InReturn’s life-skills classes include a weekly reading class, where production associates read new fiction and nonfiction books aloud to one another, helping improve their literacy skills as they stay current on world events. The production associates also learn social skills from the stories that can be applied to their daily lives. InReturn hopes to purchase new books so each production associate can have their own copy for continued reading and learning.
J. Gumbo's summons the spices and flavors of Cajun cooking, dishing out chili and po' boys inspired by Louisiana classics. Start with the crawfish-cheese dip, a crawfish étouffée topped with cheddar cheese and served with tortilla chips ($5.50) or sink spoons into gumbo, a slow-cooked roux-based soup tweaked with onions, bell peppers, chicken, and andouille sausage ($6.50). Like a wizard with a wand made of taffy, the Voodoo chicken ($6.50) casts a spell on taste buds, highlighting slow-cooked poultry drizzled with spicy Cajun tomato sauce and vegetarians can make a meat-free meal of the white chili—white beans mingled with stewed tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and dill ($6.50). The classic po' boy sandwiches weigh down the plate like a freight truck on a bicycle kickstand and include the Jean Lafitte po' boy, an open-faced french bread nestled beneath Bumblebee stew, Voodoo chicken, cheese, jalapeños, and sour cream ($6.50).
The grill at Mayday sizzles and pops as cooks forge a menu of hot dogs, gourmet sausages, and homemade sides. All-beef morsels from the Avril-Bleh & Sons meat market are crafted with the epicurean thoughtfulness of a valentine from an oompa loompa and serve as mouthwatering canvasses for artful dogs. The Mayday dog wears house-crafted spicy mustard pajamas while bouncing gleefully on a warm pretzel-bun mattress alongside caramelized onions and grilled peppers ($7.00). Choose a gourmet dog foundation ($7.25), such as chorizo or kielbasa, and pile on toppings ($1 each) that include house apricot ketchup, beer cheese, or a miniature Lamborghini. Noodles ford warm rivers of golden cheese, dodging crusty pretzel breadcrumbs in the restaurant's macaroni and cheese ($4).
The aesthetic champions at My Little Red Haus put the power of paint, canvas, and crafts into tiny, eager hands, earning recognition as The Best Place for Kids by Montgomery's Downtown District for the last two years. Children’s mixed-media courses welcome youngsters to learn and practice using a variety of materials and skills. Diminutive Da Vincis and atomic Andy Warhols will draw, paint, and glue a mixed-media creation to beautify fridges, bedrooms, and adorable interrogation rooms. Younger mini-artists (ages 4–6) begin with the basics, polishing motor skills and exploring crafty knowledge of color, line, textures, and shapes, from the familiar circle to the tricky five-pointed triangle. Older kids (ages 7–12) get pointers on their budding artistic skills.
Hundreds of unadorned pottery pieces line the shelves and wooden worktables at Mad Potter, a whimsical studio where walk-in artists can select the preferred vessels for their creativity and set to work crafting custom masterpieces. The studio’s panoply of provided art supplies includes patterns, stencils, and colorful paints with which to decorate vases in floral designs and pasta bowls with step-by-step instructions for wielding silverware. Professional potters emerge from the earthenware scenery to answer questions throughout the process and to fire finished artworks until each is hardened and safe for food, dishwashers, and microwaves. Large groups can rent out the studio to fashion brittle cakes for birthday parties, and resident artists often travel to businesses and homes to allow kids to paint in their natural habitats.
Patty first discovered rock climbing in college. “I got sucked in right away,” she says. Before long, she found herself marrying a fellow climber—a man she met at Climb Time back when it was still managed by the original owners who also blended their relationship with climbing. “They got married at the gym,” Patty says, describing how the first owners scaled the roof to say their "I dos." Though Patty and her husband didn’t exchange rings at the top of a wall, they did decide to buy the gym.
The expansive arena challenges climbers with a 24-foot climbing wall, where novice and expert mountaineers alike grasp handholds with chalked palms or coax a gorilla to carry them up piggyback style. Along the other side of the facility, Patty and crew dare climbers to test their strength on a wide array of 15- to 60-degree bouldering inclines that sit above moveable pads to cushion jumps or falls.