Though the Middle Eastern tradition of puffing on a hookah pipe has been prevalent in the West, it is only in the last decade that the tradition has really carved a niche in LA. The Culture Trip has scoured Los Angeles to discover the best hookah places from fancy lounges to low-key joints where you can collapse on the sofa and puff, puff, pass. Just make sure you have your ID on you. You must be 21 or older.
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For a no-frills hookah spot, Ali Mama Cafe does it best. Located in the heart of Echo Park, this spot packs a Mediterranean vibe, where people come to unwind over card games, coffee and hookah. The front of the café appears scruffy, but the intimate, low-lit back room is usually where the younger crowd hangs out. They have tons of hookah flavors, and the staff is always around to make sure the coals are smoldering. For an unpretentious evening that is budget-friendly, Ali Mama Cafe is a local favorite.
Lebanese restaurant Almaza is nothing less than a hookah hideout. The narrow patio, thick with smoke, is almost always packed with people. While many come in groups to share a good hookah over a shawarma platter, there are quite a few people who bring their laptops and notebooks to partake individually. In any case, customers return again and again because they know they can count on a perfect pipe every time.
Living up to the chic Hollywood vibe, Glass Hookah Lounge is an upscale hookah bar with fancy hookahs. Propped on a tiny tripod, their cone-shaped glass hookahs are fitted with a very sleek stainless steel hose. Sitting on the table, the hookah is oddly reminiscent of a chemistry lab project. The menu is a mix of cuisines including, traditional Mediterranean kabobs, burgers and salads. For an intimate, high-end hookah experience, Glass Hookah Lounge has all the right vibes.
People come to Habibi Cafe for the famous lemon chicken, baba ganoush and the apple-topped hookah bowl. Given its proximity to UCLA, this hookah spot is a favorite amongst students and the Westwood community. With the DJ spinning Arab music and Bollywood numbers, this place is always bustling with ethnic flavor. On rare days, you might see a celebrity hanging in your midst.
Lotus is an alternative affair, pairing hookah with exquisite Japanese fare. Under low-hanging string lights, the menu offers a variety of sushi rolls and all the fixings for a perfect Shabu-Shabu, including a red carpet that stretches from the entrance to the bar at the back. For those who are willing to splurge on the experience, order the ‘Art Of Hookah’. The LED lit all-glass hookah fitted with a special bowl makes the smoke extra smooth. And although they don’t serve Boba tea, they drop a few of the starchy tapioca pearls in the base of the hookah, so you can appreciate the art of the instrument during your smoke.
Boba and hookah is not a traditional pairing, but it works well at Boba Bear. Located in Koreatown, a neighborhood that never seems to sleep, Boba Bear is a small place that will keep you entertained late into the night. From the milk tea bobas, crepes, board games and, of course, hookahs, this laid-back joint is great when you’re just not ready to go home.
An unassuming place that has the best beef koobideh around, Naab Café is a gem on the busy Westwood strip for a quick Mediterranean eat. The friendly staff is always ready to lead the hookah smokers to the patio in the back, which is decked out with moody lighting. Many patrons bring their own games, so while enjoying the hookah and chowing down on the grilled kabobs, you may notice an intense game of chess in progress.
In the midst of Japanese restaurants, a new hookah lounge has opened its doors in Little Tokyo.The Lekker Lounge has already made its mark offering an LED hookah experience, complete with a fiber optic star ceiling. For a private hookah session, reserve their VIP chess room. With its black-and-white checkered wallpaper, the room is made to resemble an actual chess board, complete with the pieces glued to the checkered ceiling. Though the lounge does not offer food, its close proximity to restaurants makes it an ideal spot to hangout after some ramen.
Al Layali is a little Mediterranean café in West Hollywood off La Cienega Blvd. The café wakes up in the evening, as people gather under the red awning to relax on the patio over a good hookah and a plate of succulent kofta kabob. The friendly service and great hookah keep bringing customers back.
With the walls and ceilings draped in off-white fabric and a single rustic chandelier dangling in the center of the marquee, Xai Verandah Lounge invokes a baroque Middle Eastern ambience. Customers either settle on the sofas indoors or have a sweet puff on their hookah on the verandah. The menu largely features Mediterranean cuisine, but there are some American classics tossed in like pasta and beef ribs. Either way, you’re guaranteed a filling meal before or after your smoke.