Since opening in the fall of 2011 in the former Southern Mutual Trust building, Parlay Social has earned its place in the Short Street corridor near Cheapside that has become a center of Lexington nightlife.
With a Prohibition theme and recognition as an outstanding bourbon bar, the emphasis at Parlay Social is decidedly on the bar aspect of the business. But it does have a menu that, if not extensive, certainly goes well beyond traditional bar food. You don’t need to rely on beer nuts to maintain your equilibrium while sampling the wide range of brewed, distilled and fermented offerings.
In a couple of recent visits with friends we sampled both the food and some of the hand-mixed drinks at Parlay Social, checking it out for those looking for a place to light during the holidays, a go-to before or after basketball games (or both?) or just to sit and have a drink with a bite to eat.
Harking back to the Prohibtion era of the early 20th century, Parlay Social features oysters on its menu, a welcome but somewhat unusual staple for the Lexington restaurant scene. A dozen raw oysters ($16.95) come to the table nicely presented on their shells with standard dressings of lemon wedges, horseradish and cocktail sauce, and the requisite saltine crackers. These were not the best oysters I have ever had but they were good and made a tasty, light start to the evening.
I sampled the signature mixed drink, the Parlay ($10), a delightful mix of pink grapefruit vodka, sparkling rose and a floral liqueur. Served in a flute, it’s both fruity and tart. My companion had Parlay’s take on the classic Old Fashioned, a well-balanced blend of bourbon, sugar and bitters.
After the oysters we ordered the pulled pork sliders (3 for $8.95) but instead were served the country ham sliders (same price.) When we pointed this out to the server she quickly brought the correct dish and let us keep the wrong on. Good for us, the pulled pork was a little sweet, although good, but the country ham was the real salty, flavorful thing.
Parlay Social has an extensive offering of what it calls gourmet grilled cheese and we tried the Havana, turkey, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing served on rye. The sandwich was a disappointment, a kind of soft conglomeration with no textural counterpoints, where the flavors mushed together rather than blended.
On our second visit one of the party asked if the kitchen could produce a BLT and, after some negotiation with a knowledgeable and patient server, settled on a Havarti/bacon mixed served on toasted bread. That was much more successful. I’d suggest making it a menu regular.
That visit we also tried a pizza from the extensive list, the Greek ($11.95). I’m usually not a fan of “loaded” pizza but in this case it worked because it was loaded not with gloppy undistinguished cheese but with sundried tomato pesto, olives, roasted red pepper, onion, mushrooms and feta cheese served on a thin, almost cracker-like crust. It was good.
Parlay Social also offers meat and cheese boards that you can organize according to your preferences. We got a sampling of three ($17.95) that included prosciutto, bucherondin, a French goat milk cheese, and the Italian blue, Gorgonzola. They were all good, the real things, although for me the bucherondin stood out.
I do have a bone to pick on this offering, though: everything was cold when they would have offered full flavor at room temperature. And, the prosciutto was served bunched up in about the size and shape of a golf ball. I didn’t quite understand this and it made it kind of hard to share since someone had to pull the thin slices apart.
Our service both nights was pleasant and responsive to questions, problems and special requests, although there were a few moments when we thought we might have been forgotten.
If you go
249 W. Short Street
Hours: Bar: Monday-Sarturday 3 p.m. -- 2:30 a.m.
Food service: Mon.-Wed.: 3 -10 p.m.; Thurs-Sat: 3-11 p.m.
All major credit cards; vegetarian options, handicap accessible