Cairo Nights Hookah Lounge in the Tenderloin; Late-night Cheap Thrills
Hookah lounges are a very popular alternative to the bar scene, especially among the college crowd and those who aren’t old enough to drink because it offers people a more relaxed social atmosphere than a loud, crowded bar might. It’s enjoyed by everyone of all backgrounds, though, as you’ll find a group of college girls having a night out sitting next to a table of older men playing cards. Spending an evening smoking hookah with friends can be a nice change of pace from hitting the bottle by letting you hit the water pipe instead. There are a few hookah lounges all over San Francisco, but my favorite one is Cairo Nights Hookah Lounge in the Tenderloin because you can hit the pipe and the bottle all night long.
While most hookah bars basically offer the same thing, a place to chill out and smoke shisha (the flavored tobacco in the hookah pipe), what differentiates them from each other is usually the ambiance and offering of additional services, such as food and drink. Well, the ambiance at Cairo Nights is very bare-bones and is not as fancy or comfortable as many other lounges I’ve been to. It’s a small space with a few tables and a bunch of chairs, as well as section by the window where you can sit on the floor with pillows. In fact, if I judged Cairo Nights on ambiance alone, I would probably recommend a different hookah lounge, such as Morac in the Mission, which has a very classy lounge type atmosphere. Cairo Nights also does not offer any additional services like food or drink, aside from coffee and “authentic mint tea.” If you want food and drink, you could head to Kan Zaman in the Haight which offers a full menu and plenty of seating, as well as belly dancers on some nights!
So if the ambiance is lacking, and the option to order food and drink is not offered, then why would I call this my favorite hookah lounge? Well first off, keep in mind I am incredibly easy to please and I can have a good time anywhere as long as I’m surrounded by good company. As I mentioned earlier, at Cairo Nights you can hit both the pipe and the bottle. What differentiates this place from others is that it is BYOE (everything). Yes, you can bring in your own food and a bottle of wine and pay no corkage fee, or really keep it classy and bring in a handle of liquor and a case of beer. I repeat, you can bring in a handle of liquor and a case of beer. What’s even better is that there is a liquor store right on the corner that I’m sure receives a lot of business from the patrons at Cairo Nights.
Once you are settled at a table with the booze you bought across the street you are faced with the task of selecting what flavor(s) of shisha you want to smoke. The selection of shisha flavors is wide and covers all bases, including sweet, citrus, and fruity. My favorite flavors are citrus mint, double apple, and guava. For the whole list of flavors offered, check out the menu on their website. One hookah is required for every two people in your group, but one bowl is only $13 and refills are $7. You will also be supplied with plastic mouthpieces to snap onto the pipe. These prices are lower than other hookah lounges I’ve been to, and that’s just another reason to visit Cairo Nights the next time you want to smoke hookah. Throw in the booze you can bring in, and you have yourself a fun, cheap night out instead of running up tabs at a bar. Each bowl lasts quite a while, so pace yourself and enjoy the time laughing with friends. There’s definitely no rush at Cairo Nights, since they are open until 4:00am! You can spend the entire night here or stop by after a night out to keep the good times going. There is always music playing, from Mediterranean beats to Backstreet Boys to top 40 and club hits.
What really brings the experience together is the great service by the owner, Khalid. Originally from Egypt, he brings a loud personality to his establishment. He always has a smile on his face and is very welcoming to every one of his customers, and has an uncanny ability to remember repeat customers, even after one visit. He is a great party host, and you’ll frequently find him doing pull-ups on the front door and flirting with girls as they walk by. He runs like a well-oiled machine, going to each table and talking with people to make sure they are having a good time and checking if they need any refills or hot coals.
Cheap thrills are the name of the game at Cairo Nights, the answer to an equation of cheap hookah, BYOE, and late-night hours. When you’re smoking hookah, it’s an entire experience that is more about who you’re smoking with rather than what you’re smoking. The friendly atmosphere at Cairo Nights serves as an easy platform to bring people together and share those cheap thrills over a bowl of shisha and a 40-ouncer.
829 Geary St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
Filed under: Bars, Civic Center, Reviews, Tenderloin | 4 Comments
Tags: byob, byoe, cairo nights, hookah, hookah bar, hookah lounge, kan zaman, morac, shisha, Tenderloin, tobacco