Determined to pursue a career in the culinary arts, executive chef Evan Kechely mastered his craft in the kitchens of restaurants, country clubs, assisted-living facilities, farmers' markets, and other venues, opting to learn by doing rather than attending culinary school. His experiences shaped his ingredient-driven and sustainable approach to meals, leading him to fill Leaf's menu with farm-to-plate options built from locally sourced meats and produce. Kechely has also learned that beer and food go together as well as camping and boy-scout repellant, and his staff is able to recommend a brew for any dish on the menu. In addition to pairing suds with the various dishes, staffers can suggest premium cigars that can enhance flavor profiles. The eatery's advanced ventilation system even allows visitors to indulge in a puff without disturbing neighboring patrons or forcing them to stare at failed smoke-ring attempts.
At two locations, Top Hat Dance Studio's passionate team of nationally certified teachers inspires dancers of all skill levels to shuffle off to Buffalo while hustling, salsaing, and waltzing across the dance floor. During group lessons, skilled instructors teach guests to untangle left feet while performing intricate, stylized choreography in the Lancaster location's two-step, ballet, and West Coast swing classes or the Philadelphia location's salsa, bachata, and advanced-level chicken-dance classes. Fledgling fleetfooters can supplement group sessions with private lessons, during which feet will learn to tap out Morse-code messages to a far-away dance partner while sharpening skills with one-on-one instruction. In addition to these dance classes, instructors also specialize in preparing engaged couples for their first dance and offer a number of specially designed youth programs.
Inside La Luna Dance Studio, students whirl like colorful tops, salsa dancing, tango dancing, or swing dancing atop a 5,000-square-foot dance floor as a crystal-clear sound system pumps tunes. Encouraging instructors stand nearby, breaking down the music and the steps of each style, as friends, partners, and the newly acquainted bond over each tap of their toes. While the studio specializes in these adult Latin-dance courses, junior-level programs welcome kids aged 3 and older, and all classes are scaled to beginner, intermediate, or advanced levels. In addition to their comprehensive month-long programs, the sashayers host special events and dance parties, such as BYOB Salsa Friday every second and fourth weekend, and an annual symposium on the safety risks of holding roses in your teeth.
The sizzling of Cajun batter-fried shrimp mingles with the sweet twang of acoustic guitars and smoky jazz vocals. This distinct bouquet of sounds and smells is the essence of The Crossroads, a venue that describes itself as an amalgamation of classic Cajun and American stylings: “[It's] as if NY and N'awlins had a baby and moved to the suburbs.” Patrons can sate their appetites with a menu of soul and Cajun fare escorted by a choice of libations, including more than 40 martinis. Nightly musical guests have included local and national acts spanning the genres of jazz, bluegrass, and classic-rock cover bands. Nightly events and specials keep energy high. Every Tuesday, guests pay no cover charges and can climb onstage with their finely tuned instruments or an array of water-filled pint glasses for the open Jazz Jam with the house’s trio of musicians.
Large pots regularly crowd the burners in Vinhus Restaurant & Lounge’s kitchen. A peek into the cauldrons reveals bubbling mixtures of seafood suggestive of what might happen if chefs strolled through a fish market and scooped up a few things from every stand—one combinations in particular pairs lobster, clams, and shrimp with a choice of green or red sauce.
These seafood surfeits belong to a menu inspired by Portugal’s seafaring traditions, complete with dishes such as grilled cod with skinned potato chunks, roasted peppers, and onions. The menu reaches east, as well, pulling flavors from Spain, France, Italy, and the Mediterranean into dishes such as veal marsala or a seafood plate whose lobster comes accented with chorizo, chicken, and saffron rice.
The fresh seafood and sizzling steaks perfume a dining room whose wooden floors and taupe-colored walls set the stage for decor including neatly arranged lighting fixtures, attractive artwork, and verdant foliage. Before or after meals, guests can retreat to the lounge, where patrons sip spirited beverages beneath a slanted ceiling that offers its protection to the room’s roaring fireplace.
North bowl is anything but a typical bowling alley. Previously a mechanic's garage, North Bowl Lounge n Lanes was completely overhauled in 2006 before reopening as a swank, 21,000-square-foot retro-style bowling alley and nightclub. With two floors, an upscale comfort food menu, a large bar, and a vast sweep of polished wood lanes, it's become a North Philadelphia gathering place for the 21-and-over crowd.
The food here isn't anything like typical bar fare, either. Upstairs in the cafe, diners munch on Baja-style fish tacos with housemade salsa or Cajun mac n' cheese as they overlook the lanes below through windows. After bowling, there's more fun to be had in the retro arcade, where video games and pinball machines offer a form of competition that requires no heavy lifting and wearing special shoes is optional.