Where to smoke a hookah in Tacoma

Switching the hookah experience from living rooms to lounges

By Jon Harthun on March 6, 2013

From balconies to boat docks, crowded dorms to living rooms floors, I've embarked on more hookah-based adventures than I'd care to admit. Though my experiences numbered high in social gatherings, I'd never really ventured into the public-scape: the hookah lounge. That was all going to change. I dropped in on two of Tacoma's more popular hookah lounges.

The Venus & Mars Lounge

The Venus & Mars Lounge began as a mystery.

I arrived at the address, only to find a smoke shop with the usual paraphernalia. No lounge in sight. I asked a few girls outside about a hookah club nearby. They gave me directions to a place on the other side of town. Thoroughly confused, I called Venus & Mars, who assured me they were located inside.

After purchasing a $5 membership card - which gave me access to the discreetly located hookah lounge in the back of the shop - an ID check and pat-down, I made myself comfortable in the dimly lit room littered with worn, coal-burned couches, armchairs and coffee tables. I ordered a hookah and sheesha, which came some 15 minutes later, and I soaked in my surroundings.

With Egyptian kings and planets painted across the walls, party lights dancing about the room and hip-hop blaring from the stereo, the Venus & Mars Lounge felt more like a college party than what I'd envisioned a Tacoma hookah lounge to be.

The sheesha -I ordered a watermelon/peach combination for $15 - smoked great for the first 10 minutes, but quickly acquired a terrible burnt flavor. I removed a few coals and tried to clear the base of any bad smoke, but the bitter, burnt flavor wouldn't go away.

After tolerating the sheesha for a bit longer, I decided to leave, with less of a buzz and more of a headache.


The Cobra Lounge

Located in downtown Tacoma, nestled amongst antiques stores and local businesses, The Cobra Lounge was significantly easier to locate. The front desk offered a handful of concoctions, ranging from flavorful fruits and jasmine to muscle relaxing and vivid dream-inducing sheesha blends. I made my order - purchasing another $5 membership, the standard apparently - and was handed a pre-packed bowl.

I walked into dimly-lit lounge, fitted with a variety couches, pillows, white canopies, high ceilings and lights strung this way and that. It was Zen garden meets outdoor wedding.

I plopped down on a comfy couch where a hookah was already waiting. Not a minute passed before an employee came by with coals and I was ready to puff away. The hookah immediately started producing wonderfully thick, flavorful smoke.  I slouched back, felt the buzz rush in and listened to the house music playing on the sound system.  

The lounge, although one big room, was quite intimate. The comfortable, strategic layout accommodates a range of people - anywhere from a unique date to a barhopping bunch. The graffiti-covered walls left a little to be desired, though they certainly reflected the creative, youthful, urban vibe Tacoma so often embraces.