Shisha and donair

The sky was like damp concrete, sprinkled with the cobalt shards of a gin bottle tossed away by someone who had long moved on to more temperate climates. Men and women, disheveled and rumpled, shuffled to late meetings or classes. They will apologetically mouth the words “traffic” and offer a helpless shrug to the person rambling at the front of the room. Not that the traffic was to blame, the Suburus and Pontiacs idled impatiently as construction crews gouged the streets. It seemed a gray malaise permeated the entire city–that is, save for a small cafe tucked along the side of 10th Avenue.

I inhaled, and the gray rushed into my lungs. For a moment, my head filled with peaches pushing late meetings and classes out of my nose in a long stream of smoke. For a moment, I was safe from the gray. Safe in this haven which the window proudly proclaimed was Cafe Mediterranean or, as the kids called it, Cafe Med.

I exhaled again. Time became trapped in smoke with the strong flavor of fruit; perhaps apricot or grape. It doesn’t matter, so many flavours to choose from.

You see, Cafe Med is famous not only for its fine food, but for being Calgary’s first and only shisha cafe.

Now, you may be sitting in your rocking chair, chewing on your buckwheat, asking what them funny foreign soundin’ words be meaning.

Shisha is a Middle Eastern tradition of smoking flavoured tobacco out of a water pipe. Before you begin with the naysaying, shisha is smoked for its flavor. It doesn’t have the additives found in cigarettes and only contains 0.05 per cent nicotine. I am an adamant non-smoker and I enjoy the hell out of a good shisha.

The smoke doesn’t linger, so Cafe Med isn’t enveloped by a smoky haze and keeps it a comfortable place to be “chillin’,” as the kids say. This is not some shady opium den in a back alley somewhere with pimps snorting cocaine off the stomachs of newborns. SWAT will not repel from helicopters to crash on top of you from a conveniently placed skylight. It’s just a great place for the smoker and non-smoker to unite under one hookah.

It’s not as if you’re confined to only enjoying a shisha at Cafe Med. The food is affordable and they offer a wide variety of food beyond their specialty of Lebanese cuisine, such as pizzas and pastas. Particularly scrumptious is the Sal’s Special, baked to a golden perfection, with cheese melted evenly over pepperoni, mushroom, bacon, green peppers and tomatoes. My personal favourite is the Shawarma dish, oven roasted beef marinated and spiced then served on a bed of rice, sprinkled with chopped onions and tomatoes and covered in a light creamy Tahini sauce that does not overpower the rest of the dish.

With affordable food, great service and enjoying the good company of friends, there really is no reason for me to leave. Not yet, anyway. I have the Turkish coffee to try, after all. There are still classes and meetings to be avoided, so for now I inhale and fill my lungs with the gray…

Café Med is located at 1009–1 St SW. You can call at 263-7662 or 286-8452. The shisha don’t begin until after 6 p.m., so plan accordingly. On average meals cost $10.

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