Lexington Bar Guide 2011: Neighborhood bars

August 19, 2011 

Michael Nielsen, left, and his brother Adam are regulars at The Crossroad on Southland. The restaurant-bar opened last fall.

BROOKE DIDONATO | STAFF

  • SEE ALSO

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

The most popular kind of bar in Lexington is also the most comfortable and casual. Try out some of these neighborhood haunts.

A.P. Suggins Bar and Grill

345 Romany Rd. (859) 268-0709. Suggins.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu.; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fri., Sat.

Suggins, in the heart of Chevy Chase, might be the closest thing Lexington has to the TV bar Cheers, "where everybody knows your name." During our visit, the bartender and bar waitress routinely greeted customers by name, asked after kids and relatives, and they chatted about politics, sports, the weather. Suggins is part neighborhood diner, part bar, and almost always busy. It has a solid selection of moderately priced beer, wine and mixed drinks, and plenty of TVs in a fairly tight bar space to see every angle during UK games.

Noteworthy: The menu is heavy on diner food, including an authentically classic open-faced turkey and roast beef on white bread with mashed potatoes ($7.95 each).

Cheapside Bar and Grill

131 Cheapside. (859) 254-0046. Cheapsidebarandgrill.com, Lunch/brunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sat., Sun. Dinner: 5-11 p.m. Mon.-Thu.; 5 p.m.-midnight Fri., Sat., 5-9 p.m. Sun. Bar open until 1 a.m. Sun.-Wed., 2 a.m. Thu.-Sat.

Cheapside was once a gem of the downtown bar scene, with its historic two-story patio complete with a full tree growing on the bottom floor. In recent years, the restaurant remodeled, uprooted the tree and went with a more modern look. You can't beat the view or the breeze from the patio's upper deck. During happy hour and on weekends, the place can be packed to the gills, especially with an after-work crowd of downtown professionals.

Noteworthy: The bar's most popular mixed drink is the deja voodoo, which boasts a splash of mango nectar.

Chevy Chase Inn

833 Euclid Ave. (859) 266-9422. Hours: 2 p.m.-midnight Sun.-Thu., 2 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Sat.; open Sundays beginning Sept. 11.

The oldest continually operating bar in Lexington (since 1933) has seen a lot of characters, famous personalities and big-name music acts come in and out. CCI is a seasoned "hole in the wall," full of regulars who come to get the signature drink — the strongest version in town of whatever tickles their fancy. Like Suggins, the Inn has been compared to the bar in Cheers for its look, feel and customer base, and when compared to its neighbors in Chevy Chase, you can expect lot of bang in that glass for your buck.

Noteworthy: Behind the bar hangs a photo of a man and his horse who came into the bar together every Fourth of July.

The Crossroad on Southland

286 Southland Dr. (859) 309-3904. Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Fri., 7:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Sat., 7:30 a.m.-midnight Sun.

The Crossroad has enough room for everyone in space and in its offerings, from a lineup of specialty drinks to a breakfast menu on the weekends, from neighborhood diner to live-music venue. The newly redecorated interior includes an extensive bar area where you can easily dine if you don't want to get a booth or table. The clientele late on a weekday afternoon ranged from toddlers to seniors, a lot of whom seemed to know one another. An apparent regular taps on his laptop at the bar before going off to socialize. If you choose to eat, the menu leans toward Southern cuisine with a distinctive Memphis flavor, and the signature drink is a spicy bloody Mary that will wake you up.

Noteworthy: If you want a snack while you drink, order the pulled-pork nachos, two great things that go great together.

Durango's

2121 Richmond Rd. (859) 268-0723. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fri., 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Sat.

If you want fancy, artisan margaritas, look elsewhere. Durango's, like most Mexican restaurants, is about comfort, casualness and family friendly fun. That said, the margaritas are yummy and affordably priced. If you want the machine-made frozen version, choose from mango (mmm!), strawberry, raspberry and lime flavors. There's not a lot of liquor in any of them, whether icy or over ice, so if you want kick, order an extra shot of tequila.

Noteworthy: If one of the kiddos insists on a sip of your sherbet-colored frozen margarita, order a child-friendly non-alcoholic version — all the slushy, fruity goodness minus the tequila.

The Grey Goose Bar and Restaurant

170 Jefferson St. (859) 233-1500. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu.;, 11 a.m.-midnight Fri., Sat. Second location: 133 E. Main St., Midway.

The Grey Goose is one of several restaurants on Jefferson Street, making the downtown corridor one of the go-to hot spots in Lexington. The Goose's extensive outdoor patio with a bar — which was recently expanded — is a popular watering spot for the after-business cocktail crowd and for the smartphone generation on the weekends. There are no real drink specials, but the wine and beer options are better than at most bars.

Noteworthy: The food is standard bar fare with one exception: the stone-hearth, thin-crust pizzas made with fresh ingredients. Want adventure and tons of calories? Try the hot Brown pizza.

McCarthy's Irish Bar

117 S. Upper St. (859) 258-2181. Mccarthysirishbar.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. daily.

The college crowd has become more prominent in recent years, but McCarthy's remains the most authentic Irish bar in Lexington. This is a bar's bar, with straightforward, cheap drinks and a regular clientele that makes striking up a conversation an easy feat. Even when the place is bursting, you won't wait long for your pint of Magners Irish cider, because the bartenders — particularly Donnie — keep things moving whether there are 250 people inside or six.

Noteworthy: Sit at the table top bearing the statue of Grade I winner Lion Heart. It's the prime location for people-watching.

Merrick Inn

1074 Merrick Dr. (859) 269-5417. Themerrickinn.com. Bar hours: 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Sat. Dinner: 5:30-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu.; 5:30-10:30 p.m. Fri., Sat.

Come summertime, throngs turn out at to lounge, drink and eat on the patio. Merrick's "Big Bar" is a place to see and be seen — and have a good drink. A sizeable wine list pairs nicely with the restaurant's Southern fare.

Noteworthy: The Merrick Inn is in a restored manor house on what was once one of Lexington's most prominent horse farms, Merrick Place.

Molly Brooke's Irish Bar

109 N. Limestone. (859) 420-5792 Hours: 3 p.m.-2:30 a.m. daily.

As a fairly new entry into the Lexington Irish bar market, Molly Brooke's has done well and is a favorite stop for many, even though the more veteran McCarthy's Irish Bar is just a couple of streets over. On tap are Irish staples Guinness, Harp and Smithwick's, and Magners Irish cider. The bar also has a selection of harder-to-find Irish beverages for those looking to get more into their Celtic sides.

Noteworthy: The bar offers live Irish music on the second Thursday of each month.

O'Neill's Traditional Irish Pub

2051 Richmond Rd., Suite 140. (859) 266-4488. Oneillsirishpub.com. Hours: 3 p.m.-2:30 a.m. daily. Starting Sept. 2: 3 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Mon.-Thu.; 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Fri.,Sun.

O'Neill's has the rich, polished-wood feel of a traditional Irish bar, combined with images of the horse industry and trappings more typical of a sports bar. All of which indicates at a glance that O'Neill's holds a lot under one roof. You can enjoy live music on many nights while you sample the affordable draft and bottled beers in a spacious dining room/pub setting, or you can opt for the large covered patio. The drink options, including bourbons and Scotch and Irish whiskeys, are varied. You can lounge on leather sofas and watch sports on the multiple big-screen TVs. Or you can order from the menu of well-made appetizers and pub fare, including O'Neill's highly regarded Reuben sandwich and O'Burger.

Noteworthy: O'Neill's offers tabletop beer taps on some tables, a nice feature for groups who might want to refill without leaving their chairs.

Rosebud

121 N. Mill St. (859) 254-1907. Hours: 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Sat.

Rosebud is a fun, homey, unpretentious, if-these-walls-could-talk kind of joint. There's a rockin' state of-the-art touch-screen jukebox, a quirky retractable "shot-ski," and yes, of course, a sled on the wall, along with a zillion Polaroid photos (feel free to add yours). The ghost of William Randolph Hearst lurks in the kind of no-nonsense dive favored by old-time reporters. (It's probably a coincidence that it's only a block from the long-demolished building the Herald-Leader used to occupy.)

Noteworthy: Wander next door to Rosebud's sister bar, Silks Lounge, where among the wall-mounted racing paraphernalia are a dozen or more jockey caricatures by none other than the famous "PEB," Pierre Bellocq.

Saul Good Restaurant and Pub

1808 Alysheba Way. (859) 317-9200. Saulgoodpub.com. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thu.; 11:30 a.m.-midnight Fri., Sat.; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.; the kitchen stops service an hour before closing. Second location: 3801 Mall Rd., in The Plaza at Fayette Mall.

Saul Good is like going to your friend's well-decorated house for a little get-together. The ceilings drip with chandeliers and lots of stuff is gilded, but everyone is friendly and wants you to have a great time. The specialty-drink and wine menus are modest, but the draft beer selection is top-notch, even featuring a rotating tap that changes frequently and a "recession special" for $1.99.

Noteworthy: The food is tasty, too, and can be had for cheap: From 3 to 7 p.m. Mondays, pizzas are half-price.

Shamrock Bar and Grille

154 Patchen Dr. (859) 269-7621. Shamrocksky.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:15 a.m. daily; kitchen open until midnight Mon.-Thu., 1 a.m. Fri. and 11 p.m. Sun. Second location: 4750 Hartland Pkwy.

This casual, neighborhood bar/restaurant provides a great atmosphere for sports fans (multiple TVs and dart boards), music lovers (live music several nights a week) and those seeking comfort food (there's a newly updated menu, with Irish pot roast and onion rings to die for) and a wide variety of cold beers.

Noteworthy: When it comes to drinks, the menu states it best: "We have just about every beer under the sun, any missed drink you might care for and some you probably don't."

Sidebar Grill

147 N. Limestone. (859) 225-8883. Food: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 5-10 p.m. Sat. Bar: 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Mon.-Sat.

Cozy is the best way to describe Sidebar, which can't hold more than 40 people. The employees and regulars are chatty, and why not? Everything, including the grill, is in the open. The bar is stocked but not with much: There are only five beers on tap. One of those, though, is a Sam Adams rotating tap, so there's always something fresh.

Noteworthy: The employees like to think of their food as simple, but the combination of tastes, particularly in their burgers, is anything but.

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