Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rack'em Up Gives 'Em Hall in Mandarin

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rack'em Up Gives 'Em Hall in Mandarin

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Capitano

The neon, it beckons. Beckons one to the Rack'em Up pool hall's new Mandarin location (you may be familiar with their University Boulevard digs). Landscaped with beer lights, the Mandarin annex celebrated its grand opening this month, offering pool by the hour, plus a hookah menu.

Any bar in town would be pleased with a Tuesday crowd on a par with Rack'em Up's. More than half the 10 pool tables were occupied, the bar was full and chatty smokers had taken over the cushiony living room area in the front corner.

Granted, with all the ESPN, smoking, table games, darts and Golden Tee, the crowd was nearly all Men With Beer. Men With Beer who like Bon Jovi. I heard Livin' on a Prayer twice from the jukebox in an hour, acoustic and studio versions. Thursdays from 9 to 10 p.m. might be more of a mix of the sexes: That's the magic hour of ladies night, and women get free domestic drafts.

The space changed hands from the non-smoking Jax Billiards to a pool hall more smoker-friendly than average - a cigar case and hookah cache is on site for your puffing convenience. It's part of co-owner Jad Hanania's simple concept: a place for smokers to watch sports on his many awesome televisions. He thanks the hookah menu for baby Rack'em Up's popularity, saying the new location is the only such lounge within 10 miles, and many customers come just for that.

He gave me the rundown on standard hookah operation: A hot coal burns the no-tar tobacco, a sweet, wet mess with flavors such as watermelon or peaches 'n' cream that come in plastic sherbet-style tubs.

An order sells for $12 to $22 (Sundays feature $10 hookah specials), depending on size and if you add a filter or not. A filter is a liquid other than water in the bottom of the pipe that adds flavor to the smoke. For instance, the cobalt blue pipe next to me was filled with milk, of all things. …

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