Sheesha (hookah) bars in Toronto
Sheesha in Toronto is enjoyed by many looking to spend a relaxing (and yes, legal) night out. Its roots trace back to India, though now sheesha has arguably entered the mainstream worldwide. The practice of adding flavours, though, such as cherry, blackberry, or mint, is relatively new, and has really taken hold just over the past 20 or 30 years.
Sheesha (or shisha, narghile, mu'assel ) typically contains tobacco, but herbal versions are also produced (and available at some places listed below) which contain no tobacco or nicotine. Of course, the bubbling sound, gentle buzz, and overall sensation can be addicting in itself. Fortunately, there are several places in Toronto where you can indulge, along with a meal, coffee, or dessert.
Here are just a few places to get your hookah on in Toronto:
Sheesha Lounge and Coffee House
At Bloor and Ossington, Sheesha Lounge and Coffee House is a restaurant, café, and sheesha lounge all meshed into one. On the restaurant end, Sheesha Lounge offers items such as gourmet pizza and goat cheese and chicken organic salad, the cafe boasts specialty coffees and pastries made on site, and then, of course there's the sheesha lounge in the back complete with hookahs imported from Syria and Egypt. Various regular flavours are available, or you can opt for "V.I.P. Sheesha," which uses distilled water and filtered ice for improved taste.
PAAEEZ on College at Manning offers more of a club-ish experience (or so the dim lighting and DJ booth would have you believe) with a full bar and lounging areas. Along with several flavours of Shisha, you can also order various Middle Eastern dishes including Haleem (a dish with eggplant and grilled top sirloin) and Bademjoon (sautéed eggplant and garlic with onions, saffron, and mint).
Markaz Café and Shisha Lounge at Richmond just west of University has both regular and herbal sheesha on its menu, the latter of which is specially commissioned from a partner in Egypt and contains no tobacco. Markaz also has a fully Halal menu and a big patio that might just be open in coming weeks (fingers crossed). Beyond the regular customers, Markaz often plays host to groups and special community events.
Finally, a place where you can inhale your coffee. Yes, coffee is one of the flavours offered at Café Awtash's hookah bar, as well as other regulars such as mint, watermelon, and double apple. At College and Bathurst, Awtash also has fresh juices, specialty teas, and fair trade coffee drinks on its menu, as well as Persian main course dishes and desserts. Then, of course, there's its Sunday Soul Train event every second Sunday of the month, because even reggae and hip hop goes with sheesha, right?
On Queen West between Bathurst and Trinity Bellwoods Park, Banu Iranian Kabob & Vodka Bar has a full restaurant menu of authentic Iranian dishes and uses mostly organic meat (though it is not Halal). While its patio is relatively small, Banu has a complete Hookah menu of flavours to choose from, many of which are echoed in its dessert menu of ice creams, sorbets, and chocolate.
Sheesha on the patio is the big draw for Beirut Palace in Bloordale. While the food menu--and décor, for that matter--is an eclectic mix of inspiration from various cultures, the sheesha is pretty straightforward. Beirut Palace also has lots of vegetarian options on its menu, along with kabobs, wraps, and many other Middle Eastern dishes.
Is your favourite hookah place not on this list? Please add it to the comments below.