Though Green Forest Churrascaria serves a wide variety of meats, every cut has to go through the same trial by fire. Cooked in the traditional churrasco style, the meats sit above an open fire pit fueled by natural wooden charcoal. They roast on impressively sized skewers, which servers then carry into the dining room. There, they slice tender pieces directly onto dinner plates, a showmanship-heavy serving method known as "rodízio."
The resulting dinners star meats such as lamb chops, pork ribs, and filet mignon that, much like the best Christmas presents, comes wrapped in bacon. Some arrive seasoned with parmesan cheese or garlic, while others rely solely on the smoky flavor imparted by their time in the flames. A hot buffet and salad bar balance out meals with a sprawling number of side dishes, including sushi and seafood. There's also a list of wines and beers that emphasizes worldly reds.
Kaleidoscopic Egyptian tapestries hang on the stone walls of both Sphinx Cafe locations, while tendrils of jasmine- and mango-scented smoke drift up to high, vaulted ceilings. Though it was once a church, the space now exudes an aura of opulence and leisure that matches the warmth of the coffee houses in Egyptian owner Remy and Syrian Amera's native homes. “Hookah bars are different from the norm [in the U.S.], which is either a restaurant or a bar. It slows you down. You just relax here.”
Plush cushions help patrons relax at both of Sphinx Pittsburgh locations, as do more than 30 imported tobacco flavors that servers can enhance with creative add-ons such as wine, fruit syrups, and talking caterpillars. On some nights, belly dancers, fire eaters, and live musicians wind their way between hookahs. On quieter nights, Ms. Andrawes says you can find people playing card games, chatting, and sampling platters of homemade hummus and kibbeh.
Hookah Bookah wafts the gentle aromas of its tobacco arsenal, allowing patrons to customize their hookahs with various flavors, a number of bowls and hoses, and an appetizing menu of munchables. A single bowl ($9.95) can brim with one of 22 premium, flavored tobaccos, such as mango, jasmine, or honey ($1 for single flavor), or with a heaping of 1 of 14 exotic tobaccos from a list that includes banana split and pomegranate ($3 for single flavor). Lung-powered fog machines can arrive sporting up to three distinct hoses ($4), although Hookah Bookah's policies foster sanitary smoke-ring creation by mandating that no more than three guests may share a multihose hookah and only one person may use a single-hose hookah. Patrons can accessorize their mini-cloud generators with natural coals, ice in the base, or political bumper stickers for additional fees.
Villa Southside attracts diners and dancers alike with its two-floor layout, happy-hour specials on drinks and small plates, and minimalist décor. Chefs craft small-plate dioramas showing crisp fresh-cut fries searching for their reflections in malt vinegar ($4), Villa wings pursued by an angry mob of hot sauces ($8), and lightly breaded calamari ($10) dancing on the edge of a marinara volcano. An extensive drink list includes Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Sam Adams' seasonal selection on draft, and eight wines by the glass. Specialty cocktails include the banana-cream-pie martini, which melds the abandon of drive-by pie-tossing with the elegance of a sippable dessert ($9–$14).
Eclipse Lounge’s exposed brick walls and candle-laden black tables create a warm ambience, luring late-nighters into relaxing and sampling the diverse menu of appetizers, wines, beers, and specialty cocktails. Settle into a zebra-striped chair to sample the hummus and pita ($10) or the assorted cheese-and-fruit plate ($12), while confiding in friends about the travails of the workweek and suspicions about the true intentions of robotic vacuum cleaners. Get a french kiss containing raspberry vodka, pineapple juice, and drop of Chambord ($8), or tingle tongues with a round of champagne martinis ($9). Oenophiles can select wine by the bottle or glass, and beer lovers can choose from domestic or imported varieties.