Walking through the front door of Mokas, you’ll see a plain, family-owned Mediterranean restaurant that doesn’t seem to have much going on.
But after walking a few steps to the left and up to the landing, you’re suddenly in a different world.
Soft lighting glows just enough to enhance the warm tangerine walls, which are scattered with abstract and pop art.
To the right is a wrap around bar with leather bar stools and to the left, a few cozy seating areas where one can kick back on a sofa and relax with friends while enjoying a drink or a hookah.
In the center of the room are tables where you might sit if you decide to order from Mokas’ moderately priced menu. The restaurant serves Mediterranean food and regular diner food. Continuing to the back of the room and down another short set of stairs you find the party area, where music and dancing are encouraged. But it wasn’t always just like this.
Maria Mokas, daughter of the current owner, explains that Mokas has changed significantly since it first opened at its University City location over 10 years ago. When it first opened, the restaurant appealed to mostly Greek and Arabic communities. On most nights, dozens of people danced to live music and relaxed with a hookah, a smoking device with roots of Middle Eastern origin.
As time went on, the premise of Mokas changed, but the hookahs remained.
And now that hookahs have become a rapidly spreading trend throughout the city and other areas of the country, Mokas is looking to deliver to the new hookah-craving crowd – college students.
“We’re really trying to make this place more comfortable for college students,” Mokas said. “The kind of place that’s fun and casual, but not too posh.”
And it seems that the restaurant has achieved its goal. Every day from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Mokas serves food, drinks and hookahs with a menu of flavored tobacco to choose from.
At Mokas, the space isn’t too crowded that you can’t hear the person next to you and you never feel rushed out the door.
While the service is a bit slow, the servers are always extremely friendly, accommodating and glad to have their customers hang out as long as they like.
Mokas hosts Latin Nights every second Friday of the month, DJ Big Moi spinning every Saturday, an Arabic Jazz band on Sunday nights and various other scheduled events happening on the first and third Thursdays of each month.
To make it a comfortable place year-round, Mokas has a working fireplace in the main room for the winter. This spring look for cushioned outdoor seating, shaded by overhead grapevines for true Mediterranean ambience.
Chrissy Reese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.