Lexington Bar Guide 2011: Entertainment venues

August 19, 2011 

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These places offer some music, a movie or even a poetry reading with your beverage.

Al's Bar

601 N. Limestone. (859) 252-9104. Alsbarlexington.com. Hours: 4 p.m.-midnight Sun.-Thu., 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Sat.

Since a 2007 transformation, this dive has become a hangout for the young, artsy people who are turning old north-side Lexington into a cool place. In addition to beer and an extensive bourbon selection, Al's features excellent, reasonably priced bar food made with local and organic ingredients. There's a variety of live music Wednesday to Sunday nights, but you're just as likely to find a poetry reading or other performance on Al's stage.

Noteworthy: Al's has its own poet laureate, Eric Sutherland, who organizes monthly Holler Poet readings that pack the house. There often are as many Kentucky literary stars in the audience as on stage.

Atomic Café

265 N. Limestone. (859) 254-1969. Atomiccafeky.com. Hours: 1 p.m.-1 a.m. Tue.-Thu.; 4 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Fri., Sat.

Specializing in Caribbean fare, this locally owned summertime staple offers plenty of frosty tropical-style drinks as well as domestic and imported beers, including Red Stripe and Kentucky Ale. The brick-paved patio with an outdoor bar is the perfect summer destination, tucked behind the restaurant and dotted with live plants with plenty of tables for dining. Ordering tip: Try the addictive sweet potato chips and spicy-yet-sweet salsa appetizer. Crowds gather for live music, which starts about 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays during the summer through mid-September.

Noteworthy: The selection of specialty frozen beverages includes Champagne Caribbe, a tasty mix of champagne, banana liqueur, coconut, pineapple juice and dark rum.

Austin City Saloon

2350 Woodhill Dr. (859) 266-6891. Austincitysaloon.com. Hours: 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Wed.-Sat.

One of the best country bars in town, casual Austin City Saloon, aka "The City," is centered on live music. There's at least one performer most nights. As you might expect, the crowd can get rowdy, but it's all in good fun. And be prepared: The drinks are stiff.

Noteworthy: Country music star John Michael Montgomery got his start here. How's that for country cred?

Buster's Billiards & Backroom

899 Manchester St., (859) 368-8871, Bustersbb.com, 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Wed.-Sat. unless concerts scheduled.

Buster's is widely regarded as Lexington's best concert destination. Boasting well-known acts including Seether, Deftones, Michael Franti and Dropkick Murphys, the quality of live music here is undisputed. Buster's caters to wide musical tastes, although hard-rock fans are probably its most diehard customers, with shows by Saliva, Skid Row and Drowning Pool among recent gets. Unfortunately, its bar is pretty standard by comparison, serving area staples including Kentucky Ale alongside traditional bar fare such as Bud Light and PBR. For better or worse, its beer and liquor are what you expect from a concert venue.

Noteworthy: Buster's traces to a billiards bar of the same name on Main Street that was torn down to make way for the yet-to-be- developed CentrePointe. The new location offers plenty of pool tables.

Cosmic Charlie's

388 Woodland Ave. (859) 309-9499. Cosmic-charlies.com. Hours: 8 p.m.-2:30 a.m. daily.

Walking into Cosmic Charlie's is like walking into an eccentric spaceship. Vivid, hand-painted art lining the walls certainly creates a cosmic atmosphere. As one of the only venues in Lexington that allows an 18-and-older crowd on specific nights, Charlie's books local and n ational music acts for all ages. Make sure to experience a "Cosmic Love" at the "star bar" for a complete cosmic experience.

Noteworthy: Cosmic Charlie's has long roots. The bar is in the space formerly occupied by the longtime live music staple Lynagh's Music Club and is a cousin to the popular former Fishtank bar across the street.

The Green Lantern Bar

497 W. Third St. (859) 252-9539. Hours: 4 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Mon.-Fri.; 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Sat., Sun.

The Green Lantern is the kind of place where no one's a stranger. Rub elbows with college kids, old-timers, musicians and bikers (it's a favorite of the underground cycling crowd). There's a single pool table, a dozen bar stools and a terrific jukebox in this fun hole in the wall. The deliberate scruffy look is a big part of its charm. Even the signature drink is low-brow: Pabst Blue Ribbon. Live music, which runs the musical spectrum, is Wednesday through Saturday nights. And a reminder from management is chalked on the wall: "Watch your mouth. Mind your manners. Tip your bartender."

Noteworthy: The Green Lantern Bar has not always been in this location, but it has always been on the north side. One former iteration was a favorite college crowd hangout for 60 years.

Movie Tavern

133 N. Locust Hill Dr. (859) 266-4667. Movietavern.com. Bar open during movie-screening hours, 10:30 a.m.-close daily.

The name says it all: It's a movie theater and a tavern in one, and it's the only place in town besides the Kentucky Theatre or your living room you can knock back a cold one while catching a flick. The bar in the lobby is nothing to write home about, but it's a decent place to relax while waiting for your movie to start. The venue comes into its own once the lights dim and the movie begins. The tavern's full menu is available: Simply press the button on your table and wait for the server to come. The constant hustle and bustle can be a distraction from the film at first, but it's no worse than the typical idle chatter and cellphone lights of inconsiderate theater patrons. Things get quieter once the orders are placed, and customers are content and sluggish from good bar food and ice-cold beer. Be prepared for a movie-watching experience remarkably more relaxing than at the average theater.

Noteworthy: Have a hankerin' for some tankerin'? Pay $10 for the 38-ounce Tavern Tanker and get as many beer refills as you want for as little as $7.

The Tin Roof

303 S. Limestone. (859) 317-9111. Tinroofbars.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-2:30 a.m. Sat.; kitchen closes at 10:30 p.m.

The Tin Roof, which bills itself as a "live music joint" and features performances every night, is the quintessential UK fan hangout on campus, introducing drinks named after former Wildcat stars John Wall and Demarcus Cousins. With amusingly named shots such as the Tin Roofie, popular among women on the prime nights of Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and the F'n 8, a larger fruity pineapple juice concoction, there's something for everyone.

Noteworthy: The bar, part of a regional chain based in Nashville, frequently uses its Music City connections to book rising country music stars. For instance, "it girl" Ashton Shepherd played a free show in July.

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