Corto Lima brings Latin cuisine to downtown


Chef Jonathan Lundy opened Corto Lima in January. This new Latin-inspired restaurant is located on the corner of Limestone and Short Street. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Becky Feigin

After the closure of Coba Cocina last year, Lexington’s vibrant culinary scene was left with a missing void. Former Coba Cocina Chef Jonathan Lundy is looking to change that, opening his own slice of Latin America: Corto Lima.

Lundy began his career with the restaurant Jonathan at Gratz Park before becoming a chef at Coba Cocina. Corto Lima, an upscale, but affordable Latin-inspired restaurant, is set to open on Feb. 8 on the corner of Short Street and North Limestone.

Corto Lima’s menu has a strong focus on street tacos, with small dinner plates starting at $5. An affordable cocktail menu is paired with the delectable tacos and other foods, with no drink over $10. 

“The owners here are career restaurateurs who have a combined 40 years of restaurant service experience,” Corto Lima marketing and media director Brie Lowery said. “We have done our research and spoke to former owners.”

Lundy has always wanted to open a Latin-inspired restaurant and the timing was finally right for him. 

After getting kicked out of school at UK for not attending his classes, Lundy moved down to New Orleans, got a job and began cooking. The chef Lundy was working for sent him to culinary school at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island. After that, Lundy returned to Lexington. 

Having grown up on a farm in Midway, Lundy is very acclimated with Kentucky-style food, but he knew Lexington had enough of that so he wanted to serve something up that steered clear of the shelves of bourbon and focused more on the rum and tequila.  

“I’m all about Kentucky, I’m from here, but it’s overcrowded and overdone, so I wanted to offer something unusual and different,” Lundy said. 

Lundy originally wanted to buy the space that Corto Lima is now in 12 years ago when a restaurant in that space was closing and the owner asked Lundy to make an offer. Unfortunately, the offer did not go through, but in retrospect, Lundy feels he is much more prepared for this endeavor now than he was 12 years ago.

The restaurant has seating for roughly 60 people inside and with even more seating available during the spring and summer, when tables will wind around the restaurant’s perimeter. There is also a second floor that is used for private events that can hold up to 50 people. 

Corto Lima’s kitchen will stay open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and all the food is made fresh in-house. 

“We have a machine that we use to hand grind corn that we have sourced from Oaxaka, Mexico, which no one else here is doing,” Lowery said.

The machine is very large and grinds corn with lava rock. They also make their own tortillas after this process. 

Corto Lima opened for business on Feb. 8 and is open Monday through Sunday. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.