Freezing Missouri winter winds howl outside Tropical Liqueurs' fogged-up windows, but inside, the atmosphere is decidedly beach-like. Palm trees and nautical knickknacks decorate the lively interior, but the true stars of this tropically themed watering hole are the frozen-drink dispensers, which churn with colorful, fruity potations. Bartenders load large styrofoam cups with potent slushies made from creative combinations of juices, liqueurs, and fruit purées. They rotate drink selections regularly, spotlighting a toasted-almond concoction one week—packed with coffee liquor, amaretto, and vanilla ice cream—and a daiquiri with fresh strawberries the next. Icy potations in hand, visitors turn their attention to games of pool or flat-screen televisions, which broadcast local sports games or horror movies where local sports games come to a temporary halt when the mascot turns out to be an actual tiger. During warmer months, visitors loll in the sun out on the wooden patio and enjoy the beverages that Inside Columbia hailed as a "Columbia staple" when it dubbed Tropical Liqueurs the Best Place for a Girls' Night Out in 2012.
Chef John Lee lords over a traditional barbecue grill at KUI Korean BBQ, his face illuminated by flames rising up from the oak-wood charcoal. Gingerly, he sizzles thin slices of tender bulgogi beef, plump galbi short ribs, and strips of spicy chicken. He then assembles the smoky meats on beds of rice alongside nests of carrots, tufts of bean sprouts, and a bright-yellow fried egg. To craft authentic Korean gimbap, he folds rice, egg, pickled radish, and fish cake into a seaweed roll. As John labors in the kitchen, his wife bustles about the casual dining room, greeting customers, handing out glasses of fruity soju cocktails, and refereeing sporadic games of musical chairs.
At The Penguin Dueling Piano Bar, there's two jukeboxes—human ones, seated at two baby grand pianos. Based on the crowd's request, the ivory-ticklers play from a mental catalog of thousands of hits, spanning more than five decades. The crowd sings along, fueled by pours from the full bar, which range from pitchers of beer to tart apple martinis.
Campus Bar & Grill feeds crowds of ravenous sports fans and wandering tigers from a menu stocked with sandwiches, salads, wraps, wings, and more. Throw the kickoff punt with an appetizer of spinach-artichoke dip ($7.99) before flattening hunger beneath the Bruin burger, a half-pound patty with grilled red and green peppers, mushrooms, and provolone, contained by a kaiser bun and served with a choice of cottage fries, waffle fries, side salad, cup of chili, or soup of the day ($6.99). Bread-shunning diners can opt for a wrap, such as the spicy chicken, with honey, barbecue, mild, hot, or unbearable sauce, mixed greens, diced tomatoes, black olives, red onions, and cheese ($7.99), and light eaters can visit the green with an assortment of salads ($2.99–$6.99).
Midway One Stop Diner's staff takes its homestyle comfort cuisine seriously, especially when it comes to the Big 70 challenge. This platter of seven biscuits, four slices of bacon, two servings of hash browns, and 70 ounces of creamy sausage gravy is so hearty that it has only been finished by three people. Not to worry, though?the majority of visitors who aren't up to the task have a range of diner classics to choose from, all of which are served 24 hours a day. Three-egg omelets and hot cakes are crafted fresh throughout the day and night alongside platters of grilled or fried pork, steak, or chicken. Another signature dish is the monster burger, a 1-pound patty smothered in cheese and other toppings.
Something happens at Nash Vegas during the weekend. People start to tap their toes, as new bands take the stage and fill the bar with sounds of country music. At some point, patrons can no longer resist the urge to hit the dance floor and boogie like Johnny Cash used to when no one was looking. Events like these unfold at 9 p.m. each and every weekend, though that's not the only time the sounds of honky tonk fill the bar. Nash Vegas has been known to host weekday events as well, such as a Tuesday Night Tequila Jam complete with specials on beer and shots. The bar also serves pizza, and patrons can play pool when not cheering on live bands.