Lexington Bar Guide 2011: Beer, bourbon and wine bars

August 19, 2011 


    Harvey's and Hugo's, Metropol, Portofino, Skybar, Soundbar.

Some bars make a name for themselves by stocking an amazing selection of beers, wines or bourbons. Here are some worth a visit.

Bd's Mongolian Grill

2309 Sir Barton Way. (859) 264-0686. Gomongo.com. Food: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu.;, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri., Sat. Bar: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 11 a.m.-midnight Fri., Sat.

This bar looks like an afterthought. It's inside the much larger make-your-own-stir-fry restaurant. But it earned plenty of devoted regulars with its longtime $1 price for select drafts, including Kentucky Ale. It recently raised the price to $2 a pint, but management quickly offered a happy hour — 3 to 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to close daily — that returns the local favorite and eight other brews to their more beloved price.

Noteworthy: If you're not into creating your own stir-fry, try appetizers like the wham bam shrimp.

The Beer Trappe

118 Euclid Ave. (859) 309-0911. Thebeertrappe.com. Hours: 4 p.m.-midnight Mon., 11 a.m.-midnight Tue.-Sat., 1-10 p.m. Sun.

In an issue early this year, The Beer Enthusiast's Draft: Life on Tap magazine named Lexington's craft-beer mecca one of the 100 best beer bars. From the bar, eight rotating rare craft beers with esteemed names including Avery, Founders and Chimay can be poured in flights, pints or a growler to go. Also a specialty beer package store with 400-plus bottles from more than 20 countries, the Trappe offers a comfy leather chair where you can enjoy your brew or create your own six-pack to go.

Noteworthy: Want to be a hop-head but need an education? Attend Beer School, with themed tastings led by an expert. Sessions are $10 and are limited to 16 people.

Bluegrass Tavern

115 Cheapside. (859) 389-6664. Hours: 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Mon.-Wed., Fri.; 4 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Thu.; 8 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Sat.

Modeled after an old-fashioned saloon, this deep, narrow joint tries hard to be Kentucky's best bourbon bar. Behind the long 1896 bar are more than 100 expressions of Kentucky's (and America's) native spirit. There also are 16 beers on tap. The bar has a diverse crowd and is often packed on weekends and after Thursday Night Live out front in Cheapside Park.

Noteworthy: The bourbon selection i ncludes many rare and no-longer-made brands that can go for $100 or more a shot.

The Chase Tap Room

135 N. Broadway. (859) 309-9300. Chasetaproom.com. Hours: 2:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. daily.

If your downtown bar binge begs for a brew, duck into the chummy Chase on the northeast corner of Victorian Square. Sure, they can mix you a drink, but the real draws are the 22 beers in the on-tap rotation. It's in the boisterous center of downtown, walking distance from everything. There's Mexican food next door, the opera house across the street, sometimes open-mike comedy, and an easy-going clientele.

Noteworthy: Excuse me? Could it be that the Chase allows your canine companions, as long as they behave? How laid-back is that?

DeSha's and The Horse and Barrel

101 N. Broadway. (859) 259-3771. Deshas.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu.; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri., Sat. (If there's a crowd,w Horse and Barrel stays open until 2 a.m.)

Sitting in an 1870 building at the prime corner of Main Street and North Broadway, deSha's has long been a cozy spot to experience an antique vibe, English fare and Southern hospitality. The same goes for its sister bar next door, The Horse and Barrel, which Whisky Magazine named one of the best bourbon bars in the world in 2008. Select from one of the best bourbon cabinets in Lexington, with as many as 100 choices. The H&B features live music Fridays and Saturdays.

Noteworthy: The signature Kentucky margarita features Maker's Mark bourbon, Grand Marnier, sour mix and Rose's Lime.

Dudley's on Short

259 W. Short St., Suite 125. (859) 252-1010. Dudleysrestaurant.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily; 5:30-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 5:30-11 p.m. Fri., Sat.

It can feel like an event to eat at Dudley's, one of the top dining establishments in Lexington. But the atmosphere in the bar, with huge windows looking out on Short Street, is downright neighborhood-y, with many diners and drinkers seeming to be familiar faces to one another. The bar can whip up drinks as classic as an old-fashioned or as intriguing as a "steeple," with Absolut Citron, muddled strawberry and basil. Dudley's also has an extensive wine list and consistently wins an award of excellence from Wine Spectator magazine.

Noteworthy: Catering to the horsey crowd, Dudley's has an extensive collection of Thoroughbred photography in the bar.

Jonathan at Gratz Park

120 W. Second St. (859) 252-4949. JAGP.info. Bar hours: 5 p.m.-"whenever" daily.

This cozy and clubby bar is next to the upscale eatery, which itself is tucked away in Lexington's top boutique hotel near historic Gratz Park and Transylvania University. There's no drink menu, but a helpful and hard-working bartender recommended a tasty Hendricks cucumber gimlet. (Be prepared for sticker shock if you have champagne tastes.) The television doesn't dominate, which is nice.

Noteworthy: Hey, was that Mayor Jim Gray sliding through on his way home?


307 W. Short St. (859) 381-9493. Metropolfinedining.com. Hours: 5:30-10 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Short street is jumping these days, including this beautiful old-school bar at one of downtown's upscale fine dining establishments. The television is on TVG, and there are only three beers on tap, but the friendly and professional bartender will help you sort through the 80 (yes, 80) available bourbons, or whip up a specialty of the day (ours was a perfect blackberry martini from farmers market-fresh blackberries). On weekends, there's elegant piano music.

Noteworthy: Intrigued by Metropol's quirky portraits? Ask the owner who painted them.

Lynagh's Irish Pub

384 Woodland Ave. (859) 255-1292. Lynaghsirishpub.com. Food: 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. daily. Bar: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily.

With 24 beers on tap and 85 overall, Lynagh's has something for every palate. It also offers good food to pair with the beer. The pub has served its famed O'Round burger for 30 years, and it's one of the best in Lexington. The Irish-themed bar showcases live music, although it's far from the level of what was once Lynagh's music hall, a regional music destination, in the same shopping center.

Noteworthy: The weekend favorite among the eclectic clientele is the bloody Mary.

Marikka's Bier Stube

411 Southland Dr. (859) 275-1925. Marikkas.com. Food: 5-9:30 p.m. Mon.-Thu.; 5-10:30 p.m. Fri, Sat. Bar: 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Mon.-Sat.

It might bill itself as a German restaurant and bar, but Marikka's is more a bar of the world, not just Deutschland. After all, it boasts 972 available beers that cross the continents. Nearly 40 of those are on tap. And its TVs show plenty of sports, but there's more than enough of that going on live, with a handful of pool tables and a sand volleyball court that's home to plenty of games throughout the week.

Noteworthy: The double-digit variety of wursts on the food menu includes a spicy jalapeño and the Bahama Mama for more exotic tastes.


249 E. Main St., in the Thomas and King building. (859) 253-9300. Portofinolexington.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu.; 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-11 p.m. Fri.; 5-11 p.m. Sat.

Portofino provides an upscale blend of Italian flavor and California flair. Choose from the 99 bourbons at the bar or enjoy a glass of vino from the extensive wine list, which has won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for eight straight years. Check out the patio for a moonlit dinner or to enjoy one of the small bar's 12 signature martinis.

Noteworthy: The wine list is 11 pages long and ranges in price from $6 for a glass of California white to $699 for a bottle of a 1990 Château Mouton Rothschild bordeaux.

The Pub

3750 Mall Rd., in The Plaza at Fayette Mall. (859) 971-2748. Experiencethepub.com/lexington. Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Mon-Thu.; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fri, Sat.; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.

Its polished wood décor gives The Pub a high-brow feel. The service can be hit or miss, but it is the drinking that sets the real standard for the self-proclaimed traditional English drinking establishment. Whether you like fruitier flavors of English-style stouts, clean lagers or just a Bud Light, there is something to satisfy the palate. The food is good if unspectacular, and if beers aren't your thing, the mixed drinks are strong and balanced.

Noteworthy: The bloody Mary bar during Saturday and Sunday brunch lets you design your own cocktail, from the vodka and tomato juice to the skewered accompaniments, including olives, cheese cubes, gherkins, asparagus and sausages.

Wines on Vine

400 Old Vine St. (859) 243-0017. Winesonvine.net. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat., 5-9 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 5-10 p.m. Thu.-Sat.

Priding itself on being Lexington's only wine bar and wine shop, Wines on Vine also has a full lunch and dinner menu. Don't be afraid to ask your knowledgeable server for a sample taste of a wine on its list; the restaurant will gladly oblige. In addition to a lengthy list of wines, the restaurant serves more than 100 beers. The store's Web site includes listings of recently updated wine selections.

Noteworthy: From 5 to 10 p.m. Saturdays, the $8 corkage fee is waived with the purchase of an entree.

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