While the world waits, however cynically, for Big Tobacco to make a "safe cigarette," an interim solution might be found in a water pipe at the Gypsy Caf & #233; in Westwood Village.
More accurately, the inhalation apparatus at Gypsy Caf & #233; is a hookah. That's if you come at it from a Moroccan perspective. To the Lebanese, it's a nargile. The Turks call it a chicha; the Persians, chelyoun.
Whatever you call them, you can pull 12 different flavors of smoke from the table-high toke tanks. Gypsy Caf & #233; co-owner David Melamed says apple and strawberry are the most popular tobacco flavors at his quirky eatery nestled among the chain stores, neon and noodle peddlers on Broxton Avenue.
Melamed, 51, a native Persian, said drawing from the hookah is a healthy alternative to cigarette smoking that brings people from all classes together on the sidewalk in front of his place.
"It's something tasteful that doesn't give you a headache," he said. "We like to offer something that's the best type of smoking. You always have a better choice in life."
The hookahs are authentic, imported from Egypt, Melamed said. Here's how they work: Tobacco is mixed with honey and flavored herbs and placed in a foil covered cup atop the hookah. Smoldering charcoal is placed on top of the foil to burn the tobacco.
With a thread-covered hose, smokers draw air through the tobacco/herb mixture, down the body of the hookah into water at the base and into their mouth. It's up to the individual whether or not to inhale. Flavors include curry, peach, rose and cappuccino. A hookah-cup full of tobacco at the Gypsy Caf & #233; will run you $10, and will provide about 45 minutes of puffing.
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