Senses come alive when sitting on the plush red couches at Kasbah Hookah Lounge. The sounds of DJs spinning tracks sync with the rhythmic movements of exotically clad belly dancers roaming from table to table, weaving through clouds of aromatic hookah smoke. Customers can puff on more than 85 flavor combinations of the house’s 24 Starbuzz shishas, including classic options such as mango, or pairings such as honey, vanilla, and mint. The house also crafts their own signature blends for the five VIP flavors, including cinnamon toast crunch, which pairs apple, cinnamon, and banana. Bottles of wine and pints of beer accompany hookahs on the table, providing all of the fillers for a comfortable night out without having to lug around childhood teddy bears.
Executive Chef Dana Oddo draws from culinary skills cultivated from his time in the Memphis barbecue scene at Fuego Picante, where she fuses modern Mexican food with smokehouse barbecue fare. The restaurant's decor mirrors this savory synthesis, playfully blending sophisticated light fixtures and streamlined furnishings with whimsical flourishes, such as a mural of a cowboy. This serves as the perfect setting for Chef Oddos' warm and contemporary fare: tamales, chicken taquitos, and shrimp Creole all share menu space with mojitos that are freshly squeezed from the fruit of the 80-proof-rum tree.
Shackletons has been part of the Franklin Square community for some time, but it might feel different to recent visitors thanks to new management who has redone the space and menus. The happy hour crowd is equally as welcome as a family out to dinner, and the menu reflects this open-door policy—there's chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese, but there's also pork tenderloin and baked clams. Many of the entrees have an Italian flavor with eggplant parmigiana and pasta alla vodka, and seafood is plentiful with mussels, crab cakes, and fish and chips. Those seeking entertainment with their meal can stop by for trivia on Wednesdays, karaoke on Thursdays, or a live DJ on Fridays and Saturdays.
On Sunday at Cannon's Blackthorn, a fluid collective of flutists, drummers, and fiddlers gather around brick fireplaces and play traditional Irish music through the afternoon. They welcome all musicians into their circle, as well as the occasional Irish dancers, whose footfalls reverberate off the dining room's stone floors and wood walls. Though Sundays provide the liveliest display of Irish pride at Cannon's Blackthorn, the eatery celebrates Irish culture in more subtle ways throughout the week. Dining companions can settle into private enclaves to share a romantic dinner and whisper sweet nutritional facts into one another's ears before noshing on hearty meat stews and pot pies. Additionally, bartenders pour brews until 4 a.m. seven nights a week.
The bartenders at The Drunken Penguin boost spirits with a slew of drink specials and a limited but affordable menu of pub fare. An Internet jukebox pumps tunes throughout the bar's two floors as patrons hit the dance floor, chug digital pellets on a classic Pac-Man arcade machine, and cheer for their favorite zamboni drivers during NHL broadcasts on six TVs. Each night of the week highlights different specials and themes, from beer-pong tournaments on Tuesday to six-hour Texas Hold 'em marathons on Sunday night.
The gastronomic gurus at Manhattan Bar & Lounge populate a menu with upscale American dishes and small plates. Diners can smother stomach fires with a cold antipasto plate, which comes adorned with a trio of italian meats—prosciutto, sopressata, and genoa salami—as well as fresh olives and artichokes ($12). A collection of handheld treats, including an herb-roasted tomato flatbread ($14) and a ham-and-mozzarella panini ($9), keeps rabble-rousing fingers from initiating unsolicited thumb wars, and the baby arugula salad ($9) turns plates into a garden of fresh flavors. On the sweeter side, velvety double-chocolate-mousse cake ($7) and creamy tiramisu ($7) follow up main courses and make uvulas swoon. Throughout meals, diners employ their full set of senses by admiring the dark wooden décor and relishing live music and performances from entertainers such as cover bands, belly dancers, and waiter impersonators.