November 11, 2005

Get A Life - November 11, 2005

My suspicion is that the reason this smoking ban has taken so long to get passed may have something to do with the gorgeous Chicago weather. As much as people want to see smoking decrease, nobody’s sure if it’s quite fair to punish smokers by forcing them to endure frostbite-inducing temperatures just to get the job done. Luckily, there’s at least one well heated place where you’ll be able to puff away regardless of whether the City Council gets its way. It may not be as close as everyone’s favorite (if hazardous) Woodlawn Tap, but it does have a fully stocked bar, and you can even smoke the vodka.

Inside Sigara Hookah Café and Lounge is a comfortable, brightly colored Bohemian paradise. Beautifully colored linens and silks hanging from the ceiling make for a cozy, tent-like effect. Guests are seated on the floor, on top of mounds of large pillows surrounding tables that are barely a foot off the ground. If you’re not into floor-lounging, there are chairs, couches, and a bar where you may socialize with others who have been drawn into the urban-meets-exotica décor of exposed brick combined with Moroccan artwork.

Sigara sets itself apart from the other hookah lounges popping up around the city in that it doesn’t slack on food or drink just because the emphasis is on the smoke. They offer a comprehensive spread of light, Mediterranean-inspired fare, served tapas-style so that you may share with your friends and order more as you feel like it (and you will want to order more). To quench your thirst, you can choose from an assortment of international and exotic teas and coffees, or take advantage of Sigara’s newly attained alcohol license and order some sweet wine to wash down the baklava. You can also add any liquor or wine to the bottom of your hookah for what their menu refers to as a “unique taste and experience.” I refer to it as a more-than-mild buzz. By far the hardest decision you’ll have to make is which flavor of shisha (molasses-based flavored tobacco) to order for your hookah. The list is vast (over 25 flavors), the flavors enticing (mostly fruit and flora inspired), and the possibilities for blending nearly endless (jasmine licorice anyone?).

While Fridays and Saturdays have recently been changed to 21-and-over only, during the rest of the week Sigara is open to all ages. Wednesday nights are “Ladies’ Nights,” complete with all of the traditionally patronizing “girly things” like tarot card readers and fortunetellers. Thursday through Saturday, they unleash the belly dancers after 10:30 p.m., and there’s not even a cover charge to watch these scantily clad women make you dizzy with their belly rings.

Other enticing amenities include free wireless internet and daily specials at the bar. The afternoons are usually less crowded and more tranquil, making it a perfect environment in which to bring your laptop and plug through your e-mail while enjoying the mildly intoxicating effects of a coconut-double apple hookah. Several semi-private tables, available by request, are partially concealed by curtains so as to hide away those guests who would otherwise offend their fellow customers with too much PDA under the influence of hookah. If you’re opposed to the idea of getting quite so intimate with your smoking partners, the lounge offers up free “hookah condoms”—little plastic prophylactics allowing you to share your hookah without sharing your germs.