Restaurant News & Reviews

Lexington Bar Guide: Student centers

The Tin Roof on Limestone at Maxwell Street is a favorite of UK students.
The Tin Roof on Limestone at Maxwell Street is a favorite of UK students. © Mark Cornelison

When the University of Kentucky, Transylvania University and the colleges in Lexington are in session, the city's population swells by several thousand. Here are some great places where students take up the bulk of the bar stools.


200 W. Main St. (859) 226-9333. Hours: 3 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Mon.-Sat.; Hugo's is open 10 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Fri.-Sat.

Harvey's, in the former Melodeon space at Main and Upper streets, is a small bar with simple, modern décor. None seems to be needed: It's a popular Lexington hangout, mostly for college-age adults. Drink specials include $2.50 domestic drafts and $5 and $6 mixed drinks during the week.

See: Hugo's, next door, is the sister bar to Harvey's and has a more luxurious, clubby feel.

The Penguin Dueling Piano Bar

517 Main St., in The 500s complex. (859) 327-3333. Hours: 8 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Thu.-Sat. (show starts at 9 p.m.).

Audience engagement is the goal here, as two pianists face each other on stage and go back and forth performing any song you can think to request, from the Beatles to Lady Gaga and everything in between. Come before 10 p.m., though, and you'll have the place mostly to yourself — it often fills up as the night goes on. The drink selection includes beer, wine and signature cocktails and martinis. There's a $5 cover on Fridays and Saturdays. Check the Web site for info on the night's featured pianists.

Do: Tip the entertainer when requesting a song or else it's likely to be ignored.

Saddle Ridge

1030 S. Broadway. (859) 254-0391. Hours: until 2:30 a.m. Thu.-Sat., and soon to be open Wednesdays.

With a dance floor, arcade games, a pool table and an outside patio with a stage for live bands, the only thing Saddle Ridge is missing is a place to talk to someone at a reasonable volume. But that's a strong selling point to students who just want to party. The Ridge is within walking distance of UK. Drinks are reasonably priced but are the usual college fare: Jagermeister, Bacardi and Budweiser. Go to The Ridge with friends and getting sloshed if you want, and you'll have a great time. But be forewarned: Cops stake this joint out on weekends, so have a safe ride and don't act a fool.

See: How long you can hold on to Saddle Ridge's mechanical bull? With a giant blow-up ring as a fall zone, you won't injure anything but your dignity.

Two Keys Tavern

333 S. Limestone. (859) 254-5000. 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. daily.

A mainstay in campus nightlife for many years, Two Keys is a prime contender for UK's most popular weekend bar among students. There are specials all week, but Thursday's $10 all-you-care-to-drink special takes the cake. With two inside bars and an outdoor patio bar, there is plenty of room to accommodate large crowds. Happy hour is 3 to 7 p.m. daily, and as the Web site says, "never a cover."

Hear: The DJs spin their music for the student-packed dance floor on the weekends.


Campus Pub

393 Waller Ave. (859) 231-0957. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. daily.

UK students who have trouble catching their favorite NFL teams in Lexington are probably familiar with Campus Pub, which is well known for offering DirecTV's "Sunday Ticket" during football season. The inside boasts 13 LCD TVs, and at least two are within view of every seat. Cold Jagermeister is on tap, along with a plentiful beer selection at a predictable price.

Hear: Fans roar or boo as their teams battle for a win.

Charlie Brown's

816 Euclid Ave. (859) 269-5701. Hours: 11.a.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Fri.-Sat., noon-midnight Sun.

At Charlie Brown's, customers love to stick around; bartenders sometimes start and end a shift with the same table. Décor is more reminiscent of a dimly lit living room than a bar. Stacked bookshelves line the brick wall, which has a fireplace. The staff is young, friendly, and as quick on their feet as they are with their jokes. If it's nice out, there's a large patio in the back. Large mixed drinks and a killer dirty martini bring regulars back for years.

See: If you can find a hundred-dollar bill. Rumor has it that one of the books on the shelves has one tucked between its pages.

The Tin Roof

303 S. Limestone. (859) 317-9111. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-2:30 a.m. Sat.; kitchen closes at 10:30, but lighter fare available later.

The Tin Roof literally has a tin roof — a testament to the authentic feel of this college bar, part of a regional chain based in Nashville. Walls are lined with old license plates, road signs, jerseys and myriad other collectables that add to the laid-back atmosphere. A packed favorite for students many nights of the week, it's also available for a bite to eat during the day. Live music is featured several nights of the week. Happy hour and daily drink specials make it an experience that's easy on the wallet. Ask for an "F'N 8."

See: All the crazy stuff that's tacked to the wall. Ask where it came from, because it might have a story behind it.