If your idea of nightlife includes hitting a bar for drinks and socializing, then our Lexington guide is just what you want. Capitalizing on first-hand experience and extensive research, we've located the best bars in Lexington for hanging out and kicking back in. From long-lived mainstays like Marikka's to busy places like Two Keys Tavern that get lots of 10Best reader approval, we present the top bars in town and offer details about them all. What's the energy like? How do the bartenders pour? Are most bars located in the Downtown area? No fear - we share all the facts!


In previous days, Merrick Inn was a private manor house, but for more than a generation now, it's been a preferred destination for local folks, especially those in the horse industry. The interior boasts fireplaces and civilized details, and the menu offers good American standards like steaks, fresh fish, pork tenderloin, and fried chicken. When the weather's warm, the poolside patio is sublime, and the popular bar draws folks throughout the week, especially the 30- and 40-something crowd.

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In tandem, these adjacent bars make for a host of nighttime fun. Rosebud, to the left, features murals, photo collages, and an eclectic ambience. It's often packed shoulder-to-shoulder with college students and young professionals looking to meet and socialize. SILKS Lounge, to the right, is full of history with tin ceilings, exposed brick, upholstered banquettes, and framed art with an equestrian theme. It's the haunt of local celebs, who sweep in stylishly and with just a touch of mystery. Both places thrive on the appeal of well-mixed drinks and a comely clientele, as you'll no doubt attest if you can squeeze in.

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Two Keys Tavern

This cream-colored brick building is often the site of campus festivities. A cavernous interior of brick and rough pine, punctuated with beer memorabilia and UK artifacts, hints at the casual atmosphere, and a back deck, several bars, and sidewalk seating make sure everyone's got a place. On any given night, folks congregate for everything from live bands to comedy night, televised sports events, a few rounds of pool, tasty pub fare, and even pep rallies for the Horsemen (Lexington's arena football home team). A brief walk from campus guarantees Two Keys' enduring popularity, which is essentially legend anyway.

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Dim, atmospheric, and trendy, Pazzo's definitely adds to the cool quotient along South Limestone. The multi-leveled pizzeria is a favorite of college students and makes for a great hang-out any time of day. Constantly busy, the casual place serves up tempting pies in three sizes. Build your own, or choose from one of the standards. Hoagies, salads, and calzones lend some depth to the menu. Three dozen brews are on tap, and a full bar offers other options, should your inclinations alter. Happy hour and daily suds specials also score big with regulars.

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Airport - Lex

Known for hearty meals packed with rustic flavor, Marikka's is a fabulous destination for German fare. From wienerschnitzel to sauerbraten, the menu offers a host of great dishes. However, the place is just as renowned for its extensive listing of beers. Entries from all over the world now number at more than 400 domestic and imported varieties. From Greece to Trinidad, you'll likely find your favorite brew, or perhaps a new one to test drive. Draft selections and American wines also make welcome appearances.

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Airport - Lex

As close as you can get to an authentic pub outside of the UK, this Lexington establishment was built with most of its interior assembled in Britain and then shipped across the pond. As a result, the ambience is classy and fun, great for an upscale quaff and traditional eats. Lots of excellent drafts can be had, representing the best of the UK, and food ranges from fish and chips to shepherd's pie, while also including more gourmet gastropub-inspired offerings.

Read more about The Pub Lexington →

Offering a dash of British style and a wealth of Kentucky bourbons, this oft-frequented establishment draws a wide range of patrons. Its affiliation with deSha's offers a built-in clientele, and the pub's reputation for relaxed drinking, good food, and an abundance of cocktails and beers makes regulars of first-timers. Bourbon samplers let you taste low and high-end offerings, and the place's growing profile gives it added attention from local professionals and visiting business folks. On weekends, live bands often make a showing.

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When you step inside, pause for just a moment to give your eyes time to adjust. This is, literally, the darkest pub ever. It's also a comfortable haven, thanks to loaded bookcases along the walls and a host of garage-sale sofas perfect for lounging. A few fireplaces also add ambience and a small measure of light. The food, mainly pub fare, is terrific, from great burgers and fries to luscious patty melts and fish sandwiches. Add a cold, iced Bud, and everything's good. A juke box churns out classic rock, a TV captures whatever's interesting, and a back patio serves as an awesome hangout. A favorite with local college folks, especially on weekends.

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Tropical flair colors this lively restaurant, which sports bright interior murals and rhythmic Caribbean music. The cuisine follows suit, from crisp sweet potato chips to zesty jerk chicken, tropically-flavored fresh fish, conch fritters, steaks, and Cuban pork. After you've indulged, move out to the spacious, brick-paved patio, which sports its own large bar. Woven armchairs and sheltered areas add comfort in the open air, and folks often gather to drink and listen to weekend bands.

Read more about Atomic Café →