Just across the bridge from the Fashion Mall, and within walking distance of a number of apartment complexes, Drake's aims right for the center of the dining demographic. Part of a medium-sized, Lexington, Ky.-based chain, it offers a spectrum of tried and tested favorites, as well as craft and regional beers, mainstream wines and bourbon-based cocktails.
There's also late night dancing, presumably to work off a few of the immoderate number of calories one is likely to ingest at dinner. Or one can opt out of that binge and purge cycle by calling on a separate sushi menu, more on which later.
Although there's limited space for families in the front dining room, Drake's is essentially a grown-up place, offering two bar areas and ample seating, almost all of which is either at high stools or curiously elevated picnic-style tables with attached benches. Sit at one of the latter during peak hours and you're likely to find yourself inadvertently using your rearward neighbor as a backrest. Televisions abound, and fans of '80s music will enjoy the constant stream of videos from the era. For the athletically-inclined, there are darts and shuffleboard.
Starters here are presumably intended to absorb the first drink and line the stomach for the next. A plate of breaded fried pickles (6.99) with a tangy ranch dressing served the purpose, but one or two bites sufficed. A generous serving of fried calamari ($8.99) was properly cooked, pleasingly tender, and served with a sweetly spicy chilli sauce. In a similar vein, shrimp poppers, again breaded, were offered in a buffalo sauce with blue cheese. They checked off all the requisite flavor buttons, but were not especially shrimpy.
A big basket of crispy fish tacos ($11.99) consisted of four rather chewy flour tortillas and a generous handful of battered, deep-fried chunks of fish which would probably have been more at home on the fish and chip plate. Although there was nothing wrong with the flavor or freshness of the fish, thinner, crispier slices would have been more appropriate. The guacamole, rich and creamy in texture, almost made up for the processed cheese and somewhat bland vegetable garnishes.
A grilled chicken sandwich ($8.99), although overcooked but not short on flavor, was overwhelmed by vinegary Dijon-style mustard and an excess of strongly-flavored blue cheese.
More successful than the regular fare was the sushi, provided by a separate operation by the name of Aqua. Keeping things simple, Aqua offers a modest selection of nigiri and rolls, avoiding the more highly esoteric items like uni in favor of salmon, tuna and crab.
Most of the rolls combine sweet and savory with a bit of crunch, are freshly prepared and represent a good introduction to the genre. Try the crab Rangoon roll. It might not be traditional, but it certainly goes well with a pint of pale ale.