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.'"
True to its name, Atomic Allure functions as a chemistry lab of sorts. Ladies who twirl around the studio's poles are studying a formula whose components of rhythm, poise, strength, and support fuse to generate confident energy. They work under the supervision of highly trained instructors, including owner and established choreographer Donna Walton and competitive pole dancer Christina Wert. The team encourages students of all backgrounds and builds to enroll in their pole-centric classes, which range from introductory-level courses to advanced sessions. They also teach chair-dancing and belly-dancing classes.
Instructors also helm one-on-one lessons that hone proper form, as well as host custom private parties. Monthly "Champagne & Stilettos" socials allow guests complimentary glances at the studio's sense of community, bolstering the experience with drinks, dancing, and special demonstrations.
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.
Former law-enforcement officer Antoine Fisher has devoted his career to keeping people safe, from directing defense courses for locals to working security for Janet Jackson. His school's classes teach civilians how to safely handle firearms according to NRA standards, and specialized training classes help security professionals stay current with the latest defense tactics. Additionally, unarmed self-defense classes prepare participants to subdue or evade an attacker with strikes, takedowns, or by becoming invisible. He also offers special rates for active-duty officers. Beyond training, Antoine coordinates security services that range from supplying canine handlers to securing construction sites and office buildings.
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.
Body Mechanix’s talented personal trainers, including a nationally ranked strongman and a Harvard grad, didn’t get buff all by their lonesome. Believing that encouragement and camaraderie make as much difference as weight and reps, they cook up ever-changing routines through collaboration with their fellow fitness gurus, a practice that allows them to share ideas and show off their ability to bench-press other bodybuilders. Individual lessons send clients sprinting across indoor stretches of turf or hiking heart rates with cardio and weight machines, whereas group classes help them sweat off inches with fast-paced boot-camp exercises or teach them how to jab out aggression with circuit boxing.