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.
At Raxx Pool Room, Sports Bar & Grill, rows of pool tables gleam under bright lights, waiting for the clatter of opening breaks and thuds of 8 balls sinking into called pockets. As expert or novice players line up their cues on the pristine felt, ample space around the tables allows for game attempts at tricky shots or rounds of Hokey Pokey to calm nerves. True to the sports bar's name, pool isn't the only activity here—arcade games, beer-pong matches, dart games, and karaoke performances grant their share of entertainment, as well. At the bar, the lights are a bit dimmer, so guests can relax after games by watching sports on the slate of 18 TVs—plus a 100-inch projector—and pairing wraps and burgers from the grill with a selection of specialty cocktails.
A resurrection of Al B. White’s 1939’s vaudeville landmark, the “new” Retro Lounge serves up a menu courtesy of executive chef Nilka Hendricks, best known for her work on season seven of Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen. Chef Hendricks' diverse array of palette-pleasing dinner dishes ranges from the grilled rib-eye steak rubbed with jamaican jerk seasoning ($23) to the zesty shrimp and crab enchiladas with saffron rice and a lobster bisque sour cream sauce ($14). At lunch, guests can build their own sandwiches from more than 50 different fillings culled from beasts of the land, sea, air, and soil ($4.25–$5.25), or gobble up a slew of salads ($6–$7.50) or gourmet paninis such as the Brooklyn Avenue, with veggies slathered in goat cheese, olive tapenade, and balsamic-honey ($6.75).
Maybe it's the food—classic burgers and fries with rugged upgrades such as Jameson whiskey sauces, jalapeño and chipotle mayo, or crispy onions and pepper jack cheese. Maybe it's the drink menu, which ranges from craft brews on tap to flashy cocktails served in fishbowls. Maybe it's the decor, which features tin ceilings, unfinished wood walls, an array of hubcaps, and furnishings made from vanquished beer cans. Or maybe it's just the restaurant's habit of spelling everything with a Z. Now under new management, there's something about CANZ that makes an old-fashioned road warrior feel right at home.