Some Bay Ridge residents allege that hookah bars are smoky dens where youth is corrupted and noxious smoke leaks out into the street, causing a nuisance to the community. But after trying a hookah bar out myself — and surfacing from the smoke unscathed, I doubt the legitimacy of these steamy charges.
At Your House café and hookah bar on Fourth Avenue, $8 buys you your choice from a myriad flavors of shisha, or flavored tobacco, including strawberry, mint, apple, pineapple and watermelon. Your House does its best to create a homey vibe for its patrons — who included only two heavy-set “regulars” who were watching an Arab soap opera and smoking when I entered.
Prepared to abuse my lungs in the name of journalism, I chose apple from the list of flavors and took a seat. Minutes later, a tall man came over and placed a hookah contraption on the ground before me. It’s basically a large water pipe, with the flavored tobacco located in a bowl in the middle. When heated with hot charcoal, and sucked through a plastic tube, the tobacco steam imparts a sweet, fruity taste.
As the patrons shot me suspicious looks, I felt slightly nervous. Perhaps they had the wild notion that a young, clearly non-Middle Eastern guy sitting by himself, with an open notebook, smoking copious amounts in the early afternoon might be dangerous. But once I had been smoking for a few minutes, any anxiety I had faded away in a pleasant haze. The manager maintained that what I was smoking was “nicotine-free,” but I did feel a temporary buzz.
As I did my best Gandalf impression, wafting smoke rings in the air, I began to feel relaxed, as the apple flavor caressed my mouth and nose. The water pipe filtered out the harsh tobacco-like taste, allowing me to experience solely the fruity sweetness.
I may not have gotten “stoned,” but I did get a little bit high at work. And I didn’t feel corrupted at all.