The hookah's natural habitat is not a nightclub with crashing music and empty drinks slamming against tables. The hookah experience, according to Kimm Smith of Hookah House, should be unrushed and mellow. "It's very meditative," she says, "and should be shared with people you care about." This was the atmosphere in which co-owner Zo spent his childhood in Algeria, where people would spend long hours gathering with friends and families in hookah lounges. He and his Bostonian wife, Michelle, wanted to bring that aspect of Algerian culture to the United States, both to spread a feeling of community and as an homage to the marriage of their distinct backgrounds.
As the fruit-tinged smoke of shisha rises from between murmuring visitors, it passes rich fabrics, which drape the exposed-brick walls, and bright lanterns dangling from a marigold ceiling. Stories seem to overflow from the furniture and textiles, gathered during the couple’s travels in Algeria or preserved from Zo's former life as a sommelier in Paris. This is where patrons linger, resting shoeless feet on bright cushions and pillows as they converse or check email on the free wireless internet. Atop inlaid tables, servers place Turkish coffee, house blends of Moroccan tea, and small plates of Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
On some weekend evenings, live jazz stirs guests to twist among tendrils of smoke before a DJ steps up to spin a range of music, from Earth, Wind & Fire to Jimi Hendrix. Belly dancers, with bells and scarves for all to borrow, demonstrate to patrons how to pass lie-detector tests with just their hips. A psychic-in-residence reads coffee grounds most nights, translating the earthy onyx shapes into predictions about the drinker's future.
When Dean Lavallee opened the first Park Avenue BBQ in 1988, he had one lofty mission in mind: to serve the best barbecue ever made. Despite the seemingly impossible nature of his goal, he and his team continue to rise to the challenge, dry-rubbing their meats to smoke and char-grill on-site. They use all-natural, grain-fed, domestic pork for their traditional and Carolina-style barbecue pork—pulled by hand—and only use fresh, never-frozen ribs that are smoked daily over hickory. As diners chow down on hearty homestyle sides, seafood platters, or buffalo wings tossed in one of six sauces, they can admire the dining room's pictures of their city's most prominent people, places, and robot mayors.
Park Avenue BBQ arranges their meats into fun, hearty dishes such as the Dempublican sandwich, which combines smoked pork and beef brisket separated only by cheese and bacon to create a sizeable sandwich that the team has dubbed "porkalicious". They whip up Funnybonz, which look and taste like miniature ribs, using tender, lean pork that's prepared by cooking up regular ribs beneath a shrink ray. In 2008, their dedication to each dish caused Cityvoter's users to name Park Avenue BBQ the best barbecue in town.
Housed in a two-story structure erected in 1926, Bizaare Ave Cafe pairs an eclectic menu of tapas and bistro meals with still more eclectic decor, earning the eatery Best Romantic Restaurant accolades from CityVoters in 2010. In the quirky downstairs dining area, coffee tables crowded with knickknacks host plates of tapas and glasses of wine. Diners in overstuffed armchairs tuck into dishes such as homemade pumpkin-stuffed ravioli or baked brie with raspberry sauce, a gift of rich, melty cheese that—like all good presents—is wrapped in puff pastry. Upstairs, things get more formal with a menu of bistro fare such as filet mignon, pork chops, and seared salmon. Aside from the fare, diners may purchase literally anything in the restaurant, including potted palms, decorative wall-mounted plates, and attractive fire extinguishers.
Mamma Mia's brick pizza oven and oak-wood grill burn all day long to create fresh Italian cuisine for lunch and dinner. Midday munchers can refuel with subs such as the hot shrimp parmagiana ($12) or the cold Genoa salami and provolone ($7.50). Come dinner, tongues of fire gently lick pies like the trattoria special ($14.50), a 10-inch New York–style pizza loaded with five of your favorite toppings. Elegant pasta selections are also customizable; pasta alla vodka ($17) tosses onions, garlic, romano, and prosciutto with creamy vodka sauce and your choice of angel hair, penne, linguini, eggnest fettuccini, rigatoni, or spaghetti. Kid-sized dishes ($7–$8) occupy unruly spawn, letting parents savor bubbly bottles of prosecco ($10) and rest the eyes on the back of their heads. Relax amid exposed brick, Italian marble, and rich mahogany as a friendly server brings tastes of travel to you.
Ocean breezes playfully dart among yoga practitioners in an outdoor pavilion. Robed spa-goers meditate on the grass in a tranquil garden. Therapeutic hands gently knead away tension, gliding over backs with essential oils. Healing and relaxation are a form of high art at The Omphoy Babor Beauty Spa, and it's not hard to see why the spa won first place with a perfect score of 100 in Condé Nast Traveler's 2012 Readers' Poll of top resort spas in the country. Director Kimberly DeOrsey spins two decades of spa experience into creating a magical, personalized experience for each guest who walks in the door of the beachside space.
Though the spa puts its own luxurious spin on standards such as Swedish massages and mani-pedis, it also keeps things current with state-of-the-art treatments such as the HydraFacial system. This press-lauded treatment uses a water wand to help resurface and nourish skin, gently sweeping away dead cells while supercharging their replacements with hydrating serums and motivational half-time speeches. They also tackle tension and other ailments with a holistic approach that includes reiki and acupuncture.
Eat Fresh’s menu of nutritious breakfasts and smoothies, crisp salads, and satisfying wraps and sandwiches combine delicious taste and healthy ingredients into satisfying deli-fare packages. Guests munch on mouthwatering paninis, hummus, or turkey burgers within the tidy café’s goldenrod-hued walls or lounge on the sun-filled patio to take in the open air and graciously allow their salads to photosynthesize. Complimentary WiFi signals supplement coffee-sipping sessions or lunch breaks, and a rotating cast of three different soups each day sends up savory wafts such as butternut squash, lobster bisque, and roasted tomato. Eat Fresh exemplifies its commitment to healthy eating with calorie counts on many of its menu items, as well as crafting many dishes from wholesome ingredients such as multigrain bread, quinoa, fresh fruit, and low-fat yogurt.