When you walk through the front door of the recently opened Casablanca Hookah Lounge, you feel as if you have been transported to a different place. The walls of the main room are painted a rich red, and dozens of ornamental, jewel-encrusted lamps hang from the ceiling. The seating, which wraps around the wall of the room, is low to the ground and decorated with piles of plush, embroidered pillows. Candles abound, and the smell of incense lingers in the air as instrumental Arabic music plays in the backgrouand.
“Casablanca is not just the name of the restaurant, and the restaurant is not just named after the city,” explains owner and manager Mohammad Salem. “Casablanca is a style of life, a theme. When you step through our doors, we want you to feel like you’re stepping out of Chattanooga and into another world.”
Salem graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the ’90s, and since then it has been his dream to open a restaurant in the city that he fell in love with during college. “It’s about bringing my traditions to America, to a city that I love,” says Salem with a warm smile.
His wife Abeer agrees and adds, “When someone comes to our home, we welcome them. We sit down with them, we give them tea, we give them coffee. It is the same at our restaurant. This is, for us, home, and we want to share it with you.”
Casablanca offers the highest quality hookah, uses exceptional coals, and imports authentic, original flavor tobaccos from the Middle East. They provide a variety of methods for smoking, from the electronic hookah to the E-pipe hookah and the ice hose.
Casablanca’s hookah menu seems nearly endless. They offer Al Fakher, Star Buzz, and Fantasia brands in flavors like strawberry, orange, fuzzy navel, wild berry mint, strawberry margarita, and blue mist—to name a few.
For those who are new to hookah, Salem advises, “Just enjoy the puffs. Our hookah is not too heavy or too strong. It’s just right.”
In addition to its impressive hookah bar, Casablanca offers a wide array of delicious, authentic Mediterranean cuisine. At Casablanca, attention to detail is key in every aspect, but especially the food. That is why from falafel to baba ghanoush to hummus to mazzah, the food at Casablanca is made fresh daily.
“The eye eats before the mouth,” Abeer explains, “so we make sure that our food is quality, and we give it our own personal touch. Anybody can make falafel,” she continues, “but here we make it just like we do at home.”
Casablanca also boasts a large, inviting deck. Though it is currently enclosed for the winter, the warmer months of spring and summer will undoubtedly see many Casablanca customers spending the afternoons and evenings in the open air.
There will also be special occasions in the spring and summer, such as live bands, DJs, and dancing. In the meantime, Abeer is happy to offer dance classes on Sundays from 3 to 5 p.m. for just $10 a class.
After 5 p.m., no one under 18 is allowed inside Casablanca, but during the day Casablanca is family friendly. No matter when you visit, cards and chess are always available to play while eat or enjoy the hookah.
And remember, Casablanca is more than just a restaurant or a hookah bar; it is a place to build relationships. Mohammed and Abeer love to sit with their clients for tea and conversation, and, as Abeer says, “When you walk through our doors, you’re family.”
Lunch special daily from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.; hookah happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Visit casablancachattanooga.com for more details.