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.
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.
Get Lost Bookshop stocks its many shelves with used tomes and new magazines. The independently owned shop specializes in literary fiction, history, religion, and cultural studies, and also has a selection of elusive art magazines and graphic novels. A cozy space for like-minded literati, Get Lost Bookshop often hosts readings, live music, and funerals for dead e-reader batteries.
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.
From its perch atop the Bridge Hotel, Carmen's pairs wide-open oceanfront views and city vistas with fresh seasonal cuisine conceived by chef Dudley Rich, who has cooked privately for U.S. presidents. Starters from the dinner menu make apt preludes or small plates, with options such as the eggplant-and-goat-cheese ravioli swirled in a thyme cream sauce ($12). Sizzling with meats sourced from Harris Ranch, veal chops arrive drizzled in truffle butter ($45), and charbroiled filet mignon ($40) fairly accuses its port-wine-and-shallot reduction of smothering it. The entree menu also sates seafood yens with selections such as the peppercorn-crusted swordfish, sauced in a morel-mushroom dressing ($28).
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).