At Nica’s 320, executive chef Bryan Merker and his team plate a diverse menu that blends American comfort fare with upscale Thai, Italian, and Cajun influences. Lighting fixtures dangle from exposed ceilings, casting an amorous glow over thai chicken, korean pork, and jerk-steak slider trios ($11.95) and sticky-rice crab cakes laced with savory cheddar and red chili jam ($12.95). Like choose-your-own-adventure cookbooks, mix-and-match house specialties sic epicurean detectives on the trail of edible henchmen—including french crêpe wraps ($10.95), grilled pizzas ($12.50), and pan-fried lasagna noodles ($11.95)—each abetted by accomplices, such as hulking meatballs, shaved pepperoni, and sausage or candied pecans and succulent roughage. Zeppelin-size appetites deflate under the tutelage of jumbo scallops ($26) and house-made seitan ($18) entrees, flanked with organic greens and adoring sides.
In support of her high-decibel new album, Rihanna kicks off her hotly anticipated LOUD tour with emphatic gusto and a sizzling roster of special guests. Like an art show at a sundae bar, the LOUD tour floods the senses, enchanting audiences with lavishly designed sets, myriad costume changes, move-busting dancers, and Rihanna's songbook of Grammy magnets. Crooner Cee Lo Green augments the songful offerings with his own vocal talents, and Roc Nation rapper and rhythm scientist J. Cole further helps resuscitate ear drums traumatized by the outside world's blaring car horns and shrill howler monkeys.
At The Hangout Sports Bar & Grille, there's no shortage of bar space: servers slide drinks across a main bar that stretches more than 60-feet. Another, albeit less expansive bar intersects the room lengthwise, enabling visitors to set down their beers and hamburgers as they shoot pool or rest in between thumb wars. Owner Barbara Ghan–who swung open The Hangout's doors in December of 2012– engineered this setup. She even converted an adjacent garage into extra space for her bar. The result: a roomy, but welcoming area to watch sports, listen to live music, and, well, just hang out.
Though the city's name would seem to suggest otherwise, Independence residents must still—by law—interact with each other occasionally. Luckily, Independence Events Center serves to bring the community together, hosting everything from national concert tours to youth hockey leagues within its walls. Such stars as Kelly Clarkson have graced the stage within the 5,800-seat arena, also home to local sports teams such as the Central Hockey League's Missouri Mavericks and the Major Indoor Soccer League's Missouri Comets. Additionally, a community rink lets residents and nonresidents alike hit the ice for programs ranging from open-skating sessions and lessons to private rentals for Civil War reenactments.
When a school of music also contains a live-performance venue, it’s an indicator that the lessons stick. Such is the case with the Columbia Academy of Music, where private practice rooms sit just steps from The Bridge, a club accustomed to welcoming musical talent from down the street and around the country. A stage within range of instruction can inspire even the most stage-frightened students to step into the spotlight, where they’ll get the hands-on, feet-on stage experience that renders books worthless.
The academy’s tuneful staffers are no strangers to this kind of public performance—some instructors have shared the stage with the likes of Chuck Berry, Sting, and Hank Williams III—but many also are experts in what goes on behind the music. In lessons tailored for all ages, skill sets, and music-making manners, the school strengthens the confidence of budding musicians in once-a-week sessions. Instrument instruction infuses students with techniques across a range of musical genres; audio-production and engineering courses teach students how to make solid records and tolerate most singers’ misguided requests for more Steak-Umms in the monitor.
For years, David Allison and Ryan Gerster—both standup comedians—worked as bartenders and cooks at bars and pubs, alternating work nights with comedy gigs. So when they decided to team up and take the reins at First Ward House, a storied saloon first opened as a hotel in 1878, they already had a vision for the place. "We've worked in bars and we know what people want," Allison told a writer for St. Joseph News-Press. Their formula consists of a broad selection of beers and spirits, live bands, and nourishment that ranges from specialty burgers to late-night pulled-pork tacos.
Dark wood floors and exposed brick walls lend First Ward House a timeless ambiance in which visitors can entertain themselves with games of Keno, billiards, and pool. With its close proximity to the historic French River Trade Route and the paths of the Pony Express, the pub is rumored to be haunted by spirits who finish patrons' beers when they're not looking.