Neighborhood bars are all about comfort and folks knowing your name. These places, all but one of which are pubs or grills, are some of the coziest places around.
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.
As the neighborhood pub for the Chevy Chase area, A.P. Suggins is a casual eatery and bar that consistently draws a crowd, especially during and after a University of Kentucky game. At 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday in summer, there was a line at the door, but less than 10 minutes after we ordered drinks, the bartender had snagged us an open table in the bar. There is a selection of reasonably priced wines and beers here, but the mixed drinks really shine. A vodka and cranberry ($2.75) didn't skimp on the spirits, and a bloody Mary (also $2.75) was made with a zesty Zing Zang mix. Even the bar is family-friendly at Suggins: Kids are welcome to eat there or in the small dining room.
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Taste: Order a hamburger ($6.50 served with french fries), a favorite of the locals, and make it your own with a choice of toppings, including zesty beer cheese.
Buddy's Bar and Grill
854 E. High St. (859) 335-1283. Buddysbarandgrill.com. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon-Thu., 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
Modern and elegant without taking itself too seriously, Buddy's offers a lively scene and enough variety in beers, wines and martinis to keep everyone satisfied. The strength of the drinks can be hit-or-miss, and the bar at times runs out of certain ingredients, but the concoctions that emerge are often creative and well made. Don't be afraid to sit at the bar by yourself; you probably will be chatted up soon enough.
Taste: The ginger peach martini during happy hour, which is 5 to 8 p.m. daily, featuring half-priced mixed drinks and appetizers.
4101 Tates Creek Centre Dr., No. 3. (859) 273-7788. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. daily.
There's nothing fancy about The Grapevine, a storefront bar beside a Kroger in a strip mall. But what the suburban mainstay lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in good drinks, a friendly atmosphere, frequent live music and a huge patio. The pub (bar and grill-type food is served) has a sizeable bar with plenty of seating and a corner stage. In warm weather, the refurbished patio (cornhole, anyone?) can be packed. Be prepared to pay a cover when there's music.
See: Memorabilia from country singer Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry, whose father used to be a co-owner of the bar.
The Grey Goose Restaurant and Bar
170 Jefferson St. (859) 233-1500. Greygoosellc.com. Hours: 4 p.m.-close daily.
At this tasteful, low-key bar and restaurant, the atmosphere is cozy, friendly and relaxing inside and on the patio. A wide selection of local and import draft and bottled beers, a small but adequate wine list by the glass or bottle, and a good selection of fine spirits round out the full-service choices. The menu is simple bar fare, with an occasional twist — fried cheddar broccoli bites, a grilled wedge salad, and hand-rolled New York thin-crust pizzas baked in a stone oven.
Taste: The delicious signature drink: Grey Goose L'Orange vodka with soda and lime.
Malabu Pub and Grille
239 Surfside Dr. (859) 278-9003. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. daily; kitchen hours vary.
The drinks are a toss-up between watered down, too strong or just right, but they're cheap. The balls don't drop from the pool table unless you insert your quarters just right. And it can be hard to track down darts to use one of the bar's half-dozen dart boards. Still, there's something charming about the bar hidden away behind the old Nicholasville Road Circuit City. Maybe it's the friendly staff, the lovable cast of regulars or the tasty bar food. Or maybe it's the "NFL Sunday Ticket" programming during football season. Or nightly entertainment, including live bands and karaoke. Whatever it is, it keeps the locals coming back.
Taste: Malabu's half-pound cheeseburger and mozzarella sticks — the kind of quick and dirty, albeit delicious, food that you crave on a hangover day.
Molly Brooke's Irish Bar
109 N. Limestone. (859) 420-5792. Hours: 3p.m.-2:30 a.m. daily.
Molly Brooke's is a nice little hole in the wall for those who just want to sit, drink and talk. With its attractive décor (pull up a stool to a table made from an aged Guinness barrel) and friendly staff (the Irish-born owner tends bar), it's easy to see why some folks make this place their regular stop-in. During peak hours, Molly Brooke's serves as an overflow for some of the more crowded bars downtown, meaning it, too, can get crowded and loud. But it's a haven for those who have gotten all the way downtown before realizing they didn't feel like going dancing after all.
Taste: The Paddy's Arse, the house-special shooter, tastes like a peppermint patty. Want something harder? Ask the bartender to add Jameson Irish whiskey and put your lips around the Paddy's Hole.
O'Neill's Traditional Irish Pub
2051 Richmond Rd., Suite 140. (859) 266-4488. Oneillslex.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sat.; kitchen closes at 10 p.m. Sun.-Thu. and 11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
O'Neill's is as much American sports bar as Irish pub, but with plenty of seating, friendly bartenders and a lively patio, it's a good place to sit down and have a drink and a bite away from the raucous crowd downtown. Bourbon lovers can branch out from their Kentucky favorites with several brands of Scotch and Irish whiskey. O'Neill's boasts table taps for those who don't want to walk to the bar for a draft, and it offers two free non-alcoholic drinks a night to designated drivers.
Taste: O'Neill's award-winning Reuben sandwich, with sauerkraut and thick-cut corned beef so juicy, your bread gets mushy.
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.
Claiming to serve "every beer under the sun," this neighborhood bar attracts an easygoing mixed-age crowd and keeps the jukebox music low enough for conversation. Nice long kitchen hours mean you can order Irish nachos (potato fries instead of corn chips) late into the night. Live music on Fridays and Saturdays, a smallish patio, and dart boards round out the experience.
See: If you can tear your eyes away from the sports on the many banks of TVs, take a look behind the bar at the 21-tap "draft wall" custom-made from an antique table.