Lounges in Essex

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An entrancing song plays in the background as plumes of fruit-infused smoke drift from the lips of revelers lounging on ottomans and plush sofas. This scene is typical on a Friday night at Zeeba Lounge, dubbed "the city's swankiest spot for puffing flavored tobacco" by Baltimore Sun writer Sam Sessa. Patrons can blow smoke triangles with more than a dozen flavors of shisha, each releasing flavors such as mint, chocolate, or pomegranate. The hookah's water filters the fragrant smoke, removing tar for a pure taste. Zeeba Lounge pairs its smoky specialty with a menu of Mediterranean tapas such as curried meatballs or saffron-infused shrimp and a BYOB policy.

916 Light St
Baltimore,
MD
US

Dionysus satisfies Olympian appetites with a menu loaded with seasonal dishes and an extensive wine and beer list, served in a cozy and artistic atmosphere. Ascend stairs to a painting-lined dining room and reward well-behaved beaks with a juicy steak sandwich on a crisp baguette ($10), complemented by caramelized shallots, goat cheese, and peppery arugula that possesses subtle bite, like a tentatively penned satire. The house-made veggie burger of the day ($10) lassos a saucy bun into a prairie of free-range fries, and customizable 14-inch pizzas ($10) show off toppings such as pancetta and crab ($2/topping), or artichokes, spinach, and mushrooms ($1/topping). Patrons can also disregard the main menu entirely in favor of daily specials, which rotate synchronously with the sun.

8 E Preston St
Baltimore,
MD
US

Even if they were not apprised beforehand, guests at Illusions Bar and Theater would quickly realize that they were in no ordinary watering hole when they noticed the straightjacket suspended above the small stage behind the bar. Far from the state's only psych ward with a liquor license, the venue is the brainchild of former clown and showbiz veteran Ken Horsman.

Typical evenings see patrons sipping on fine spirits while gaping at a show by Ken’s son, escape artist Spencer Horsman, as he wriggles his way free from increasingly secure restraints and dangerous situations, all while tickling ribs with playful banter. Other magicians regularly stop by to show off their illusions, wowing audiences and deepening the depression of real wizards who can't get anyone to believe in their powers.

1025 S Charles St
Baltimore,
MD
US

With the clink of glasses and fizz of champagne barely audible beneath the danceable beats of top-flight DJs, Mosaic Nightclub and Lounge sets an electrifying tempo for its chic clientele. Beers and cocktails emerge from the bar as bottles of top-shelf liquors alight upon tables reserved for VIPs such as former presidents and future presidents. An outdoor seating area allows groups to commune beneath the stars and cool down after frantic hokey-pokeying sessions.

4 Market Pl
Baltimore,
MD
US

Husband-wife duo Julio and Lily Soto opened Azul 17 to celebrate not only Mexican cuisine, but to also embrace the culture through music, vibrant design, and a selection of more than 100 tequilas made with 100% blue agave. Their chefs all hail from Mexico and bring family recipes to the kitchen?including one chef's grandmother's recipe for black beans. It's ?old world style with updated presentation,? says manager Peter Bonohue. Peter has been in the restaurant business since he could legally work, and to him, Azul 17 has an especially fun atmosphere. ?I love tequila now,? he confessed.

While chefs simmer their signature mole sauce and servers add fresh lime juice to margaritas, guests recline atop white leather banquettes or modern chairs. Eyes dance with murals and shimmering blue-tile mosaics splashed against white walls. Those whites are illuminated with a multicolored neon glow as DJs spin club, house, and Mexican tunes starting at 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. On Thursdays at 8 p.m., guests can spice up their tired hokey-pokey routine with salsa lessons.

9400 Snowden River Pkwy.
Columbia,
MD
US

At this authentic South American steak house, customers never want for options. The menu of Argentinean meats and seafood is buttressed by a selection of more than 30 hot and cold tapas and a colossal wine and martini list of international libations. The sips cool overexcited taste buds and pair with lauded entrees such as the parrilla of bone-in short ribs, singled out by Washingtonian as one of Bethesda's greatest dishes. Popular seafood platters arrive in the form of whole lobsters, accompanied by enough seafood paella to sate two diners. To ensure that their sizzling meats are shared with the masses, chefs can also export the fare to private bashes or teddy-bear picnics with catering services.

The eatery's décor reflects its exotic eats: spotlights set orange walls ablaze and highlight paintings more colorful than a Rubik's cube hidden in jello. Clusters of leather couches exude a casual air, providing a sleek contrast to the chic table settings and white linens at booths and tables. Proving that elegance needn't be fussy, customers can also master dance steps at milonga lessons on Wednesdays or host parties in the space almost every day of the week.:m]]

7345 Wisconsin Ave
Bethesda,
MD
US