Russian Banya of Dallas whisks visitors from deep in the heart of Texas straight to Old-World Europe for traditional banya and sauna sessions and Russian delicacies from Citysearch's Best Deli of 2009. Upon entering the unassuming storefront, which was recently profiled on Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods, visitors receive a robe, towels, slippers, and keys for a locker and safe-deposit box, and staff members direct them toward the facility's showers. Once cleaned—which normally takes two full renditions of "Singing in the Rain"—visitors can choose to lounge in the wet heat of the wooden Russian banya, the dry heat of the wooden Finnish sauna, or the 100% humidity of the tiled steam room.
Though the staff recommends novice sauna sitters cool down naturally after their first session, they offer an invigorating 42-degree plunge pool for more experienced visitors to hop in after steaming. The staff also doles out optional venik massages that use chilled bundles of steamed birch, oak, or eucalyptus leaves to help to open pores and pump up metabolisms.
After draining themselves of sweat, toxins, and the desire to experience life as a steamed carrot, visitors can refuel with natural fruit juices and a menu of made-from-scratch Russian, Ukrainian, Uzbek, Polish, and Armenian food at the BYOB deli. The eatery serves lunch and dinner, hosts events and parties, and stages live music every Saturday.
Jon and Carmen Pei spent years traveling the globe, visiting cafés from New York to Taiwan in search of the perfect rendition of their treasured childhood treat: bubble tea. After organizing all their recipes, tips, and ideas, the couple opened their own shop, where they whip up their own blend of innovative bubble teas, smoothies, and frozen hot chocolate.
Upon entering their colorful, brightly lit shop, guests are often greeted by Jon and Carmen themselves, who dole out free samples to first-timers, greet return customers by name, and tussle the toupees of visiting congressmen. The duo and their staff of baristas fold premium tea leaves and freshly cooked tapioca boba balls imported from Taiwan into fruity drinks. They also chop up fresh fruit for smoothies every day at the shop. Customers are invited to order from a menu of specialty drinks or choose from a variety of flavors, fruits, and mix-ins to design their own concoction. They can even add from a selection of more than 25 kinds of popping boba balls, which burst in the mouth with every sip. And during chilly winter months, the baristas pour hot bubble tea.
Guests sip on beverages and nibble on snacks—such as crunchy Pocky sticks—out among the tabletops of the lively seating area. Some play video games on wide-screen computers and televisions, whereas others engage in more traditional games such Connect Four or competitions to fit the most straws up their nostrils.
When The Island Spot owner Richard Thomas was growing up in Jamaica, his mother, Mama Joyce, would always make dinner for the family. On Sunday, they'd head to the farmer's market for mango, passionfruit, soursop, and other fruits to make into juice, which she'd serve along with dishes such as jerk chicken and curry shrimp to a crowd of extended family. Today, Richard uses those recipes to give diners at The Island Spot an authentic taste of the Jamaican food he grew up eating—chicken and beef patties, or meat pies, braised oxtails, smoked jerk chicken, and escoveitched fish fillets.
"I would bathe in the rub they put on that chicken," wrote a D Magazine reviewer about The Island Spot's signature jerk chicken. The Dallas Observer named The Island Spot's jerk chicken the best in Dallas in 2012, due in part to its smoky flavors and the experience of digging in: a "burst of perfume that starts as a wisp and builds to a billowing smokescreen."
Diners sipping rum punch or playing Jenga with a plate of jerk-chicken nachos can admire Richard's family portraits and snapshots of his favorite places in Jamaica as reggae, soca, or steel-drum music plays. On the first Friday of each month, a reggae band treats diners to live jams that transport imaginations to a breezy, sun-soaked island.
If you ask a professional cheerleader how she got her toned physique, agile limbs, and powerful muscles, she might point you to Jay and Lin Johnson. The husband-and-wife duo are the brains behind Jay Johnson's Boot Camp Fitness—an exercise program designed to slim waistlines and pump up muscles of students of all abilities, from fitness newbies to professionals and prestigious clients such as the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. They have also introduced the program to national audiences through numerous television appearances, including Dr. Phil's Ultimate Weight Loss Challenge.
Drawing from their extensive training in the US Army and years of fitness experience, the pair and a staff of elite trainers—including professional football players and mixed martial artists—lead boot-camp programs in the Dallas area. Within parks, fields, and parking lots, they conduct high-intensity workouts, keeping patrons engaged with constantly varied regimens, along with games, obstacle courses, and scavenger hunts. They focus on functional training throughout the sessions, challenging students to heave barbells, flip tractor tires, and lug fire hoses.
The trainers also offer a specialized cheerleading boot camp ideal for high-school teams training for upcoming seasons or assistant grocery managers seeking ways to motivate their teams of disillusioned bag boys.
After moving to America at 3 months old, Steve Shin didn’t have much time to learn the culinary traditions of his native South Korea. But when he returned for a year in 2001, he witnessed the cuisine's slimming properties firsthand. Though he consumed lots of food, his waistline shrank, most likely due to the minimal grease and fat content in South Korean cuisine. Inspired by his journey, he tried to eat a more healthy diet when he returned to the U.S, but after several rounds of salads and sandwiches, fast food lured him back to his old habits. Frustrated, he started brainstorming ways to build healthy and balanced meals, which led to b.b.bop. At his Asian-fusion restaurant, the menu is centered on wholesome bowls of rice, veggies, and protein, steering customers away from heavy, fatty meals, such as a giant butter sculpture.
To whip up b.b.bop's signature entree, cooks line bowls with a rice of the customer's choice, from a jasmine-scented Thai type to a nutty, fiber-filled brown variety. Next, the customer selects a lean, flame-grilled protein from options including pulled pork, chicken breast, or marinated tofu. Veggies such as bell peppers and bean sprouts add color and crunch to the dish, and sauce—the finishing touch—comes in more than a half-dozen flavors, from spicy red pepper to sweet teriyaki.
An experienced personal trainer, amateur bodybuilder, and former gymnast, Carrie Carmichael discovered her true calling while helping her fellow cops stay in shape. Her fitness career quickly evolved from part-time personal trainer to entrepreneur in 2008, when she opened her gym. Alongside a team of certified trainers, Carmichael now conditions clients of all fitness levels with a high-intensity style that uses functional movements and short bursts of cardio to whittle and tone bodies. The trainers safely guide students through the nine foundational CrossFit movements: squats, front squats, overhead squats, press, push press, push jerk, deadlifts, medicine-ball clean, and sumo deadlift high pull.
The trainers teach CrossFit classes in levels one and two to ensure that their clients' muscles are not overtaxed. They also shape up little ones during CrossFit kids' classes. When they're not teaching their students to toss around weighted medicine balls or deadlift a beached whale, trainers customize workouts with personal-training and yoga classes, as well as amplify results with USANA nutrition supplements.