What, you haven't quit smoking yet? We're afraid this whole "smoking ban" thing is going to stick, even if it means a continued congregation of hackers and wheezers standing outside your favorite bar. If you haven't kicked the habit cold turkey (and you really should, we hear it's bad for your health) you can still puff inside as long as you keep it confined to one of these smoker-friendly bars, tobacco shops or hookah lounges.
Call it the little taqueria that could. Mario's Taco House stuffed its last burrito in November 2007, then swiftly transformed into the bane of the smoking ban's existence: a tobacco shop. A walk-in humidor occupies the space where the kitchen once was; cigars take the place of carne asadas, and specialty cigarettes and loose tobacco reign supreme. In compliance with the new state law, which states that tobacco retailers cannot carry food or liquor licenses, Caganchos offers drip coffee and espresso only.
Up Down Cigar
Walk inside this decades-old smoke shop and appreciate the intriguing aromas of pipe tobacco and cigars wafting through your nostrils among masterful cabinetry. Admire the architectural sculpture made from pounded and welded aluminum to emulate flames (it took two years to create). You can buy the sought-after Opus X and Pedron, or rely on the encyclopedic knowledge of the employees for suggestions. Look out for one of their parties in the rear smoking garden, like the previous Merschaum pipe trunk sale.
Fizz Bar & Grill
photo: courtesy of Bridget Montgomery; Nora Crippen lights up on Fizz's patio
Not willing to trade in the cocktail for the Camels? Sure, smoking indoors has a certain "damn the man" romanticism about it, but what about the booze? If you're longing for more than a latte, and unwilling to concede defeat, hightail it over to Fizz. This lofty Lakeview spot has an obscenely large beer garden, one that they've had the foresight to weather-proof. So you can puff away, rain or shine.
Chicago's first liquor spa replaces manis and pedis with sweeter-tasting "treatments." And now you can burn a butt in the outdoor smoking section, sponsored by (who else?) Camel.
Sound Bar now has a heated sidewalk smoking section, a welcome addition for those clubbers who haven't yet gotten the nicotine monkey off their back. You must have your hand stamped if you want to get back in the club after your cigarette, though. But that sure beats the embarrassment of getting kicked out of your VIP room for lighting up inside.
NV Penthouse Lounge
The best part of this swanky River North bar/club that feels vaguely like a rich kid's house party is the terrace outside the eighth-floor lounge. And now it's even better for puffers, as smoking is allowed on the terrace. So you can enjoy one of the better views in the city while still getting your nic-fix. But be careful who you bum a smoke to – we don't want any amateurs getting woozy off a tobacoo buzz and falling over the edge.
House of Hookah
If you're one to sit Indian-style, or are overjoyed to go barefoot while puffing on the pipe, you'll find House of Hookah quite accommodating. The Lakeview smoke session palace features a worthy attempt at Middle Eastern aesthetics – hookah tables, plush purple carpeting and cushy futon pillows – backed by sitar-infused electronica. Smokers will delight in the try-before-you-buy principle as well as a five-minute buffer zone in which you can switch your flavor for free during your first five minutes of smoking if it doesn't suit your palate. Topped off with a BYOB policy and free wi-fi, the place offers a super cheap good time. There's also a full menu of caffeinated beverages available, including nearly as many types of tea as there are shisha flavors.
Sigara: A Hookah Cafe and Lounge
Bright and spacious and filled with ultra-comfortable couches and beautiful artwork, Sigara offers up a cool BYOB place to smoke a hookah along with wireless internet (it's $4.95 per hour). The staff pleasantly and patiently introduces novices to hookah culture. Available shisha (hookah flavors) include Black Licorice, Jasmine, Orange and Mint. Friday through Sunday there are live performances, including belly dancing and tribal dancing.
Each week, Centerstage Chicago's crack staff will answer a question you have about the city, showing you some of the best places around in the process. Did we miss something? Tell us. Got a question you want us to answer? Ask us and we'll get right on it.