There's no entrance exam for Vino Cellars. As the wine lounge's website puts it, "No one will care if you can't say cabernet correctly. So go ahead and ask." And that level of accessibility runs throughout the entire shop, from the comfortable open seating to the complimentary tastings to the notes that describe every bottle's weight, palate, and mouth-feel. Such touches help guests find their way through the 150 varietals—imported from boutique-style producers across the globe—so they can pick the right pairing for a steak or the right milk-substitute for a bowl of Cheerios.
Pairing is a theme that runs through almost everything at Vino Cellars. Themed wine dinners match up five wines with four-course meals. The regular menu's small plates of shareable flatbread pizzas and sliders can also be mixed and matched with different libations. But Vino Cellars doesn't stop with wine and food. The shop spreads its gourmet knowledge to house-made bottles of flavored olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars.
The chefs at Houlihan's Restaurant and Bar refuse to follow the trend of restaurants using premade dishes and preservative-laden foods. Instead, they elevate their cooking to a higher standard, handcrafting each meal from scratch with local produce in open kitchens that overlook modern, welcoming dining rooms. The dishes fuse familiar comfort fare (think down-home pot roast and bacon-studded mac 'n' cheese) with adventuresome flavors, from goat cheese and asparagus poppers to a spicy burger lavished with fritos. The spacious bar's mixologists concoct a slew of long island iced teas, specialty cocktails, and martinis that chase bites or stand on their own merit. Flights of three mini martinis allow the comparing and contrasting of a trio of flavors or refresh each of the mouths of a single guest’s head.
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.
Grilling masters at The Blue Bull Bar & Grill fire up a flame-kissed menu of burgers and sandwiches. Hand-pattied burgers such as the signature Blue Bull burger, a 2/3-pound beef patty stuffed with crisp bacon and blue cheese ($8.99) and the Ozark Mountain barbecue burger, a 1/3-pound beef patty crested with bourbon barbecue sauce, caramelized onion, smoked bacon, and melted cheddar ($6.99), overwhelm ordinary hands with flavors so big diners need giant foam fingers to hold them. Hand-breaded classics including the pork tenderloin sandwich ($7.99) and the chicken tender platter ($6.99) add quantifiable crunch to meals, perfect for pairing with a Boulevard draft beer or 1 of 14 specialty martinis such as the Expressotini or Bubblegum.
A lengthy lineup of traditional game-day fare and a sports atmosphere captivate fans at Fox and Hound - Bailey's, where the kitchen remains open as late as its neighboring fully stocked bar. Chefs cook until the wee hours of the morning and always until the bar closes, baking Bavarian pretzel starters, crafting towers of onion rings, and preparing hand-battered chicken tenders that are cooked until they are golden brown. They blend their own seasonings to sprinkle over grilled-to-order burgers, and draw from a diverse roster of cheeses and toppings to crown their wood-oven-inspired flatbreads.
While manning the bars, bartenders tap into a stash of libations, such as UV Whipped vodka and Patron Silver tequila, to mix their specialty cocktails. To further foster a sporting ambiance, high-definition TVs glow with sports games and custom music-video playlists, and guests partake in pastimes of ump bashing, billiards, or competitive people watching.