This issue, MOVE decided to take a break from the dollar PBR at Snapper's and guide you through Columbia's upscale bar scene (don't worry, we were surprised such a scene existed, too). Yes, nestled away from the alleyways off Ninth Street where throwing up outside of Campus Bar and Grill has become a rite of passage, there are a few bars that have the nerve to not even carry Stag. So MOVE made sure its best blazer passed the smell test and journeyed out to these lavish lodges to see what all the fuss was about. What we found was one case of downright deception, one delightful break from the dives and one dizzying identity crisis that could be found only in Columbia. Pinkies up, bitches...
Stop One: Room 38 Restaurant & Lounge (38 N. Eighth St.)
Wikipedia disputes the actual origins of the term "clusterfuck," but wherever it started, Room 38 sure took the ball -- and ran with it. Admittedly, it's possible the Friday night we stumbled in might have been a dedication to convoluted themes that we weren't informed of at the door, but in any case the inside was confusing at best. The patrons seemed to be generally divided into thirds. The third closest to the door seemed to be passively enjoying a pretty decent DJ set of hip-hop and top 40 jams. This seemed perfectly acceptable, albeit a little surprising. The third of the crowd in the back corner seemed to be attempting to simultaneously enjoy their martinis in proper form while trying desperately to block out the bass-heavy background beats. They also didn't appear to get the memo. Lastly, and easily most inexplicably, was the third of the patrons at or around the bar who apparently showed up for a multiple-screen HD showing of "Dazed and Confused." Because that's normal, right? In hopes of finding some sort of clarity, we pored over their Web site to little avail. Room 38's tagline, "Afternoon. Afterwork. Afterdark." sounds more like Juelz Santana's weed to-do list than an actual motto. And while the "About Us" cites an overall "vision," this concept is never expounded upon. To their credit the drinks were good, so there's that. But if Pink and David paid $10 a drink every night they never could have afforded those Aerosmith tickets.
Stop Two: On The Rocks (1011 E. Broadway)
Admittedly it might have been a mistake to include On The Rocks in this category. We were misled by their listing as 'Columbia's V.I.P. Bar.' Needless to say, we got hosed. There is nothing directly wrong with On The Rocks, but it is to V.I.P. is like saying Christian Bale is calm and rational. We should have suspected as much when we got tipped off that one of the campus coupon books had a page for a free V.I.P. party at On The Rocks ($200 value if you're scoring at home). The V.I.P. seemed to be a slightly elevated area with a big screen and a couch that was not at all isolated from the rest of the bar. The couch ranked nearly off the charts in comfort, but if MOVE would've known these were the only requirements for a V.I.P., we'd have splurged on the plasma screen and rented out our downtown office on weekends years ago. Henny on ice kids! Come get some.
Stop Three: Bleu Restaurant & Wine Bar (29 S. Eighth St.)
Holy hell, a bar that feels both classy and comfortable at the same time. We didn't know you had it in you, Columbia. You're growing up on us so fast. OK, so Bleu has actually been around for going on six months now, but we just bought our fedora last week in order to class it up for our first visit. The atmosphere was surprisingly upbeat and jovial while still giving off a feel of elegance. There's a bar area that features some stately glass wine-dispensing globes, a dimly lit eating room and a cozy little lounge room on the right. The gourmet mac 'n' cheese was certainly after our own hearts and looked to die for. The bartender was almost alarmingly unsnooty for a wine bar. (I worry for his future in the biz.) And the drinks were delightful (what up Bleuberry Lemonade). Needless to say, MOVE certainly doesn't have the budget to class it up every weekend, but when we do there's no doubt we've found our spot. And as an added bonus, their Web site's homepage achieves the near-impossible by making downtown Columbia appear to be an art-inspiring urban landscape. Who knew?
Winner: Bleu Restaurant & Wine Bar