Restaurant News & Reviews

Lexington Bar Guide: Beer and wine HQs

Bill Lear, reflected in a mirror, sat at the bar in Jonathan At Gratz Park, owned by Jonathan Lundy. The restaurant is in Gratz Park Inn, a historic building downtown.
Bill Lear, reflected in a mirror, sat at the bar in Jonathan At Gratz Park, owned by Jonathan Lundy. The restaurant is in Gratz Park Inn, a historic building downtown.

When you just want a great beer or a glass of wine, but you need a big list to choose from, these are the places to hit.

The Beer Trappe

811 Euclid Ave. (859) 309-0911. Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Tue.-Sat.; 1-10 p.m. Sun.

The Beer Trappe is out to win converts to the expanding universe of craft beer. Go there to sample any of the eight artisan beers on tap; they change daily. Or go to create your own six-pack from their selection of 400 kinds of beers from all over the world, or to educate your palate with the help of beer expert Kevin Patterson. There are many reasons to go. You're sure to find more of your own.

Taste: Belgian monks brew it better: Sample the Rochefort 10.

The Chase Tap Room

135 N. Broadway. (859) 621-5831. Hours: 2:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. daily. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. ($3 well drinks, and $1 off pints).

The Chase is a place to drink, look and be seen, although it's pleasantly set apart and slightly quieter than the jam-packed Cheapside bar a block nearby. Young professionals in strapless sundresses or khakis and loafers thumb their smartphones and sip their microbrews on weekends. Occasional live music accompanies Wednesday "pint night," offering pitchers, discounted pints and commemorative glasses. You can order food from a scaled-down pub menu from the owners' restaurant in Victorian Square.

See: Count how many folks are texting or otherwise engaged in their BlackBerrys, iPhones or Droids. Make a game of it.

Wine + Market

486 W. Second St. (859) 225-0755. Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

This isn't a bar, but rather a small grocery, deli and wine shop that offers casual, fun — and free — weekly wine tastings, with one or two wines sampled 5 to 8 p.m. each Friday. Wines are a passion of owner Krim Boughalem, who thinks good wine does not have to be expensive. Most of the wines are priced $9 to $30 a bottle, if you want to buy one that you tasted. Many are organic.At the same time as the tastings, the market serves a delicious, affordable themed meal that has included Vietnamese, Korean, Thai and Argentinean cuisine. It's a petite downtown treasure.

Taste: Wine isn't the only passion of W+M. It also has a selection of microbrew beers for sale, either to take away or drink on the premises.


Marikka's Bier Stube

411 Southland Dr. (859) 275-1925. Bar hours: 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Mon.-Sat. Closed Sun. Kitchen: Full menu until 10:30 p.m.; pizza, including house variety with brats and sauerkraut, till 2 a.m.

If you arrive before the crowds and stare befuddled at the hundreds of bottles behind the bar, an attentive tender will ask, "Can I help you find something you've never had before?" Planning a vacation to Peru, I asked for something South American: A bottle of Brazilian Palma Louca fit the bill. A former Australia resident was glad to have a James Boag's lager instead of only Foster's. Great bucket deals help the pocketbook: This visit offered five 16.9-ounce bottles of Italian Dolomiti for $10 — cheaper than Bud Light. Regulars pay $10 for a list to keep track and aim to get their names on the "500 club" wall of fame.

Taste: A pal who lived for years in Germany rated the quintessential German late-night bar food, currywurst ($8.95): nicer sausage than usual, but it could use more curry powder.

Jonathan at Gratz Park

120 W. Second St. (859) 252-4949. Bar hours: 5-10 p.m. daily. Kitchen hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. daily.

In the heart of historic Lexington, this richly paneled bar at Jonathan in the Gratz Park Inn boutique hotel is where Lexington residents and tourists rub shoulders. It's an elegant but cozy vibe. Sip a Kentucky bourbon, nibble a sea scallop hot Brown to sounds of classic R&B in the background. The bar offers fantastic Manhattans made with Van Winkle rye and a dash of bitters.

Try: The Belle Brezing martini, named for Lexington's famous madam, is made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, Grand Marnier and pomegranate juice.


249 E. Main St., in Thomas and King building. (859) 253-9300. Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon-Fri. Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; bar is open later when there are customers.

Portofino is a seven-time Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner, so the restaurant's wine list is the centerpiece of its bar experience. Vino is served by the glass, half-bottle and bottle at a wide variety of prices, from $6 for a glass of California red or white to $679 for a bottle of a French Bordeaux. The handsome, if small, bar also has one of Lexington's most thorough bourbon selections and a fine beer list.

See: The playing cards stuck to the tin ceiling. They're an eye-catching artifact of a magician who used to rove the restaurant.

The Pub Lexington

370 Mall Rd., in The Plaza at Fayette Mall. (859) 971-2748. Hours: 11 a.m.- midnight Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.; kitchen closes about 45 minutes before the bar.

Get a taste of Britain in the Bluegrass at The Pub. Throw back a Bass Ale, enjoy a hearty meal of fish and chips or bangers and mash, and watch a rugby match on the big screen. With more than 50 brands of imported and domestic beers combined, The Pub has one of the larger selections of foreign beers in Lexington. If you're the type who has trouble choosing, plan ahead by downloading the bar's famous "Beverage Bible" at its Web site.

See: The kilts. Enough said.

Wines on Vine

400 Old Vine St. (859) 243-0017. Lunch hours: 11:30-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Dinner: 5-9 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 5-10 p.m. Thu.-Sat.

Quaint and cozy, with a real bistro feel to it, Wines on Vine offers well-prepared food and friendly staff to help guide you through its numerous bottles and more than 100 beers available. Considering what it is, the by-the-glass wine list could stand to have more variety to it, but you can select a wine from the adjacent shop for an $8 corkage fee.

Try: At the "martinis and manicure" on Tuesdays, you can get your primp and your drink on for $10 beginning at 5:30 p.m.