While idly discussing the prospect of creating a miniature-golf course festooned with elaborate art installations, Michael Taft realized that he couldn’t think of a single putt-putt course in the Bay Area. Fast-forwarding to his retirement plan of owning a small business, Taft snapped up an abandoned video store and enlisted artistic friends and local craftspeople to make his dream a reality. Subpar Miniature Golf’s map of handcrafted holes has players putting their way through Bay Area landmarks, including an Altamont Pass windmill and the Golden Gate Bridge, tricked out with loop-the-loops. A sprawling, hand-drawn mural wraps its way around the room, depicting scenes of NoCal life and tricking gullible coyotes into trying to sprint through the walls.
Subpar Miniature Golf’s ever-growing arcade area keeps button smashers busy with vintage pinball machines and a pair of air-hockey tables, contributing to Taft's dream of turning the space into a family institution and community fixture. As he told the San Francisco Chronicle, "Every once in a while, you'll hear a giant cheer in the back by a group that sunk a (great) putt. It makes me feel really good, like 'We did that. That's us.'"
Rebuilding Together Oakland’s Safe at Home program transforms the houses of low-income seniors and people with disabilities with safety and efficiency modifications to prevent falls and improve accessibility. Safe at Home house remodelers install grab bars, raised toilet seats, shower seats, handheld showerheads, nightlights, and non-slip mats to prevent falls in accident-prone spots such as the bathroom and hallway. The program also outfits homes with emergency equipment including smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers, and performs checks of equipment that is already present in the home. If necessary, Safe at Home can also provide wheelchair ramps to improve mobility. Since its inception in 2007, Rebuilding Together Oakland has installed safety modifications in the homes of more than 475 homeowners.
Whether contorting their muscular limbs around unforgiving poles or manipulating their bodies around fabric in midair, the studio's team of talented instructors demonstrates that pole dancing is no longer just for flirty firefighters and penguins. Within the mirrored practice space accented by splashes of lavender, patrons of all fitness levels learn impressive vertical tricks and choreography designed to build strength and flexibility. Colorful suspended silks allow students to reach new fitness heights both literally and metaphorically during aerial classes. Expanding its reach to the mind along with the body, Phoenix Aerial Art and Pole offers a slew of martial-arts classes, such as qi gong, xing yi, and yi chuan.
Alameda Natural Grocery specializes in providing affordable natural and organic foods in a neighborhood-market environment. The store features a produce department that's 99% organic 100% of the time and 25% sentient 1% of the time, fresh dairy products, bountiful bulk buys, and a helpful staff that radiates healthy, edible vibes to nibble on while shopping. Pick a peck of non-pickled pleasantries such as stone fruits from Blossom Bluff Farms for $2.99 or an open pint of strawberries from Yerena Farms for $2.29. All-natural Brown Cow yogurts ($0.99 per cup) are on hand for later spoon feeding narrated by airplane sound effects, while Renew Life fish oils ($15.99–$23.99) are available in the supplements and personal-care departments for diving into the fast track toward improved health.
In the heart of Oakland, the chefs at Nellie's Soulfood Restaurant & Bar draw from Southern soul-food traditions to craft a menu that's always changing. Many of their seafood, poultry, and beef dishes bear crispy golden crusts. Deep-fried oysters, catfish, and snapper fillets—as well as deep-fried pork chops and chicken wings—sit surrounded by traditional sides such as yams, okra, and rice and gravy. Gravy also covers portions of Southern-style steaks and complements specialty dishes such as meatloaf and oxtails. Traditional Southern desserts of peach cobbler and banana pudding end things on the sweetest note possible, much like the duet of "Islands in the Stream" that traditionally ends every presidential debate.
The White Horse Bar has entertained San Francisco's GLBT community with happy hours, college nights, and live music for more than 75 years, making it one of the oldest gay bars in the country. After serving as a central hub during the community's tumultuous 20th century, the bar now opens its glistening dance floor every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for relentless displays of rhythm fueled by beers, martinis, and well drinks. The White Horse Bar also energizes crowds with a smorgasbord of events including trivia contests, drag shows, karaoke, and '80s nights, where guests are encouraged to quietly yearn for portable replacements for their landline telephones.