Stanley Demos Lexington Coach House Recipe: Crab Demos

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Crab Demos was the signature appetizer dish of Stanley Demos’ Coach House Restaurant in Lexington. Now you can do it at home with this recipe.

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Tasting the Past: Recipes from Lexington’s Closed Restaurants

Lexington loves local restaurants and reminisces about favorite dishes from closed restaurants that we want to try again. So we dug into the Herald-Leader archives, contacted local chefs who ran some of Lexington’s most popular restaurants, and reached out to seasoned recipe collectors to put together a collection you can bring to your table. Enjoy.

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Coach House by Stanley Demos has been called the grandfather of fine dining in Lexington. For decades, starting in 1969, there simply wasn’t a more elegant place to eat in central Kentucky.

From movers and shakers from the president of the University of Kentucky to millionaire horse breeders dined there for lunch and dinner, sometimes several times a week, in an atmosphere that resembled an exclusive club with fresh flowers, paintings paintings framed with gilding and crystal chandeliers.

Lunch was “like watching a Who’s Who in the Bluegrass tour,” according to Herald-Leader columnist Don Edwards.

The continental menu was largely French cuisine, with a few Greek dishes and some Italian pasta dishes.

Demos immigrated from Greece in 1938 at the age of 18 with $8 in his pocket. He came to Cincinnati, where an uncle lived.

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Lexington restaurant owner Stanley Demos held a 24-karat gold frying pan given to him by his employees at The Coach House for Christmas in December 1975. The restaurant was considered Lexington’s fanciest dining spot. Chela Richardson 1975 Herald-Leader Staff File Photo

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Stanley Demos cooks in the kitchen of his Coach House restaurant in an undated photo. For years, Lexington’s elite and “international clientele” have dined at his elegant South Broadway restaurant. Today, Demos lives in Sarasota, Florida, and recently celebrated his 102nd birthday. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth “Tootsie” Nelson

He went to work in restaurants, rising from bus boy to chef to butler at Cincinnati’s famed The Maisonette before moving to Lexington to work at a downtown hotel in 1964. When he left to open his own restaurant, much of the staff would have accompanied him. He bought a restaurant on South Broadway. It burned down and the brand new Coach House was rebuilt at 855 S. Broadway.

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Stanley Demos at the entrance to the Coach House on South Broadway in front of the many awards and accolades the restaurant has won over the decades. Provided by Tootsie Nelson

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Stanley Demos, center, at the bar of his Lexington restaurant, The Coach House, in an undated photo. Handout

Within a few years, the Lexington restaurant was gaining national recognition. In 1991, The Coach House was inducted into the National Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame.

Demos has also shared his culinary insights with a newspaper column, a television cooking show, and several published cookbooks.

One of his signature dishes was the Crab Demos appetizer, which is the recipe we’re sharing for the latest in our “Taste of the Past” series. Other recipes we’ve featured in our archives include DeSha’s Cornbread, Hall’s Beer Cheese, and Stanley J’s Potato Salad, to name a few.

In 1988, Demos’ daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth “Tootsie” and Sam Nelson, bought the Coach House and updated the menu and decor. But they kept the quality. Demos announced that he was permanently moving to Sarasota, Florida. But he kept on, running the place occasionally, until it was sold in 1992 to John Dupuy III, who closed the doors in 2001.

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Stanley Demos, owner of the Coach House for years, pictured in Lexington, Ky., Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. The Demos had owned the popular Coach House for decades, and seven others tried to get there and failed . . The Coach House building has been demolished and is now a Cookout fast food place. Chief Herald

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The Coach House restaurant at 855 S. Broadway served its last meal on Saturday, April 7, 2001. JOSEPH REY AT LEXINGTON HERALD-CHIEF

“We brought a continental style and some pretty different things to Lexington back then,” Demos told Edwards in 2001. “Frogs’ legs, sweetbreads (from animals), chateaubriand. A sommelier. April and October were our busiest months, we would do 300 for dinner, at 5, 7 and 9. That was a lot for a place the size of the Coach House.

“We had a local audience and an international audience. Customers from England, Ireland and France came to the horse sales. We had tobacco buyers from Japan. … That’s what I miss the most, you know – people.

But times are changing and the white tablecloth and fine china dining style has fallen out of favor. The Coach House tried to be laid back, but it really didn’t take. Again, Don Edwards: “A lot of young people still thought it was a blue-haired place, a great place to borrow a nitroglycerin tablet.”

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The Coach House restaurant pictured on its last evening open, Saturday April 7, 2001. JOSEPH REY AU LEXINGTON HERALD-CHIEF

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Stanley Demos, owner of the Coach House gourmet kitchen for years, was photographed holding his cookbook, in Lexington, Ky., on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. Demos shared his restaurant ideas with a newspaper column, broadcast television cookbooks and several cookbooks published over the years. Chief Herald

There have been attempts at revival and other restaurants have moved in. But in 2013, the contents of the building were auctioned off and the building was demolished. In 2014, Cookout, a burger and barbecue chain with 38 milkshake flavors, opened there.

Stanley Demos is still alive and recently celebrated its 102nd birthday.

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Crab Demos was a signature appetizer dish on the menu at Stanley Demos’ Coach House restaurant in Lexington. Elizabeth “Tootsie” Nelson

From Stanley Demos Coaches Discount

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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