Ray Lamar hasn't spent decades perfecting his donuts. In fact, his namesake shops still use the same recipes that Ray developed in 1933—at the age of 17—when he got his first job working a donut fryer. World War II and a postwar career as a stockbroker interrupted Ray's donut-making pursuits, although he returned to his roots in 1960 when he founded the first LaMar's Donuts.
The shop went on to become a Kansas City icon, with crowds arriving well before 6 a.m. to line up outside the doors and taunt the roosters for sleeping in. Ray and his wife, Shannon, eventually decided to expand their business into a regional empire, and LaMar's Donuts currently boasts 27 franchised stores spread across six states.
Even with all of this growth, decades-old traditions still dictate how things are done. The workers prepare more than 75 different kinds of donuts, hand-making fresh batches of perennial favorites as well as recent inventions each and every morning. In addition to the original glazed creation that dates back to 1933, the menus can feature a variety of cake donuts with flavors such as red velvet, apple spice, and maple.
Since donuts and coffee go together as naturally as paper shredders and subpar report cards, the stores also prepare cappuccinos, mochas, and other coffee drinks. These are all made with handpicked beans that slowly roast inside Italian brick ovens.
As you approach the ornate 1916 building now known as Bevo Mill, you may notice two storks on the chimney. They aren't pausing en route to deliver twins—the stone birds were added as a good luck symbol in the German and Dutch tradition. When August A. Busch Sr. of Anheuser-Busch commissioned the structure in the years leading up to World War I, he sought to bring Europe's Flemish architecture and culture back to his native St. Louis. The historical building eventually closed its doors to the public, but in 2009, it reopened as Bevo Mill, an elegant events center that welcomes weddings, corporate gatherings, and other large-scale happenings.
Visitors can still watch the 60-foot-wide aluminum blades of the original windmill spin, and admire the exterior stucco walls’ multicolored stones, each hand-picked by Mr. Busch from his home farm. Brass chandeliers illuminate the main dining area, where vaulted cathedral ceilings curve down into arches whose bases are guarded by stone-carved gnomes. Local artisans restored the Mill Room's painted tile murals and ornate wooden beams, and the Oak Room's artisan glass and art deco light fixtures were meticulously repaired or stolen from Jay Gatsby's mansion.
In the kitchen, chefs prepare refined event menus and samplings of hors d'oeuvres such as flaky feuilletes, glazed pot stickers, quiches, and quesadillas. Buffets feature dishes as diverse as grilled Norwegian salmon, chicken roulades, and seasonal vegetable medleys. On Sundays, chefs prepare a brunch buffet that features dozens of internationally inspired recipes such as hardwood smoked bacon, belgian waffles, potato pancakes, and Hungarian-style sausage. Once a month, Bevo Mill holds an authentic German night, complete with live music and a German buffet.
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.
Add some sepia tone and photo grain, and a snapshot of Hereford House could make it pass for an old Western saloon. But the photo would actually be of a modern steak house that churns out aged steaks, seafood, and ribs—the same fare that put Kansas City meat markets on the map at the turn of the century. In the dinner menu, most everything walks across the grill before being served. The steak oscar entree eschews the barriers that separate land from sea by teaming up a 6-ounce filet mignon with jumbo lump crab pilfered from crustacean birthday parties and pan-seared to perfection. Juicy tenderloin medallions come smothered in red-wine demi glace, and oven-roasted cuts of salmon arrive in pools of garlic herb butter.
Cafe Berlin fills its kitchen with vegetables, coffee, dairy, free-range eggs, and other natural and organic foods from local farms, including Patchwork Family Farms, Green Hills Harvest Dairy, and Lakota Coffee Company. Breakfast, which is served all day, includes dishes such as Turkish-style eggs, french toast, and pancake burritos—a large pancake that enfolds two scrambled eggs and Patchwork bacon, served with maple syrup. Black-bean quesadillas, burgers with local, organic beef, and housemade soups crown the lunch menu and pair with an array of alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks.
Plastic dinosaurs and Godzilla figures dot the sunny dining room, where they hang from the rafters, sit on the counter, and gnaw on table legs. Patrons can gaze at the eclectic decor while listening to live music or tales from the Porch Light storytelling series.