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Dining

Downtown’s cafe windfall

Two move in on Fremont East

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One very large hookah.

Things are perking up Downtown: Caffeine junkies and coffeehouse-dwelling hipsters will have two new places to hang their beanies this summer. Fresh on the heels of news that the Beat Cafe will populate Emergency Arts' ground floor with a proper coffeehouse a la Seattle/Portland this May, comes word that the Maharaja Hookah Cafe is set to open Memorial Day Weekend at 506 East Fremont, courtesy of the friendly owners of Kabob Corner.

The 2,000-square-foot 55-seater has been leased to Pakistan natives Imtiaz Ali and his wife Shaista Nazir, who will wrap the corner space in an edifice of hand-carved pecan wood. That and the authentic café/lounge furnishings — swinging loveseat, hookah tables and a 6-foot-tall hookah and lamp — are at present on a shipping container bound for the U.S. Six-year residents of Las Vegas, Ali and Nazir have earned a place in the hearts of Downtown's hipster crowd, who regularly frequent Kabob Corner before, after and sometimes during visits to Beauty Bar, the Griffin and Downtown Cocktail Room.

Serving exotic coffees, hand-pressed juices, pastries and appetizers of French, Japanese and Middle Eastern influence, Maharaja will offer 25 flavors of powerful, all-natural hookah tobacco. Ali hopes to find a niche as the area's only hookah bar and to cater to what he sees as an underserviced under-21 crowd. "It's for everybody, but especially for them," says Nazir, "so they can enjoy weekends too." Maharaja will open in the afternoon and close at 1 a.m. on weekdays, 3 a.m. weekends.

Bookending East Fremont at Sixth street, DCR owner Michael Cornthwaite's own Beat Cafe will tackle the earlier hours to start, serving coffee, juice and a light menu 8 a.m.-8 p.m. when it soft-opens May 7 (June grand opening to follow); both venues will offer free WiFi. And the bloggers rejoiced.

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