According to Steve Carell’s character, Michael Scott, of ‘The Office,’ hookah is an illegal drug. As hilarious as I found that statement, it isn’t true. Hookah, simply, is the glass pipe used for smoking tobacco. I am not a cigarette smoker, nor will I ever be, and I can’t recommend smoking tobacco the night before a vocal performance (as my friend Alicia found out); but smoking hookah is an amazing way to bond over a beer, tea, or whatever other variety of goodies a hookah bar has to offer. Although the practice originated in India, people in the U.S. are enjoying this social pastime as an alternative to the drunken bar night or coffeehouse meet-up. Here are the best local places to be more like a cool caterpillar:

Hubble Hookah: Open ‘til 2am on weekends, Hubble is a northwest side Chicago hookah bar with flair and atmosphere. It’s not one of those places with an Indian deli in front that shoves you in the back storeroom to smoke your purchase. The not-too-loud music and glowing lights create a terrific ambiance. You get the food menu (Middle-Eastern), bar menu with teas (organic options!), and alcoholic drinks along with the hookah menu, which varies in price depending on the flavor you’d like to smoke. With so many fruity varieties (almost 70 total!), it’s often hard to choose one. Hubble is located at 3308 N. Harlem Avenue.

Arabia Hookah Bar: The people here describe it as “a place where Arabian culture meets and greets the Midwest.” At this BYOB joint, you can also savor its famous mint tea and a variety of other beverages, like unique coffees and fruit smoothies. Belly dancing is the popular draw on weekends, and everyone is invited to join in the fun. You can find this hangout in Wicker Park at 1046 N. Milwaukee.

People who smoke hookah are usually social creatures with a desire to bond over the hookah experience. Don’t feel shy about trying it for the first time–all locations are great with explaining the process, the price and the options at hand. Soon enough, you may just be the one people go to when they want to know all about hookah!

Feature Photo by Joi

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