RIVERVIEW — By day, the Hookah Café could easily be a coffee shop, with pastries and free WiFi. But a closer look at the menu reveals the cafe's multiple identities. One side trumpets kabobs, hummus and falafel. The other side offers sushi.
At night, the venue transforms into a traditional hookah lounge, complete with candles and a smoking room.
"We're like three venues in one place," owner Craig Munroe said when describing his new business venture in Riverview. "There's breakfast in the morning, Middle Eastern and Japanese full menu, and then there's the hookah lounge at night."
Munroe has run many restaurants in the past in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. He opened the Hookah Café three months ago.
His goal was to bring something different to the area.
"Hookah is very popular up North, but down here it is relatively new," said Munroe, who moved to Florida in February. "It's very popular among young adults."
Hookah, which has its roots in the Middle East, is the pipe used to smoke flavored tobacco. At the Hookah Café, smokers can use pipes from countries including Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. Munroe offers more than 50 tobacco flavors including Exotic Lollipop, Orange Creme Delight and White Grape. For $10 up to $13, three people can smoke for 90 minutes.
"It's a 2,000-year-old tradition in the Middle East," Munroe said. "It's at a relaxed pace, kind of like drinking coffee here in America."
Hookah Café is at 11226 Boyette Road, Riverview. It is open 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 6 to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; and 5 p.m. to midnight Sunday. Call (813) 741-1801.
Central Florida chain opens in Brandon area
For 25 years, Kobe Japanese Steakhouse has served Central Florida residents. It made its Brandon debut last month, bringing its Teppanyaki cooking style and hibachi showmanship.
Established in 1984, the steakhouse has expanded from its roots in the Interstate 4 corridor of Orlando to the bay area within the past three years. The chain has locations in Carrollwood and Clearwater. The Brandon restaurant opened in mid November on W Brandon Boulevard in the former Bennigan's.
"There are three dining options at this location," Manager Mimi Do said. "There is the hibachi grill, which seats up to 10 people. That's where the chefs cook in front of the guests. Then there's traditional seating with private dining. Then there is a sushi bar as well."
The price of dinner ranges from $10 to $85. Kobe or Wagyu beef is the restaurant's higher-priced meat.
"Kobe beef is very special. The cattle get massages and a very special diet," Do said.
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse is at 2210 W Brandon Blvd. Dining hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Call (813) 681-8539.
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