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Mellowest Smoke Shop 

Stogies Smoke Shop and Hookah Lounge

Look no further for your cigar and smoking-accessory needs; you'll be so drawn into the comfort of the upstairs hookah bar and lounge at Stogies Smoke Shop that you'll need nowhere else. Owner and manager Zee, short for Zeead Handoush, provides a rainbow of specialty smoking products and hookahs for sale downstairs and three kickback rooms of lounging upstairs. The first stop is the hookah bar counter, where you can place your order for one of fifty flavor combinations Zee is happy to concoct. Choose lemon-cola, or apple-mint, for example. He'll bring you the three-foot-tall glass vase with attached hose and you pull light-tasting smoke through the bubbling water at the bottom. The sticky tobacco product is at the top, nestled in a small ceramic bowl and covered by foil. Small lit coals ignite the tobacco with every pull -- part of the hookah culture involves someone coming around with a hot coal basket to replace the spent ones. Zee chats up his customers, many of them part of a crowd of younger regulars on Fridays and Saturdays, as he brings new flavors to sample. Another bar counter separates the two rooms: one with three pool tables and the other with couches, soft chairs, and a big-screen television. Both are set in a serene island ambiance with faux bamboo and trees and some bumpin' music. Sorry, kids, you've gotta be eighteen.

Readers' Pick:
Schmidt's Tobacco Trading Co. & Pub
1492 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-525-1900

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