Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Chilling in the Desert Winds

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Chilling in the Desert Winds

Article excerpt

Last weekend the mysterious lands north of the Sarasota city limit beckoned once again, inviting me to "seduce my senses" at Desert Winds Hookah (4824 14th St. W., Bradenton, 751-6138, desertwindshookah.com). For this foray into the depths of Bradenton nightlife, I chose to take someone with experience - and that someone could only be Jessi Smith, fellow journalist, native Bradentuckian and coiner of the plum-cinnamon-vanilla shisha blend (which, smoked while sitting on a living room floor after a night of carousing, is delectable).

We found the lounge tucked into the corner of a darkened North Trail strip mall. Outside, a young gentleman was firmly asserting into his cellphone that he would not be going to jail that night. I cocked an eyebrow at Jessi and she gave me a not-so-reassuring "that's Bradenton" shrug. Fortunately, we opened the door to find a chill-out den where everyone had checked their drama at the door.

Desert Winds owner Samer "Sam" Ali greeted us warmly and invited us to choose a couch, any couch, on which to curl up. Well, of course I headed straight for the roped-off section in the back. We nestled into a corner section of plush, nubbly cushions and dove straight into the menu.

Meanwhile, DJs J.C. and MG305 pumped a sizzly-sounding R&B remix through the modest speakers, "modest" being a positive attribute in this case - if the PA had any more juice, we'd probably have been shouting over the misogynistic rap that came pouring out of it later. Not my go-to soundtrack for hanging out with a girlfriend, but it didn't appear to faze the other patrons.

"This is probably the least offensive hookah bar in Bradenton," Jessi commented. Our fellow loungers made up a balanced mix of 18 to 20-something guys and ladies, all rather dressed down. Couples snuggled without getting slobbery, and groups ranged around the tables kept their conversations to a low, smiling murmur. …

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