Most bars offer entertainment in the form of people-watching, but these places bring something more to the experience, whether it's live music or a movie.
Austin City Saloon
2350 Woodhill Dr. (859) 266-6891. Austincitysaloon.com. Hours: 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Sat., 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Sun.
Known as the place where country music star John Michael Montgomery got his start, the friendly Austin City Saloon remains one of the best country bars in town. The scene at "The City" is centered on live music: There are bands on the weekends and acoustic, open mike and karaoke nights during the week. The drinks are strong and the crowd can get loud, but it's guaranteed to be a good time.
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Taste: If you get hungry, Austin City serves food, just like its sister pubs, Lynagh's and O'Neill's.
388 Woodland Ave. (859) 309-9499. Cosmic-charlies.com. Hours: 8 p.m.-2:30 a.m. daily.
When you set foot in the door of Cosmic Charlie's, you know you're in a bar that was built specifically for live music. Cosmic Charlie's large stage, in the old Lynagh's Music Club space, hosts a wide variety of musical performers, some local and some national. And, in a nod to the great commonwealth of Kentucky, it offers a bluegrass performance every Sunday. No performance would be complete, however, without a good drink, and, with 26 beers on tap, Cosmic Charlie's can deliver it.
See: The dazzling lighting system as it complements the music.
Buster's Billiards and Backroom
899 Manchester St. (859) 368-8871. Bustersbb.com. Hours: 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Wed.-Sat.
This renovated warehouse in Lexington's Distillery District is a casual, spacious live-music venue. Buster's, serving liquor and beer, can effortlessly transition from hosting local bands to the large crowds that flock to see more widely known artists, including singer Ani DiFranco and hip-hop group Nappy Roots. Most concerts are 18-and-older events, so Buster's welcomes students. But young adults feel at home, sitting in fold-up chairs and sipping Pabst Blue Ribbon.
See: The chalk scribbles on the walls announce upcoming shows and patrons' random thoughts.
Jazzy G's Bar and Grill
209 Old Georgetown St. (859) 351-4080. Hours: 3:30 p.m.-about 1 a.m. daily.
First off, the G doesn't stand for Granny. It stands for the family name, Grimes, and Granny and her son also run Richie's Chicken on Georgetown Street. Second, tiny Jazzy G's defies all expectations. Granny really wanted to offer live jazz and did for the first five months, but the patrons weren't having it, so she hired a hip-hop DJ. It feels more like a family reunion than a club. A waitress is there on her night off and spots a newcomer a mile away. There's a private party in the back, she says, but don't let it keep you from dancing. The bartender tells us her birthday is the following Wednesday, so karaoke night promises to be off the hook. Granny's touch is all over the décor, from the framed jazz albums on the wall right down to one of the cleanest bathrooms I've ever seen in a bar. Happy hour is 4 to 7 p.m. daily.
Taste: "They tell me my chops are the bomb," Granny says conspiratorially as she stops by our table. $5 bone-in fried pork chop sandwiches, with tomatoes, mayo and hot sauce, served as late as Granny will make them.
133 N. Locust Hill Dr. (859) 266-4667. Movietavern.com. Bar open during movie-screening hours, 10:30 a.m.-close daily.
Movie theaters and good drinks don't often go together, but to Movie Tavern's credit, its ability to shake up a martini is surprisingly on point. The atmosphere at the bar itself isn't especially notable, and the wine/beer list is pedestrian — it is a movie theater, after all — but if you're settling in for some mind candy on the big screen, you might find yourself craving another Casabalanca cosmo before the film hits its climax. You can even order your drink in the darkened theater, and surprisingly, the waiters don't get in the way of the movie.
Taste: Try one of the specialty drinks that Movie Tavern will often craft to coincide with certain films, such as Sex and the City.