If a watering hole is popular, it has to be doing something right. Here are a few places that have big followings.
McCarthy's Irish Bar
117 S. Upper St. (859) 258-2181. Mccarthysirishbar.com. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. daily.
An authentic Irish pub owned by Irishmen, McCarthy's is a favorite of college students, young professionals and Irish transplants of all ages. Guinness, Harp and Magners Cider are on tap, and there's a large whiskey selection. The décor is a homey mix of traditional Irish and Bluegrass horsey in a restored 19th-century building. Regulars pack the small bar and rear patio Thursday through Saturday nights; it's much less crowded early in the week.
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Hear: Live Irish music and dancing is the first and third Thursdays of each month.
RESTAURANTS WITH BARS
1074 Merrick Dr. (859) 269-5417. Murrays-merrick.com. Bar hours: 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Sat.; dinner served 5:30-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 5:30-10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
What used to be a Thoroughbred horse farm is now one of the most popular restaurants and patios in town. The "Big Bar" opens up to the outdoors and looks over a swimming pool. Daily drink specials (a cucumber lime cosmopolitan, for example) are $5, some appetizers (including fried calamari and Tuscan bruschetta) are half-priced during happy hour, 4-6 p.m., and drinks such as the black cherry lemonade-infused martini make the Merrick stand out.
See: A sign at the Big Bar reads, "My bartender can beat up your therapist." Need we say more?
Cheapside Bar and Grill
131 Cheapside. (859) 254-0046. Cheapsidebarandgrill.com. Hours: Lunch/brunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Dinner: 5 p.m.-midnight Mon.-Sat., 4-9 p.m. Sun.; bar open until 2:30 a.m. daily.
In just a few short steps in the same handy location, you can go from an intimate Victorian pub to a Southwestern dining room to a tropical paradise oasis. All of those locations are nice, but it's hard to go wrong with a visit to Cheapside's two-story patio, which has undergone recent updates and is a great experience every day of the week. Different drink specials daily are as fun and diverse as the restaurant's venues.
See: From the patio's second level, see the stars and city lights above or the bustling bar below.
Saul Good Restaurant and Pub
3801 Mall Rd., in The Plaza at Fayette Mall. (859) 273-4663. 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.; kitchen stops service an hour before closing. Second location: 1808 Alysheba Way.
The easy elegance of the décor inside Saul Good is an indicator of what you're going to get settling in at the bar: warm service and fun drinks that stand out without being overly showy. The wine list is measured yet balanced, the mixed drinks rarely disappoint, and if you can't settle on which beer to go with for the night, the restaurant's beer-sampler flight of four is the perfect solution.
See: The artful chandeliers and gold and red accents throughout the restaurant that make for a visually pleasing backdrop.