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Hooked on Hookahs

With Le Souk and Karma still going strong and more than a few rivals bubbling up, the downtown hookah scene is officially smoking.

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El Dar
171 Ave. A, at 10th St.; 212-353-5327
In the BYOB lounge behind this new restaurant's Palermo-inspired dining room, smokers recline on a leather couch while toking on any of a dozen all-natural soft-fruit and flower flavors. Nic-heads can join in the puffing by the backyard waterfall, which offers a quiet respite from the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean music spun on weekends. ($11.95 per hookah.)

Hade Bade
89 E. 2nd St., between Ave. A and First Ave.; 212-677-2223
Sleazy smoking spot Karma has long been the king of Second Avenue hubbly-bubbly, but this boxcar-size newcomer (opened in January) trumps it by offering twice as many tobacco flavors and by staying open weekends until 5 a.m. If the traditional Egyptian non-alcoholic beverage fails to intrigue, try mixing cognac and cola tobacco for a faux cocktail or ordering a beer or a glass of wine off the menu. ($12 per hookah.)


Horus Cafe
293 E. 10th St., between Aves. A and B; 212-228-4774
This month, the Horus Cafe mini-empire opened its third location, this one off of Tompkins Square Park. The decor is minimal, but there's nothing understated about the mixed grill kebab or the 33 varieties of tobacco. Liquor and sidewalk-seating licenses are expected shortly, but until then fruity boozy tobacco flavors simulate classic cocktails like Sex on the Beach. ($15-$20 per hookah.)


Kush
191 Chrystie St., between Stanton and Rivington Sts.; 212-677-7328
After establishing itself as the city's first shisha lounge in 1998, this Moroccan hideaway evolved into a hot spot when it moved from Orchard Street to a larger location last year. D.J.'s spin global beats for skinny young things who quaff Chai Martinis and puff jasmine, rose, and fourteen other flavors. On Wednesdays, $10 belly-dance lessons also get you a drink ticket for the gypsy-music party later on. ($30 per hookah; $15 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.)


Le Souk
47 Ave. B, between 3rd and 4th Sts.; 212-777-5454
Face it: This restaurant-cum-nightclub's notoriety wasn't built on its water pipes or its tasty tajine. The turntablists and the cocktail-fueled scene are what fills both floors to over-capacity with froshy, cruising revelers. Sunday's patio party has firmly established itself as the post-clubbing place to smoke and be seen. ($20 per hookah at with table service; $23 at bar.)


Maia
98 Ave. B, between 6th and 7th Sts.; 212-358-1166
Mehanata, the Bulgarian Bar, closed, so some of its D.J.'s are laying down the beats at this Turkish restaurant on Thursdays. That's a good time to bust out the shisha, available in about a dozen flavors including jasmine and pistachio. ($15 per hookah.)


Moomia
157 Lafayette St., between Grand and Howard Sts.; 212-219-4006
For hookah hounds suffering from hummus fatigue, this Egyptian palace hits the scene with a Daniel and Jean-Georges alum serving up Moroccan versions of duck leg confit and mahché quail. The off-the-strip location brings a sparse and random weekday crowd, some from the hotel next door, but weekend warriors are lured by nineteen flavors of tobacco, fruity martinis, and D.J.'s spinning retro dance music, plus a downstairs lounge overseen by an encased mummy. ($25 per hookah.)


Tut's
196 Orchard St., between Houston and Stanton Sts.; 212-961-7507
Playing its Tutankhamen theme to the hilt, Tut's fills the void left by Kush's departure and then some. Arrive after 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday, when live music—replacing the canned Moroccan rai and MWiddle Eastern synth pop—loosens revelers from their high-backed chairs. Amid mostly fruit-flavored hookahs, espresso is nevertheless a popular choice. ($15 per hookah.)


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