father lived in Australia. But how do you source local fish in landlocked Lexington? The wild-caught catfish comes from Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake in the western portion of the state. The tilapia is raised in FoodChain’s pristine aquaponic systems.
As much as possible, Smithtown Seafood’s menu connects locally down to the smallest ingredients. The fish-batter mix is ground at the Weisenberger Mill in Midway, just a few miles from where Michel lives with her husband and daughter in a 200-year-old cabin next to her award-winning Holly Hill Inn.
Smithtown Seafood is located inside West Sixth Brewing — a retro-urban setting with corrugated metal counters and colorful, fish-inspired art. Always in the vanguard of her state’s culinary scene, Michel was a guest judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef: Kentucky” in 2019.
501 W. Sixth St., Lexington, Kentucky, 859/303-4100, smithtownseafood.com