Off the Hookah

                                                                             Off the Hookah
By: Lisa Quinn

Off the Hookah, a new Middle Eastern inspired eatery and entertainment venue opened in late May on the Riverfront.  Walking in on a recent quiet Sunday evening, we were immediately greeted by Scott, our host and server.  The décor was a unique Egyptian motif; with colorful pictures of pharaohs, lavish thrones standing high above our heads and sheer draperies placed gracefully over plush velvet lounging beds. Even the restrooms (yes, I checked both the Men and Women’s) were embellished with Egyptian decor.  Upon entering Off the Hookah, one feels that they have stepped inside a pyramid; yet, the "pyramid" has a dash of trendy flair with an open kitchen and bar in the middle of the venue.  
The menu offered some delicious options.  Starting with "The Sampler" appetizer; it consisted of fresh hummus, small discs of falafel, baba-gannouj, stuffed grape leaves and a zesty salad served with warm pita quarters.   For entrees, there were gyros, large salads, shish kebabs as well as pastas and meat options. The fresh salads are so large that you must pack the leftovers away for lunch the following day! And the shish kebab was done perfectly; tender chunks of well seasoned beef, accompanied with rice and vegetables. But I must say that the tzatziki sauce, made from creamy fresh yogurt and cucumbers was absolutely incredible on top of all we ordered; from the salads to the gyros to the kebabs! (I asked for the recipe but was told that "Mama makes it fresh daily and it's a secret!")
The bar has a new signature drink that was incredibly, refreshingly, delicious! The "Cumbertini"; which was a blend of mint, lime and cucumber flavors and was a little bit sweet, a little bit sour and all tangy.  Off the Hookah uses all premium well alcohol. Other cocktails on the menu include your ever popular martinis and Cosmo's. On Tuesday nights, the restaurant offers "In the Biz"; an evening for family and friends in the restaurant and club business with 1/2 off everything on the check. More fun, at around 10:30 pm on Friday and Saturday evenings, there are belly dancers and a live DJ spinning tunes. The outdoor area is filled with chaise lounges and tables and chairs all along the water, which can make for a unique and entertaining evening!
The general manager and lead bartender, Benjamin, was a wonderful host, sending us a sample "hookah" to try after our meal. For those of you who may be unsure of what an actual “hookah” is, it’s a single or multi-stemmed, usually glass-based water pipe device for smoking.  Now for a non smoker like myself, I was hesitant, yet curious, being concerned about nicotine. But a hookah is very different than cigarette smoking. The tobacco inside the device is actually mild and flavored and made with molasses, with both a fruity or flowery scent and taste. There is little nicotine and the smoke produced is pleasing to the nose.  Interestingly, the tobacco actually falls into an incense category.  Not for everyone, but certainly worth giving a shot! Benjamin sent us a rose flavored tobacco, burning a lovely scent.
Gratuity is included and cash and all major credit cards are accepted. Lunch and sandwich prices range from $6.95 to $10.95 and dinner runs in the price range of $12.95 to $24.95.  There is also a kids and dessert menu.  Hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays, open from 5 pm until midnight. Fridays, from 5pm until 4 am, Saturdays, from 4 pm until 4 am and Sundays, from 4 pm until midnight.  Located at 300 SW 1st Avenue, Suite 103. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33301, in the heart of the Las Olas Riverfront.  Telephone 954-761-8686.
          Dave, another server, explained Off the Hookah as “a cross between Taverna Opa and Nikki Beach.”  If you like one or both of these venues or are just looking for something “off the beaten path”, Off the Hookah is a wonderful choice.