Lexington Bar Guide: Great dives

August 26, 2010 

When we say "dive," we're making a compliment. These no-frills joints aren't about being fancy, just good drinks (and sometimes great food).

Chevy Chase Inn

833 Euclid Ave. (859) 266-9422. Hours: 2 p.m.-about 12:30 a.m. Mon-Thu., 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat.; closed Sun. except during football season, when it's noon to "whenever."

If the Chevy Chase Inn, aka CCI, could talk, it might call itself a survivor. The place has been serving drinks at the same location since 1933. If its paneled walls could talk, well, that's another story. To some people, it's a dive; to others, it's home. When life gets to be too much, it's good to know you can check yourself in to the CCI. There's live music Friday and Saturday nights with Roger Bondurant, and pinball machines and a patio serve as diversions.

Try: On Saturdays, "brunch hour" features $1 bloody Marys.

The Green Lantern Bar

497 W. Third St. (859) 252-9539. Myspace.com/greenlanternbar. Hours: 2 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Mon.-Sun. (flexible closing hours on weeknights).

If you like friendly, no-frills bars, this is your place. Happy hour is from 5 to 7 p.m., offering PBR for $1.50 and two-for-one well drinks in one glass. Drafts include Sam Adams and Guinness. Tell the bartender it's your first time and receive a free shot of Fireball, a Canadian whisky with a big cinnamon kick bottled in Frankfort. Bet you can't drink just one. Play pool for 50 cents. Live music thrives Wednesday to Saturday. Open mike nights, too.

See: Posters and signs from Lexington's past. Remember The Wrocklage?

RESTAURANTS WITH BARS

Al's Bar

601 N. Limestone. (859) 309-2901. Alsbarlexington.com. Hours: 4:30 p.m.-late Mon.-Fri., 6 p.m.-late Sat.

Little physical change has happened to this northside neighborhood drinking hole since the 1950s, but from 2007, this dive has become the go-to venue for everything local. The delicious and reasonably priced bar food includes locally raised beef, bison and lamb burgers and many vegetarian options. But it's not just about food: Al's serves 30 bourbons and Kentucky whiskeys, the most popular of which is W.L. Weller; and there are lots of genres of live local entertainment, from bluegrass music to metal, from UK basketball to poetry readings.

Hear: Once a month, rub shoulders with Kentucky literary luminaries and newcomers when the Holler Poets give readings.

Sidebar Grill

147 N. Limestone. (859) 225-8883. Facebook.com/people/Sidebar-Grill/1735460661. Bar hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Sat. Food served 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 5-10 p.m. Sat.

Much like its building, Sidebar Grill's beer selection is small — just five beers on tap — although a more extensive bottle selection is available. The restaurant and bar seats fewer than 40 but is a treat for its outstanding food, colorful and chatty servers, and an eclectic clientele that includes lawyers taking a "sidebar" from courthouses across the street to eat or the college student just hanging out.

Taste: The outstanding food backs up the waitress's claim that "Pretty much anything that can be homemade is."

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