Maharaja hookah lounge: Fit for a king - or a downtown hipster

There’s no alcohol at Maharaja lounge, but the under-21 crowd will still find plenty to do there.
Photo: Mikey McNulty

The Details

509 Fremont St.
(Across from Kabob Korner and Beauty Bar)
Monday-Thursday, 2 p.m.-2 a.m.
Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m.-4 a.m.
Call 384-7722 for more info
From the Archives
Pita perfection at Kabob Korner (5/14/09)

The ornately-carved doors of Maharaja

Fit for a king — or a downtown hipster. Even more tenants are setting up hot spots on Fremont East, including Vanguard Lounge and a possible nightclub in the future. For your current nightlife needs: Maharaja.

Set to open in two to three weeks, the hookah lounge has been years in the making, in large part thanks to the intricate, ornate detail inside and out. Upon entering through custom, hand-carved pecan wood doors, the handiwork that took a team of 10 in Pakistan two years to complete continues in the detailed seating, tables and brass-inlayed expandable serving trays. But the real thing that will set Maharaja apart is more surprising: There's no booze.

"There's really no other place downtown that's for those under 21," says Aisf Jah, who's partnered with Imtiaz Ali — the owner of Kabob Korner across the street — to open the new lounge. Without alcohol, the 18-and-up crowd will be welcome. "Everyone wants a place to hang out," says Ali, adding that with all the other bars in the Fremont East area, those looking for liquor can easily enjoy a cocktail nearby before or after visiting Maharaja.

Once inside, there are plenty of reasons to stay, even without a drink in hand. Tapestries and canopies in rich cranberry and gold create a regal feel in the approximately 1,700-square-foot space. The traditional Indian-style décor is fit for the lounge's namesake. "Maharaja means 'king'," says Ali of the Sanskrit word. "We wanted to make it like a king's house and were inspired by that."

Though the décor is extravagant, the prices are not. In addition to more than 50 combinations of hookah flavors, menu items range from traditional Mediterranean fare to modern American, French and Japanese, coming in under $10 each. With the money you're saving on alcohol, you can even spring for an extra hookah.

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