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.
The cooks at Lanesplitter bake up a menu of New York–style pizzas and pocket-like calzones, and bartenders at the three pub locations pour a large selection of microbrews. An army of nearly 30 meaty, veggie, and vegan toppings stands ready to occupy thin neapolitan or thick sicilian crusts in combinations such as the herbivore's spinach, mushrooms, onions, and olives ($23.50 for a 19-inch) or the garbage pie's heaping mélange of spiced meats and crisper-drawer items ($27.50 for a 19-inch). The bar's taps have recently flowed with Racer 5 by Bear Republic, E.J. Phair's doppelbock, and hand-pumped Bombay by Boat IPA from Moonlight Brewing Company. Some locations host art openings, where diners and drinkers may admire photography, paintings, or mosaics made entirely of anchovies.
Entrenched in the eclectic North Oakland and Berkeley art scene, Create in Clay School of Ceramics unites a fine-arts gallery of locally produced wares and an art-instruction facility under one roof. Inside the roomy studio, master ceramicists impart pottery-forging know-how to students, who perch behind 10 ceramics wheels and multiple hand-building stations as they create, glaze, and fire custom pieces. The seasoned artisans tailor each tutorial’s subject matter to guests’ individual skill level, striving to keep class sizes small to ensure unrestricted interaction and afford pupils the chance to ask questions about what to do when clay is haunted by ghosts.
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.
Grace and self-confidence are learned skills at Allegro Ballroom. The nonprofit, volunteer-operated dance studio teaches students of all ages and skill levels how to master the footwork of various American and international ballroom dance styles. Instructors lead group and private classes in everything from the Viennese waltz and the tango to the rumba and the cha-cha, meeting in one of the three ballroom practice spaces that range in size from 800 to 3,000 square feet. Whether visitors are looking for an introduction to the fundamentals of ballroom dancing or a more in-depth study of a particular style, the instructors are available to provide engaging and informative insight intended to help people navigate a dance floor with ease.