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Cafe Awtash

Photo: Chris Robinson

Posted by Stephen M. Baldwin / July 24, 2010

Cafe Awtash is a calm and comfortable hookah bar that recently opened at the corner of College and Bathurst street. It's one of the few spots in the area where you can sit back at night and relax in sobriety. For now.

The hookah here is typically served with a nice Persian tea that is a personal blend of owner Hamed Afshar and his tight-knit management team. The combination of the two is so relaxing that it's difficult to make it out of the soft, pillowed chairs.

Each lounge space is a little bit different, and on a quiet night you can sink into the front area and watch College Street through an open terrace-like setting.

The mid and back section of Awtash (Iranian for "fire") is lined with comfortable booths to one side and pillowed wraparound booths to the other. At the back is a private area that seats about 30 people and would work well for large groups and events. Dark lighting disguises a surprisingly colourful environment with eclectic pictures on the walls and old-style brick layouts.

Though the cafe is great for evenings and late nights (it doesn't open until 5pm), it's currently missing what many visiting the area might be in search of: alcohol. I'm told management has applied for a liquor license but it's not their intention to make beer, wine and booze the centrepiece of their service. They don`t want to risk sacrificing the cafe's tranquility.

This tranquility is typified by a sort of acoustic, almost country-like mix of English and Persian music that at first seems out of place but ultimately blends fairly well. On some nights they play Persian movies on a projection screen in front of the bar.

Awtash has all the basic caffeinated cafe drinks (with a few specialty coffees), but a better bet are the fresh fruit juices and the tea. I order a delicious cantaloupe juice with a hint of chocolate sauce and it tastes great.

Smoking a hookah can sometimes cause the munchies so for food here Cafe Awtash offers a wide variety of Persian dishes with some Canadian inspiration. There are specialty pizzas ($10) and sandwiches with Persian-style bread ($5). Cheap appetizers consist of Middle Eastern dishes like Zaytoon (a variety of seasoned olives), hummus and other dips and mixtures that are perfect for sharing.

For a sugar fix, there are cakes, Italian ice creams and fresh date cookies. At some point, Afshar also plans on having a late morning brunch with omelettes and specialty coffees.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Signature Drink:
Bar Snacks:
Live Music:
Who Goes There:



Raining on the Parade / July 25, 2010 at 10:30 AM

Smoking tobacco shisha in a hookah would depress, not stimulate appetite. Smoking non-tobacco shisha shouldn't have any effect on your appetite.

Although hookah-smoking carries a certain romance, the World Health Organization and the renowned Mayo Clinic (among others) have noted that smoking tobacco shisha can be *a lot* more harmful than smoking cigarettes.

Smoking non-tobacco shisha in a hookah is harmful because of the amount of carcinogenic compounds and carbon monoxide inhaled from the charcoal. This is true of all waterpipes.

Dawkme / July 25, 2010 at 4:52 PM

^ uh, What Hookah Cafe doesn't serve food? So.... You havent eaten for a few hours and you take a few hits off a hookah, Your appetite disappears instantly? I dont know how many times you've smoked hookah but it sometimes(key word) can make you hungry. The thing I hate about blogTO is smart ass comments from people like YOU, Do you feel smarter,cooler,important by posting your nerdy 2 cents? But hey I guess I can respect the fact that you must have a lot of time on your hands, Thx for the info about smoking, I didnt noticed the graphic picture on ever pack of fags I buy, Good Looking Out

SPAMBOT In replying to a comment from Dawkme / July 25, 2010 at 5:34 PM

troll fail.

MH / July 25, 2010 at 7:09 PM

Why aren't hookahs covered by the anti-smoking legislation that prohibits smoking in bars and restaurants? I'm not familiar with exactly how they work, but isn't there still second-hand smoke involved?

scott / July 25, 2010 at 9:52 PM

there are about five of these hookah joints near greenwood and danforth. not sure if they sell booze or not...

james / July 25, 2010 at 10:09 PM

They serve herbal shisha, not tobacco. Also it's really expensive there. So go if you like getting ripped off.

Anupa / July 26, 2010 at 1:49 AM

I went to Awtash a few days ago for a large-ish gathering (about 15 people or so). Almost everyone commented on the amazing atmosphere and decor--it looks like a place you want to be. Growing up in the suburbs, I've been to my share of hookah bars and Awtash brought some of that familiarity to cater to a younger, more aesthetically-inclined clientele. So yeah, I don't miss the bad lighting and tiny, rammed tables of hookah bars past.
Couple of qualms: the shisha is pricier than I've seen before ($20) and the service was quite slow. That said, it seems like there was only one person on the floor (and aside from our group there were a couple of smaller groups) and I'm thinking that as business picks up, more staff will be hired and present.

Raining on Parade In replying to a comment from MH / July 26, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Good question. I took a quick look at the Smoke Free Ontario Act. Section 9(1) dealing with the prohibition on smoking, refers specifically to tobacco, viz.

9. (1) No person shall smoke tobacco or hold lighted tobacco in any enclosed public place or enclosed workplace. 2005, c. 18, s. 9.

So, I suppose that provided the shisha was herbal, it wouldn't be prohibited to smoke it under the Act (I say this without having look at the regs, which could expand on s. 9(1)).

I actually own a hookah myself, which was given to me several years ago as a gift. I don't use it anymore, because I have respiratory allergies; I don't want to develop asthma. It's none of my business what others do with their lungs, but I think this article was a little "breathless" (pardon the pun) in its admiration of hookahs.

Rachel / July 26, 2010 at 10:08 PM

Gah, BlogTO, seriously, "Iranian for the word 'fire'"? IRANIAN? Please, people in Iran speak Farsi.

anonymous In replying to a comment from Rachel / July 26, 2010 at 11:03 PM

Actually farsi just means persian, and it's only one of the languages that they speak. I dunno, I understood perfectly what was meant.

Brock In replying to a comment from anonymous / December 2, 2010 at 5:45 PM

Actually Persian would be a generalization and it encompasses many different languages, a quick glance at wikipedia can tell you that much.

Farsi is its own unique language used in many different countries.

I agree with Rachel, blogTO is not professional by any means but an editor allowing that to be publicized is pretty bad.

Hope not too many Iranians get offended, they might start complaining in "Iranian."

moe / June 23, 2011 at 3:17 PM

Farsi is the "arabized" version of Pasri. Nonetheless, in English we consider the Persian a mother language, while Farsi, Lori are considered dialects. The word Farsi has not appeared in Anglo literature until 1960's. Though, it seems Iranians in general prefer to call their tongue Persian, as the reason the claim to escape their country is in a sense avoiding further arabization/Islamization.

lalpanjabi / December 15, 2011 at 12:13 PM

Had dinner/drinks with a couple of friends there recently.

Good: Great decor/atmosphere, really great food, good tea.

Bad: Awfully slow and incompetent service. As soon as we walked in, 3 employees near the bar look up, see us, then look away. After a couple of minutes, one finally walks over to greet/seat us. It took over 10 minutes for our server to make his first appearance. Our appetizer was sent to the wrong table. Our server then tried to put the same plate on our table, even though it had already been munched on. Our mains took another 40+ minutes to appear; one of them was missing. Took another 15 minutes to get that. The tastiness of the food made us forget about the horrible service. Then it took another 15-20 minutes before we could flag our server to pay the bill and gtfo. Not going back.

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AKM / October 25, 2012 at 8:49 PM

My boyfriend and friends go there all the time, lovely Persian decor and ambient lighting, the musics great too. From the menu i recommend the beefy boy or easy chick, they're both delicious! I've never tried the hookah but everyone i go with never have anything bad to say about it, and also go with 4 or more people cuz then you get a booth which is a lot more cosier and private that the regular table and chairs at the front. The staff's really nice, a bittt slow with the service but i guess that's what you get when you go to such a popular place. I give it a 9/10 :)

skhan / June 16, 2013 at 5:21 PM

The atmosphere is great, the decor n ambience is like you'd expect at a proper persian-style lounge. Sheesha was good as well, food was decent.

However, Service was AWFUL. The waitresses don't even bother to ask whether you'd like to be seated, they just completely ignore customers coming in and continue with their work and dancing and giggling with each other. It took a good 20 mins for them to come and ask if we'd like to order something, even tho the place is quite small so its not hard to notice. Definitely needs more than 3 servers running around like their headless chickens. At the end the mathematical genius of a waitress took a good 10 mins with a calculator to divide our bill in 3 while we waited and watched enjoyably! Unbelievable!

Duh In replying to a comment from skhan / June 30, 2013 at 1:03 PM

You are an idiot. For one, maybe you should see how much fun it is to do even simple math in your head, under pressure, at a table. But mostly, you should be dividing your own bill. A lot of places don't even offer separate bills. Who here is lacking in math skills (but more being LAZY) if you aren't even bothering to figure out your own cheque.

Corina / July 4, 2013 at 10:11 PM

I agree with Duh's reply to Skhan's comment. Skhan you do not seem like a very nice person.

Another unrelated comment... it's not that big of deal to say "Iranian" as a language. If you find that offensive I don't know how you ever go out of the house... bahaha!

Anonymous / July 27, 2013 at 8:27 PM

WORST SERVICE!! Had to seat ourselves. Waited 20 mins to order and server had a "too cool for school" attitude. We finally ordered the appetizer platter, only to wait 20 more minutes for the server to come back and announce that half of the items in this dish were not available. We left.

ve / August 5, 2013 at 2:46 AM

WORST SERVICE EVER!!!! Went a few weeks ago, and was not impressed what so ever. Three servers there all ignored us when we came in, so we sat ourselves. Ten minutes for a menu, and after placing our order, we waited another twenty minutes only for the server to come back and tell us that half of what we ordered was actually not available that day and that she did not know until now. On top of that, she was rude about it. Needless to say we walked out and took our business across the street to a delicious Ethiopian restaurant.

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