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Sphinx Cafe

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I've waited to write reviews for a couple hookah lounges, as I feel that you need to go on more than a few occasions to get an idea of the true nature of the lounge.

Sphinx is a traditional Egyptian cafe in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Decor is traditional, with tapestries and seating on cushions on the floor, either around the walls or at tables in the middle of the floor. They have approximately 20-25 flavors, almost entirely traditional flavors (I'm almost certain they're all Nakhla). No Code 69 or Blue Mist or anything like that. They use Egyptian hookahs. The hookahs don't seem to be branded, and they're neither good nor bad as far as quality. They use natural wood coals that ash like crazy.

Last night, we payed $13 for the hookah, plus a $.25 charge per smoker, as well as the cost of a bottle of water ($2.50) for myself and a blended guava/mango juice ($4) for my girlfriend, as they have a one order minimum per person. The prices for drinks are exorbitant, but you have to order something. For what it's worth, the juice was fantastic, albeit small, and the food they have there (traditional Egyptian light cuisine, i.e. pitas and hummus, salads, etc.) has always been pretty tasty.

My discrepancy comes in the variety of experiences I've had at Sphinx. I've bought many items from Sphinx for personal consumption, as they have a wide variety of Nakhla, Havana, and Starbuzz flavors, as well as multiple accessories. Our first hookah was purchased there. They've always treated me well in that standpoint. As far as going in to sit and smoke however, I've had great experiences and downright awful experiences.

It seems that there are two types of employees there, exceptionally knowledgeable and downright awful. The first couple times I went, we had good experiences. The waitresses were both very attentive despite the craziness of the business (Friday and Saturday nights). Our coals were changed and adjusted regularly (as they don't allow you to use tongs to adjust coals yourself - I don't know how I feel about this), and we were taken care of very well from our entrance to our exit.

Last night, we went there for the first time in 2 months or so, and were VERY disappointed. Two young guys (read: bros) were working, and while one was decent, the one who waited on us was rude, inattentive, and totally uninterested in being there. He swore at three Egyptian customers who asked for tongs to adjust their own coals, and his methodology of managing our coals was to plop three huge natural coals down right on the middle of the bowl and complain when we asked him to back them off. On two occasions I saw him adjust coals with the mouthtip of a hose. Four different groups of patrons complained about the harshness of the smoke, one group ditched their check (If I didn't believe in karma, I'd have honestly done the same). Our hose was ghosted with a nasty flavor (it wasn't a washable hose but I'm sure they tried washing it anyway), and tainted the flavor of our pistachio Nakhla for the first few minutes smoking. The hose handle was also wrapped in electrical tape (which had stretched and left the gooey, sticky glue all over my hands) and had burn marks all over the decorative fabric at the base of the handle (probably from one too many times adjusting coals with the hose). The bowl was also packed so tightly that dragging left me, an experienced smoker with a strong diaphragm, dizzy from pulling so hard.

This was the first time we had been back in a while, and I can't say that I'm interested in returning after this experience.

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First post here on the forums, I figured I would do it here. I came to Pitt as a freshmen in '06 and Sphinx was by far one of my favorite places to go on or near campus. A great atmosphere with cool employees to just relax and enjoy a hookah. Well, that was 4 years ago. And boy has it changed since then.

A lot has changed in that place since I was a regular, and now there is a list of reasons NOT to go:

First off would probably be the downright awful service. The employees used to be awesome people who actually knew how to work a hookah and would even sit and talk with you for a moment if it was a slow night and no customers needed coals worked. Now it's a bunch of idiots who wouldn't know a hookah from a (EDITED!). They are rude, they're slow, they're idiots, and frankly they don't seem to care all that much.

Number two I'd say are the ridiculous prices and charges they slap on you. Minimum orders, "smoker fees" you HAVE to buy a drink (gotta say though, the warm honey milk is AMAZING), high prices for mediocre quality shisha etc. They do however have a B.Y.O.B. night with proper ID. Kinda cool, I guess

Then there are the hookah's themselves. Wow, it seems like they haven't replaced any of these since my first visit years back. Kmccoy was dead on with the duct tape thing, I've used that hose before too. The bowls are packed WAY too tightly

I forget what night it is, either Friday or Saturday, but they usually have bands playing there AND THEY CHARGE A COVER! Now I wouldn't usually have a problem with this because being in a band myself I'm all about local music but these are NOT the bands I want to have in a small hookah bar. If you don't know Sphinx is an old church. Not very acoustically sound so everything echoes, A LOT. And the bands they have come in are full, 4 piece bands with obnoxiously loud (and usually bad) drummers. The couple times we've seen a band playing we turn around and go home. This isn't a bar, it's a HOOKAH BAR. . Worst start to a first date EVER was at sphinx because the freakin' band was so loud we couldn't even hear each other, and we were two feet apart!. Give me one guy on a stool with an acoustic guitar playing Radiohead tunes. That's something more appropriate for a hookah bar. I wanna go to relax with a hookah and chat with friends, not have my ears blown out.

All in all I would say avoid that place. There are much better places in the South Side. Edited by INCUBUSRATM
NHT device reference.

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