Hookah was once reserved for aging Middle-Eastern men, but the smoky bars and lounges popping up all over the city are attracting a much younger, hipper crowd.
Hookahs are tall water pipes used to smoke flavored tobacco. The tobacco, heated with special charcoal, is put on a plate atop the hookah. The plate has a hole in the bottom that connects to the water-filled container below and when you inhale through the mouthpiece, the smoke goes down through the water, up the tube and into your mouth, resulting in a mouthful of flavor.
Check out these places to try the tasty tobacco:
940 Broxton Ave., Westwood
Located in the heart of Westwood, just steps from the UCLA campus, the Gypsy Café is filled with the fragrant aroma of flavored tobacco. While the café boasts an extensive menu of Middle-Eastern cuisine, the thing that keeps the line forming out the door and the wait sometimes over an hour are the hookah pipes, available to rent for $10 a piece.
The Gypsy café features more than 25 flavors of tobacco, including favorites like apple, mint and melon. Patrons can choose to sit inside in the lushly draped dining room, or settle down at one of the sidewalk tables – a perfect location for people watching.
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 7 a.m.-2 a.m.; Fri & Sat, 7 a.m.-4 a.m. For more information, call (310) 824-2119 or visit www.gypsycafe.com.HABIBI CAFÉ 923
Broxton Ave., Westwood
Right across the street from Gypsy Café, Habibi Café is quite the opposite of Gyspy's mellow atmosphere. By 10 p.m., the small dining room is filled with blaring Middle-Eastern music and the thick smoke of hookah.
On weekends, an area near the bar is cleared to create a makeshift dance-floor and Habibi's owner is known to pick out unsuspecting patrons and pull them onto the floor where he serenades them with a traditional Middle-Eastern tune.
The food is good, although not quite at the level of Gypsy Café, but the hookahs are large and the flavors intriguing.
Hours: Daily, 11 a.m.-3 a.m. For more information, call (310) 824-2277.HOOK'D UP CAFÉ
1325 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles
The newest edition to the L.A. hookah scene is Hook'd Up, a dimly lit smoker's paradise located on Hoover and Venice near USC. The Mediterranean décor is lush and inviting, with plush elongated couches, a big-screen TV and an open-air atmosphere.
Hook'd Up features pre-mixed hookah concoctions such as a mango, vanilla and rosewater blend or you can make your own from house specialties including kiwi, blueberry and coconut. For those who need some sustenance, there is a light menu to browse through.
USC Students receive a discount, so don't forget your ID and as of now Hook'd Up is cash only.
Hours: Daily, 4 p.m.-2 a.m. For more information, call (213) 380-9767.OASIS MEDITERRANEAN BAR AND RESTAURANT
611 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles
Oasis is slightly different than the other places on this list because it is primarily a restaurant and just happens to feature some amazing hookah. The swanky restaurant located on North La Brea Avenue, is a go-to spot for some of L.A.'s young and lively crowd.
The restaurant features chic Mediterranean fare and on weekends, there is live belly dancing from 8 to 10 p.m. Hookahs at Oasis are a little pricier than those at other hookah hot spots, but the ambience just might be worth it.
Indulge in a smoke in the ornate hookah lounge or enjoy some alone time with your friends in one of the restaurant's two private rooms. Oasis also has happy hour from 6 to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. Reservations are recommended, especially on the weekends, and be sure to mention you want to hookah when you call.
Hours: Tues-Sun, 6 p.m.-2 a.m. For more information, call (323) 939-8300 or visit www.oasislosangeles.com.