Cylindrical lights cast artful shadows on golden walls while amber drapes evoke waterfalls of pure honey. Patrons just entering The Wine Loft's warm, glowing lounge find seats on a wall-length leather sofa and begin eyeing neighboring feasts of small plates. Shareable boards are scattered with Italian antipasto, charcuterie, and Mediterranean accouterments, all begging companionship from more than 40 wines by the glass. "I also have 100 wines by the bottle," the waitress says, seeing the customers scanning the bar. She drops two menus and cocktail napkins onto the black-lacquered table. Each item's description flickers against lit tea candles. Jazz music gives the room a velvety pulse. "We'll have the Japanese pumpkin ravioli and shrimp and blue-cheese pastries,” says one of the diners. “And as for all these wines, I think we'll need a few more minutes."
In an effort to shed the aura of intimidation often associated with wine, Carolina Wine Club organizes a full series of informative, yet casual seminars and classes. The club’s roster of experts shares its knowledge on a wide array of subjects, and collectively, they combine to offer courses in everything from wine storage and food pairing to decoding wine labels and building a wine vocabulary. If a specific subject isn’t covered by Carolina Wine Club, they’ll help clients design a custom program to fit particular topics and interests.
An acronym for Fabulous Art Buying Opportunity, FABO began as just that: an art store. It still is today, only along with art, the Park Road shop quenches thirst and quiets hunger, too. Inside, artwork from nearly 60 local artists?including paintings, photographs, jewelery, and pottery?sprawls across blue-gray and wine-colored walls. Visitors kick back in this funky atmosphere to sip on coffee, espresso, and even a carefully selected roster of wines and beers, some from local breweries. When stomachs begin to rumble, guests can also munch on muffins, bagels, and other bakery treats made to eat while on the move or during a secret detour from a nearby marathon.
Shannon "The Cannon" Hudson is an International Kickboxing Federation world champion, a fifth-degree black belt in Japanese shotokan karate, and a survivor of more than 70 bouts in the ring—yet, one of his most influential titles is "father." With two kids clinging around his waist like a squirmy fanny pack, Shannon started brainstorming a way to channel his boxing and kickboxing training into a quick, effective workout that even those who are busy or out of shape could tackle. The result was 9Round, a 30-minute routine of aerobic, anaerobic, and resistance moves divided into a circuit of nine stations. The ever-changing series of workouts maximizes morale and results while minimizing boredom.
His trainers launch the workouts every three minutes, motivating exercisers through each station—which might include jumping rope or pummeling speed bags. Online nutritional counseling supplements the workouts, teaching patrons how to construct and eat healthy meals instead of falling back on old habits, such as snacking on cheese sculptures.
Lebowski's Neighborhood Grill is a family-run operation. Founders Kirk Weaver and his daughters, Jessica and Amelia, opened it in early 2009. As natives of Buffalo, New York, they import hometown mainstays such as wings, haddock, and beef on 'weck—a roast-beef sandwich served on a Kaiser-like roll with kosher salt and caraway. They feature eight beers on tap and supplement this collection with more than 70 craft and imported brews. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., they hold two happy hours Monday–Friday, once in the early evening, and again between 10 p.m. and midnight.
At all of Monkey Joe’s colorfully decorated locations, youngsters aged 2–12 can literally bounce off the walls in a well-lit indoor playground that abides by a Safety Access Child Control System. Exercise disguises itself as fun as sock-clad kids rocket down slides, scale climbable obstacles, and jump across springy surfaces surrounded by safety mats. Toddlers aged 3 or younger tucker themselves out in their own play area with smaller obstacles, thoroughly sanitized inflatable surfaces, toys, and games. Parties, which can include pizza and ice cream, reach a fever pitch with visits from Monkey Joe himself. While kids vent all their excess energy on the playground, parents can watch flat-screen televisions, drink refreshments, and use the WiFi to surf the Internet in the adult area.