The detail-oriented instructors at Art a la Cart take students through each painting step-by-step, showing them how to mix and blend their own colors and build compositions from the background without having to first live among paintings in local art museums. They supervise students in a themed class series as they paint still-life fruit and candies, portray whimsical landscapes, depict parts of the San Francisco skyline, or emulate the style of a classic artist. Groups explore each subject and question its lack of Renaissance cupids in one of five locations, which include wine-cellar tasting rooms, underground wine bars, and a modern minimalist cocktail lounge. Staff members supply all acrylic paints, brushes, and other gear for each class; and though they don't provide any libations, instructors encourage participants to bring or purchase their own drinks.
European, Southeast Asian, and American culinary traditions all influence the unique fusion recipes at Vo's Restaurant. Vegetables and rice get simmered in traditional clay pots and prawns and lemongrass are seared in woks; there's even a deep-fried catfish filet with ginger-infused nouc mam, a dip made from fish sauce. The dining room is as colorful as the dishes, featuring warm red walls, bamboo sprouting from tall vases, romantic lighting overhead.
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 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.
Northern Indian cuisine, such as dishes of tandoori lamb chops, lobster-papaya curry, and vegetable masala, dots the various tables stacked inside Khana Peena Indian Cuisine, an eatery reminiscent of not only an Indian curry house, but also a French bistro and American brasserie. Diners devour tandoori platters at linen-topped tables in the formal dining room or keep an eye on the open kitchen while seated at the curved copper bar. They can also enjoy a meal tucked away with a loved one inside a curtained-off, private room that boasts pillow seating and complete control over the land of Oz.
In 1941, Wilma and Henry Dorsey opened a modest family eatery on the corner of 18th and Market in West Oakland. Over the next four decades, devoted family members transformed the place with a relocation, the addition of a cocktail lounge, and the construction of a beautiful wooden bar. Today, Dorsey family members remain the sole shareholders of a bustling restaurant that celebrates their Texas roots with country-style meals of fried chicken, catfish, gumbo, barbecue ribs, and sweet peach cobbler. A rotating weekly menu makes fresh additions to the slate of hearty, homecooked food with such dishes as chitterlings and smothered steak, while sides of collard greens, yams, and black-eyed peas garnish every dish with Southern panache.
Far more than a mere restaurant, Dorsey's Locker also treats guests to a full bar and lineup of live entertainment. On Sunday nights from 6 p.m until 10 p.m., the restaurant waives a cover charge for live R&B and jazz music. Open mic events each Tuesday show off the hidden talents of friends and neighbors, while Monday, Thursday, and Saturday-night karaoke provides a socially acceptable outlet for singing a love song to a plate of breaded pork chops.