Lounging on the Oriental rugs and finely embroidered pillows, I
slide out of my sandals. Two attractive brunettes dressed for a
nightclub and an appealing guy with an easy smile and impeccable
outfit walk into Cafe Oz and jump over to the rugs. Obviously
regulars, they are greeted by co-owner Jaffer Odeh and the
My friends and I decide on the rose-flavored hookah, pronounced
HOO-kah, from the paper menus. Anna, our waitress, who sports a
sideswept ponytail and Cafe Oz polo, takes our order and brings us
tall glasses of water.
While we pore over our menu and pick up tips about smoking a
hookah, the people seated next to us engage us in conversation.
Because they frequent the bar, they are able to point out their
favorite flavor, which is the slightly more expensive double apple
– appropriately named, since it includes both red and green apple
A waiter brings out the large water pipe, also known as a
hubbly-bubbly. He explains the mechanics, starting out with the
lule, where the sheesha, or tobacco, is located. On top of the lule
rests a small piece of charcoal which lights the nargile, yet
another reference for the hookah.
The lule is connected by a long tube, the Marpuc, to the round
bowl, the Govde, where the tobacco is filtered through water.
Lastly, the tobacco is sucked through the Agizlik, or
Providing us with a plastic enclosed mouthpiece that is inserted
into the Agizlik, Wasseem leaves us to enjoy the experience. As I
suck on the small mouthpiece, I notice the water bubbling in the
handpainted Govde. Because the flavor we choose is relatively
light, none of us cough as we exhaled the smoke. The rose taste can
only be felt while exhaling and leaves the remnants of flavor on
The attractive trio invited us to try their cappuccino-flavored
sheesha with a milk-filled Govde. As the milk makes the smoke much
thicker, the coffee taste is very forceful and startling.
Jaffer and his business partner, Amer Zahr, walk around with
metal charcoal holders and tongs with which they reignite the
charcoal midway through the experience. The hour-long process
begins when the waitstaff puts together the parts of the nirgile
and the aroma of the sheesha wafts through the cafe.
Returning later that night, we seat ourselves amongst the larger
crowd of patrons. The cafe is open until 4 a.m. on Fridays and
Saturdays and the atmosphere turns even more interesting as
Fridays feature Jessica, a belly dancer, who performs tirelessly
starting at 11:30. Patrons are treated to the enticing dance and
energetic movements as they snack on chai lattes and meat pies.
They can also enjoy the hummus, which is served coated in olive oil
and with a basket of pita bread.
The conversation meanders from the smoking ban in similar New
York bars or the card games which the mostly student clientele
plays at the next table. The staff allows us to remain in the
establishment and does not rush to bring the bill, even as closing
The owners of Cafe Oz felt the need for a unique locale where
students can enjoy a lavish tradition while also benefiting from
the familiar Jones Soda or Orangina. While the location is closer
to the bourgeois Main Street than Central Campus, it is a welcome
respite after a long week.
Cafe Oz is located at 210 S. Fifth St. Open Wed. & Thurs. 6
p.m. – 2 a.m., Fri. & Sat. 6 p.m. – 4 a.m., Sun. 4 p.m. –
midnight, closed Mon. & Tues.
Jessica the belly dancer hits the floor Fridays at 11:30
Hookah-pipe tips and tricks
Always keep your shisha in the refrigerator in an airtight
container. Your shisha will last well over a year if stored
Combining different flavors of shisha can be very satisfying.
Try banana and strawberry, or lemon and mango.
Some prefer to use liquids other than water on the hookah base.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with juice, wine and milk (to make
the smoke thicker).
Combining shisha with honey can provide satisfying hooka
Placing ice cubes in the water can make for a mellower, smoother
smoke. Squeeze a lemon or lime in the summer.
Never put your hookah above the floor.