Escape the heat and enjoy a hookah indoors at Café Layal.
Escape the heat and enjoy a hookah indoors at Café Layal.
Photo by Kate McLean

Perfect Pairings: Icy Melon Mint Hookah and Persian Tea at Cafe Layal Midtown

Maybe it's the smoke, or maybe it's the smoke, but kicking back with a hookah and a pot of Persian tea at Café Layal is a pretty chill way to go about your day. Life slows down as relaxation sets in and when you tag on a warm caffeinated beverage, it'll have your brain doing happy little hula hoops for a solid half hour or longer. As diverse as Houston is, and with all the different cultures that enjoy smoking hookah, there are lots of places to enjoy this smoky treat, but I especially like Café Layal Midtown.

Hookah is a smoking vessel where flavored tobacco is packed in a bowl, covered with foil, and warmed by three coals arranged on top. It's important to rotate the coals and keep them on the edge of the bowl. Smoke travels down to the base, which is filled with water, and finally out the hose to you. It's especially nice when you ask them to add ice cubes, creating a cold vapor. Hookah smoke isn't harsh like cigarette smoke, it's much softer.  It's still not the best for you; you're still smoking, but well...

Persian tea, a combination of mint and tea leaves, is brewed gently in a double boiler-like setup. While the tea warmly tingles your brain, icy smoke exits your lips in a cloud.  The immediate aftertaste is pure luxury. Melon mint is a great tobacco to pair, while other shisha flavors include: apple, watermelon, rose, mango, and many more.

The music, just loud enough, stirs good vibes all around with a revolving playlist of hip-hop and Latin pop.  People come with friends, or alone, to work, or enjoy whatever sports game is on.  Also, it's BYOB with a $5 corkage fee.

Café Layal Midtown opens at 11 a.m. and is especially hopping in the wee hours of the night after the bars and clubs let out. During the weekdays from 2 to 7 p.m. they have a hookah happy hour that's $7.95 a round, or regularly $12.95. For a little bit more you can upgrade to Starbuzz tobacco, which according to hookah-shisha.com is one of the best brands. It does pack more of a punch.

Café Layal staff help tend the coals.
Café Layal staff help tend the coals.
Photo by Kate McLean

Café Layal Midtown is open Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Friday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

The Houston Press is searching for perfect food pairings and where they can be found. We welcome reader suggestions and ask you to send them to dish@houstonpress.com.

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