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Where there’s smoke, there’s a fiery Groupon. For only $25, you can fill your lungs with $60 worth of fruity hookah smoke, or fill your stomach with fresh hummus, baba ghanoush, and kabob at the swanky Moroccan-themed Morak Restaurant and Lounge located at 3122 16th St. in the Mission neighborhood. If you’re on a liquid diet, get your recommended daily vegetables by drinking twists on classic Middle Eastern cocktails such as lemon-cucumber vodka. Morak’s bronze fixtures, silky curtains, and ornate decor are good eye candy too.
If you’ve never tried hookah before, this is the perfect chance to smoke the sweet stuff. Lounge on plush pillows and blow delicious-smelling smoke rings. Watch them float up walls and dissipate into the sultry Moroccan lamplight. If you don’t know how to blow rings, get a friend to teach you. After all, smoking hookah is a social sport, traditionally played on racquetball or badminton courts. Drinking coffee or tea and puffing and passing with friends and family have been parts of Arabic culture for centuries. And it’s spreading: Smokeshop Magazine, the industry authority on tobacco retail, reported in 2004 that at least 200 to 300 new hookah cafes opened in the United States since 2000. If you want to fill one of Morak’s semi-private booths with your buddies, don’t drop by on weekends when the place is packed.
A hookah is a water pipe for smoking honey or molasses-soaked mixtures of tobacco, fruit, and herbs. Morak has flavors such as mango, guava, chocolate, papaya, mint, and watermelon, and you can mix them to invent your own ridiculous flavors. If your pitas, chocolate-mint smoke, and cucumber cocktails last into the wee hours, there’s a fix for the morning after: Morak is owned by the same guys who own Pork Store, the classic greasy spoon and hangover-helper next door.
Critics love Morak. UrbanDaddy says: > * Think of Morak as a little piece of Marrakech, decked out with crimson curtains and a golden glow emanating from the bronze fixtures. If you’re looking for a quick escape of an evening, or want to break your usual date routine, slip in through the heated patio, past the communal leather sofas, and make your way inside to the bar (remember: no hookahs on an empty stomach…). Start with a cardamom-infused martini or a bottle of Casablanca beer before hiding away in a corner booth.
San Francisco Bay Guardian online says: > * Sixteenth and Valencia has no lack of global eating options, all within a couple block radius. What it hasn’t had up till now is a chic, Marrakech-style lounge where you can smoke a double-apple flavored hookah while sampling Middle Eastern bites (the usual: hummus, baba ghanoush, skewers) or Cardamom-infused martinis.
Morak has a near-perfect 4.5 stars average across 40 Yelp reviews. Here’s what they’re saying.
- Sexy, minimalist decor? Check. The smell of sweet hookah smoke? Check. Warm and friendly service? Check. Morak is a wonderful little gem and perfect for a gorgeous evening on the front patio. – Sara C., Yelp
- This spot is FABULOUS!! – Janette D., Yelp
- The best hooka [sic] bar I have been to in SF! Amazing staff and great location! Wonderful bar and bartenders who know how to make a drink. The food is quite tasty and plenty of yummy selections. – Sean M., Yelp
Hookah the Game
For centuries hookah has been played by large groups of men wearing terry-cloth robes and expensive Italian sandals. The rules are simple:
- Two teams of 28 get on opposites sides of a ball court (one team agrees to wear the expensive Italian sandal on only one foot).
- Each team starts with 10 balls.
- Once the game begins, players throw balls at members of the opposing team.
- Getting hit by the ball results in elimination.
- Players can block an opponent’s throw by defecting it with their own ball.
- If a player catches an opponent’s throw, the opponent is eliminated and one of the player’s eliminated teammate can rejoin the game.
- The first team to eliminate the other team wins.
- An overall winner is decided using a best of format (best of 3, 5, 7, and so on).
- The winning team receives the losing team’s sandals.