A handful of Lexington bars and restaurants, most of them mainstays, really capture the personality, or personalities, of the city — its eccentricity, horsiness, down-home vibe or some other indefinable trait.
The Bar Complex
224 E. Main St. (859) 255-1551. Myspace.com/thebarcomplex. Hours: 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Wed.; 4 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Thu.-Sat.; 4 p.m.-11:30 p.m. Sun.
There's no reason to spend all night waiting for a drink at The Bar Complex, because there's plenty for patrons to do: lounge with friends, watch a drag show or dance to upbeat mixes of current tunes.
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Known as "The Bar," this longtime gay club has three. Get a cocktail from a friendly gentleman with a gray goatee, but save enough cash to tip the drag queens during the show. When you venture upstairs to boogie beneath the dance floor's mirror balls, know that you're entering what was an unlikely mid-America disco palace in the early 1980s, modeled after the legendary Studio 54.
Taste: For a sweet, colorful cocktail, try a Savannah. It's green with a cherry on top.
Comedy Off Broadway
161 Lexington Green Cir., on the lower level of The Mall at Lexington Green. (859) 271-5653. Comedyoffbroadway.com. Hours: Standard show times are 7:15 p.m. Wed.-Thu., 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; check Web site for special events.
OK, nobody hangs out at a comedy club just for the drinks. But as house comic Scott Wilson likes to quip, the show is funnier if you treat yourself to a sip or two. Few Lexingtonians appreciate that the COB stage is a nationally acclaimed stand-up venue, hosting a parade of big-time acts and plenty of sleepers. Their helpful online calendar will let you know what to expect.
See: First Tuesday of each month is open-mike night. Check out the wannabes, some first-rate, some painful, but all of whom, face it, have more guts than you do.
RESTAURANTS WITH BARS
A la Lucie
159 N Limestone. (859) 252-5277. Alalucie.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Sat., but closing time is subject to demand.
Leopard-print décor, funky table lamps and eclectic art fill this cozy and fun restaurant. If you're not lucky enough to snag one of three seats at the city's most intimate bar, try a signature Caeser's Cup (berry vodka, raspberry liqueur and champagne) or Lemon Drop (lemon juice, citrus vodka, sweet and sour, sugar) on the sidewalk patio, across from the courthouse plaza. And if you stay for dinner, ask legendary waiter, artist and gadfly Louis Bickett what's good.
See: Is that a darkened 1970s-era disco ball? What would it take to get someone to fire it up?
265 N. Limestone. (859) 254-1969. Atomiccafeky.com. Hours: 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Tue.-Thu., 4 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Fri.-Sat.
Grab a rum runner at this picturesque island-themed bar, where authentic reggae bands jam live every Friday and Saturday evening. The popular patio is spacious and convincingly decorated; on a warm summer evening, you might catch yourself forgetting you're in Lexington if you start having too much fun. An extensive drink menu and delicious Caribbean-style food complement the friendly staff and fantastic atmosphere.
Hear: The offbeat, accented vocals and smooth guitar arpeggios of an authentic reggae band.
3347 Tates Creek Rd. (859) 335-6500. Drakeslansdowne.com. Hours: 11:15 a.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Thu., 11:15 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Fri.-Sat., 11:15 a.m.-11:15 p.m. Sun.
You can definitely have fun at Drake's. Beer drinkers will find it most enjoyable because the bar, affiliated with the Malone's restaurants, offers everything from domestic standards to Irish ciders in 12-, 18- and 23-ounce and grand tabletop sizes. During warm weather, this place can be phenomenally popular. It also can be noisy, and seating at the high-top tables isn't terribly plentiful.
Taste: Weather permitting, sip your drinks on the popular patio. The atmosphere is more relaxed.
Dudley's on Short
259 W. Short St. (859) 252-1010. Dudleysrestaurant.com. Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily. Dinner: 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
This is more than just a great place for a post-Keeneland dinner. Peer into the custom windows and doors that run from floor to ceiling along the front of Dudley's and see into a bar area that is classic Lexington, even though it's been open at this location only since March. Walls of the main room are lined with equine memorabilia, and the bar is lined with a unique, vast collection of bourbons and other premium liquors to enjoy.
See: A stunning bar that was transported from the old location, at Mill and Maxwell streets, but looks as if it was always meant to be in that spot.
735 E. Main St. (859) 266-9000. Furlongs.com. Hours: 4-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 4-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
Furlongs, at Main Street and Ashland Avenue, gives you genuine Cajun food, horse racing (a photo of every Derby winner since 1956) and half-price bottles of wine. The bar area is small and cozy with a fireplace, and there's a patio. Happy hour is 4-7 p.m. daily (and all night Mondays) and includes $3 off appetizers (try the spinach and crabmeat dip with freshly made tortilla chips). On Wednesdays, women get their drinks for half-price, and on Sundays and Tuesdays, frozen strawberry daiquiris and frozen piña coladas are $3.
Taste: There are cocktails named for each of the 11 Triple Crown winners, with another named for Man o' War.
Lynagh's Irish Pub
384 Woodland Ave. (859) 255-1292. Lynaghsirishpub.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-2:30 a.m. Sun.
Looking for a pint of Guinness, a delicious burger and a spacious location to celebrate your greener side? Lynagh's Irish Pub is a unique Irish-themed bar known for its great food, but it also is one of the only places around where patrons can catch television broadcasts of European soccer matches. Lynagh's also books top-notch musical talent to play on the small stage near the entrance.
Taste: An Irish Car Bomb is a mix of Guinness, Bailey's and Irish whiskey. But hurry up and drink it before it curdles.
496 E. High St. (859) 259-2708. Ramseysdiners.com.
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat.-Sun. (Other locations include 4053 Tates Creek Center Dr., 4391 Old Harrodsburg Rd. and 3090 Helmsdale Pl.)
Ramsey's on East High Street, the original restaurant in a local chain, has a shabby-chic atmosphere. Although it's known for its homey food more than its drink, the restaurant's popular bar is in the main dining room. There's always a drink of the day, and happy hour, 4 to 7 p.m., offers two-for-one on all mixed drinks. This location is a favorite for University of Kentucky fans because the football game shuttle stops there, making it the perfect place for a drink and a bite to eat before the game.
See: Tie-wearing wait staff greets you at the door, conveying a Cheers feel.