Hookah bar smokes out competition with club atmosphere

Located at 511 Haight Ave., Zorona Hookah Lounge offers the Arlington community a fusion of traditional hookah culture with a clubby ambiance. Serving tobacco, this lounge is for legal adults only. Photo By: Zorona
Located at 511 Haight Ave., Zorona Hookah Lounge offers the Arlington community a fusion of traditional hookah culture with a clubby ambiance. Serving tobacco, this lounge is for legal adults only. Photo By: Zorona
Located at 511 Haight Ave., Zorona Hookah Lounge offers the Arlington community a fusion of
traditional hookah culture with a clubby ambiance. Serving tobacco, this lounge is for legal adults only. Photo By: Zorona

In the crisp, freezing winter, I believe that nothing warms the soul better than a pipe of hookah. Passing along the streets of Arlington, people definitely see the closed down hookah bar on Raymond Avenue, but they need not lament for too long. There is another hookah bar one further down the street, around the corner of Thai Spice, that fewer souls know about. Lit by red lights, and shining white lights to a room on the side, the rich ambiance of the Zorona Hookah Lounge, not to be confused with the Zorona’s which is still closed following fire damages, can make for a great late night out with friends.

Be warned though, as soon as you step inside, large bearded men will approach you for an I.D. check—it’s definitely 18 and older only. I’ve forgotten my I.D. in the past and no amount of pacifying could convince the men at the front to let me in.

But once inside, a red-painted room with white paneling, packed with plenty of old, greyish uphostered sofas, greets you. A neon bright room off to the side is another seating option. The blue lights from that side area deflect and gave a glowing look to my friends’ teeth. On a recent Thursday, I ventured to the lounge with a group of friends to celebrate a friend turning 18.

Looking around, I mostly saw young Arlington locals, dressed in hoodies and snapbacks, smoking with friends and being particularly chummy with the owners. At the table next to me, a young man impressed his companion with a series of well-blown smoke rings.

The rules are simple: don’t jump on the sofas and you must purchase one head for every three people (heads-up: the average hookah bar asks for one head for every five people).

Other than these two mandates, you should feel free to sink your light-headed body back into the seats and enjoy that all the hookah lounges has to offer.

Patrons of the lounge can also get free advice from the owners about what flavors of tobacco, or shisha, are particularly good or terrible, at the bar. When one of my companions asked for green apple, the waiter, dressed in a black t-shirt, made a face. Our waiter explained, “You don’t want to order that. Green apple, eugh.”

Instead, the popular, recommended flavors are peach, watermelon and some other classic fruits. For an extra fee,  the discerning customer can get more intense tastes, such as Sex on the Beach.

Unfortunately, compared to the wide variety of tobacco on hand, the menu had a poor selection of food, only consisting of chips and soda. Unlike the usual hookah bar that offers tea and seating in a circle, this one has a darker, more clubby atmosphere that manages to remain casual.

Service took around ten minutes but as I asked them to hurry up, they immediately brought out the hookah, along with numerous yellow-colored plastic tips to place on the pipes for hygiene. The table is rather long and we had to be careful not to tangle the pipes together. When I was there, one pipe was black and the other was brown, so it was possible to tell them apart.

As we got more light-headed and drifty, my friends and I chatted about life and love and snapped photos of each other as the smoke tendrils brushed our cheeks.

In the background, loud electro music and remixes of popular songs, like the club hit “We Found Love” by Rihanna, blasted, courtesy of a local DJ, giving the lounge a definite club-like ambiance. At multiple points, I simply wanted to get up and dance, but, unfortunately, it looked like the rest of the room was more interesting in sitting down.

The pricing is decent, around $12 for a pipe, which, once split in a group becomes fairly affordable. The bar’s hours are long, the lounge stays open until 12:00 a.m. on Monday nights.

A major downside however is the bathroom, which ranks on the list of the most poorly furnished bathrooms I’ve ever encountered—no soap or toilet paper, just cracks on the walls. If you are a stickler about bathroom cleanliness, it might be better to make sure to go before you head out for the night. No one wants to be stuck using a dirty bathroom.

Still, don’t let the bathroom situation dissuade you from the place. It more than makes up for its plumbing shortcomings in other ways. With a television in the background showing the latest in American football, and some interesting graffiti on the wall, a Batman t-shirt pinned to the ceiling, as well as a blown-up photo of a man, possibly the owner’s father, considering what appears to be quite the strong family resemblance, the décor is far from boring.

On one visit, my friend, who had a pretty rough day with his classes, declared that he considered our visit to the hookah lounge was the highlight of his day.

The overall vibe of the lounge can definitely vary from person to person—the temperature of the room was perfectly okay for me, but one of my friends, who hails from Texas, needed multiple jackets.

As far as hookah bars go, this one is the closest to the college and definitely worth a visit or two. I recommend bringing a close group of friends and some cameras for a cool in-the-dark photoshoot.

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