In 1947, Don Kilwin struck upon the perfect method for making candies and chocolates?and when you discover perfection, you don't abandon it. That's why almost 70 years later, the chefs at their dozens and dozens of locations across the country still use old-fashioned copper kettles, marble slabs, and Howdy Doody puppets. And guests can see the proof of that: the glass-walled kitchens afford a clear view of the delectable goings-on as the dreamweavers conjure cashew brittle, caramel apples, fudge, and 40 flavors of ice cream. A steaming mug of coffee, hot chocolate, or cider pairs perfectly with these sweet treats.
"Tips are bigger on the inside," reads the sign on Common Grounds Coffee Bar's tip jar, a wink at the sci-fi stalwart Doctor Who and a glimpse into the shop's sense of humor and friendly atmosphere. The coffeeshop pours brews from Rabbit Coffee, blends up fruit smoothies, and prepares bagels and other food.
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.