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We’re sweet on Hookah Cru’s mango guava cheesecake

New Cru

by Written and photographed by Austin Holt | Jezebel magazine | December 9, 2013

Grace Lee loves food. Writing, restaurant PR, hosting some kick-ass parties, spending time on the competitive eating circuit—the gal’s done pretty much everything that involves a plate, a fork and the chance of a cool story.

Last year, she added restaurateur to her résumé when she opened Midtown’s hidden Cuban gem, Cruzado. (If you haven’t tried the camarones al ajillo, seriously get on that stuff.) But this girl’s a little restless, so when she heard that Cru Urban Lounge, a spot across the street from the soon-to-be booming shopping and dining mecca, Ponce City Market, was available, she jumped at the chance to put her stamp on it. Gotta start an empire somewhere.

The result is Hookah Cru, an utterly chill neighborhood hangout spot where everybody knows your name. Its previous iteration needed a little TLC, and Lee was happy to oblige with an overhaul in all the key spots. The small kitchen is big on taste, doling out a menu stocked with scratch-made shareable favorites like barbecue chicken flatbread and mango guava cheesecake. The bar throws a couple of curves, too: Ever the health nut, Lee insists that fresh ingredients make the cocktail menu skinny by default, with none of the sippers exceeding 150 calories. Bonus points for $5 specials. Your waist and wallet will thank you.

But it’s the atmosphere that really wins us over. Lee wanted to create a comfy lounge vibe where you can relax and actually hear what your friends are saying, sans club beats (novel, no?). Intimate nooks pepper the space, and the result is a pretense-free locale for O4W-ers to meet up once 5pm has come and gone.

And, oh, yeah, the namesake. There’s hookah, too—which is awesome because hookahs are, like, superfun. Sample a piece of paradise with flavors like Miami Beach, Pirate’s Cove and Tropicool, or mix it up with house blends like strawberry and peach, or watermelon and mint. Whatever your flavor, Hookah Cru’s got the booze, bites and bit of happy-hour heaven we’re all craving. All that’s missing is you and your crew.