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Hookah bar a haven for Middle Eastern eats

Tucked away off the Left Field Tavern alleyway lies a cozy establishment with low lights, comfy couches and the best (and only) Middle Eastern food you'll find in Oxford.

Owned and operated by Moe, Rami and Ahmad, the delightful Magatheh brothers, the Oxford Hookah Lounge is the perfect late-night respite from the hustle and bustle of the bars. A wealth of delicious, carb-packed Jordanian dining options are spelled over the register.

A few are instantly recognizable. Many Miamians have had hummus, pita bread and kebabs before. Though, I bet not quite like this. The pita and hummus, along with pretty much everything else on the menu, is made in-house--and it shows. Served with a drizzle of olive oil and a dollop of shatah, a spicy red pepper concoction, the dish blows by anything McCracken Market has to offer.

Two of the most popular options for those in-the-know are the falafel and chicken shawarma. Because of this, the deep-fried little balls of chickpea and savory, herby wraps are often the first things to disappear on the evening menu. If you have your heart set on either item, show up as early as possible. The lounge is open from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. on the weekends and closes a little earlier on the weekdays.

In terms of hookah, I'm no expert, but the brothers Magatheh walked me through the process. I enjoyed the creamy, fruity taste of FakhFakhina, a classic flavor. It was delicious and comes highly recommended if you're not adverse to tobacco products. It should be noted that while Oxford Hookah doesn't sell any alcohol, they do have a BYOB policy.

If you're looking to wake up rather than chill out, try the Turkish coffee. It's black as sin and twice as enticing. Served in a tiny cup and made unfiltered with super-fine grounds and a dash of sugar, it's closest comparison is espresso, but it needs to be experienced for full understanding.

In regards to the atmosphere, after stepping in from the night, you're greeted by a low shop packed with signs, hookah setups and all sorts of smoking paraphernalia. There's always a smile behind the counter, whether it's one of the brothers -- I chatted with Moe -- or one of their longtime half-regular--half-employees.

Through the shop lies the lounge area. Peppered with circular arrangements of leather couches and ottomans, it's a spot that asks you to stay a while. The walls are deep red, and there's a large projector for sports games and other television events. The music is sometimes a little too loud for the rest of setup--the bumping pop soundtrack overpowers quiet conversation, but it does function as an audial buffer between the islands of seating.

The lounge's address is 15 N Beech St. and their phone number (513)-523-1696. I'm sure Moe would love to talk if you have any questions.

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