At Bay West Ballroom, students learn how to tango alongside their identical twin, whether they were actually born with one or not. The studio's eastern wall of mirrors stretches for 60 feet, ensuring that students’ reflections are always visible as they spin on the sprung beech-wood floor. On the opposite side, windows admit sunlight and scenic views of the hills, creating an ethereal space where seasoned instructors demonstrate ballroom, Latin, and swing dance styles. Drawing from a diverse curriculum, these instructors cover a broad spectrum of disciplines that range from the cha-cha to the country two-step, encouraging practice in both the classroom and social settings. For example, lessons on popular salsa steps prepare pupils to spin at nightclubs, and wedding courses customize choreography to match a chosen song at elegant receptions.
Directors Mark and Andrea Nelson-Novak have both earned championship titles, and Andrea draws on a degree in biology to better inform her protégés on anatomy, movement, and the location of the body’s rhythm glands. The pair enlists other experts—including US Country and Swing Champion Tony Gutsch and Grand National Latin Finalists Dima and Olga Sukachov—to helm specialized and regular classes. The team also hosts holiday parties each year.
Big Jim’s BBQ entrances diners with a menu of tempting contemporary and barbecue cuisine arranged by chef Jim Modesitt. Like the annual westward migration of wood-smoking grills, the sauce-slathered bill of fare unites gourmet California treats with rustic southern cooking traditions, pairing juicy pulled pork, chicken, ribs, and brisket with hearty risottos, traditional cornbreads and beans, assorted cheeses, and crostinis. As clients sup on the tasty bounty or enroll in courses to learn the dark arts of cookcraft from the kitchen’s professional chefs and caterers, rich flavors and aromas lavish the nose and palate with a sensory celebration of fine food.
The chefs at Falafel Hut man steaming pans to forge a wide range of pita-swaddled sandwiches and hearty entrees, which lead to contented sighs across the dining room and open patio. In lieu of water wings, diners strap beef and lamb shawarma ($8.95) to each arm and dabble in a pool of cucumber sauce. The restaurant's namesake falafel parades onto pita or lavash bread before donning hummus, hot sauce, and fistfuls of crisp veggies ($6.95), and diners drive up napkin demand with two chicken kebabs and rice ($14.95). Pistachio baklava ($2.50) washed down with dark Turkish coffee ($3.50) serves as a mealtime encore more pleasant than a dinner-bell rendition of "Freebird."
It was Lily Riesenfeld and Leila Burrows’ respective passions for Pilates and yoga that spawned The Pad, a tranquil wellness center highlighted by geometric mirrors and Victorian-chic accent walls. Featured in SF Yoga Magazine, The Pad caters to men and women of all ages and fitness levels by offering a diverse schedule of private, duet, and group yoga and Pilates classes. Skilled instructors, each with their own set of specializations, lead sessions ranging from Vinyasa power to prenatal and postpartum classes, helping students find balance through controlled breathing, strategic movements, and attempts to drip all sweat beads into a single thimble. The studio is set at a consistent 75 degrees, keeping muscles warm and toxins crawling far away from bodies.
For La Strada's owners, Martino and Adriano, food lies at the heart of their business and their friendship. They first met while working various Italian restaurants in North Beach and immediately hit it off. Through the years, they'd daydream about opening their own restaurant, until one day a vacant restaurant space changed everything. After taking a look inside, they decided to take the plunge?and the first La Strada location was on its way to opening.
Their first restaurant flourished and soon they opened a second location right next to City Hall. This time, they outfitted the new dining room with fireplace seating, Italian archways, and murals of rolling Tuscan countryside. But they didn't change the one thing that made their first restaurant successful: the food. At both locations, they continue to serve their classic Italian eats, such as skewers of salmon, scallops, and veggies in a white wine garlic sauce and tender veal stuffed with prosciutto, sage, olives, and mozzarella.