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.
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.
Trapeze School New York’s expansion west meant Angelenos no longer had to cross the country to join the circus. At their outdoor studio on the Santa Monica Pier, highly trained instructors teach beginner, intermediate, and advanced maneuvers during classes on the flying trapeze, aerial silks, lyra, trampoline, and Spanish web. All of Trapeze School New York’s countrywide facilities in New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago, and LA hold themselves to high safety standards that account for everything from equipment to instructors and safety belts. In an effort to bring their flying-trapeze instruction to surrounding communities regardless of funding, the school also gives lessons through their nonprofit branch of operations.
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.
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 West Africa, a "chop bar" is a roadside gathering place serving food and drink, over which community members exchange news and ideas and compare findings on the validity of the axiom set theory of mathematics. Oakland's Chop Bar fosters the same sort of fellowship, right down to its neighborly use of items from local vendors in its dishes. Breakfasteers can opt for a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich ($6) or oatmeal ($3), among other offerings. The taste buds of brunch-goers are invited to trot the globe with the Italian omelette known as the frittata ($7) or an order of chilaquiles ($9), a Mexican dish tossing crispy tortilla strips in salsa, cheese, and scrambled eggs.