The world we know is now full of smoothies with chia seeds and Greek yogurt and Pilates classes and hybrid cars and clean coal technology and all the things that make for a better world. But there are a few of us that sometimes indulge in things that aren’t necessarily great for our bodies. Burger King, beer and fried pickles only slightly illustrate the hedonism so many of us covet.
So screw it. No one is forcing us to apologize for doing a little bit of damage to ourselves, so lets just not.
You don’t have to be a pack-a-day smoker to enjoy the lovely social aspects of tobacco. All over the world, hookah lounges are as popular as bars. They offer a nice experience that you can share with your friends without worrying about a DUI afterwards.
Right in the heart of the Old Port lies the first ever and only hookah lounge in the state of Maine. Owner and Belfast native Jessica Misluk decided to implement a more eerie feel to the spot, rather than a traditional Middle Eastern approach. With Alice in Wonderland paintings and famous quotes relating to madness on the walls, naming it The Purple Caterpillar was the natural fit.
Here’s how it works. You enter and show the staff ID (no one under 18 is allowed, nor anyone without proper identification – no exceptions, ever). The menu consists of 15 flavors of tobacco- and nicotine-free herbal alternative shisha. It costs a mere $20 per four customers, which includes one bowl pack and a second coal when the first burns out, and you can mix any of the flavors together at no extra charge.
The apparatus itself is called a nargile pipe, colloquially known as a hookah. A long stem holds the bowl on top and the smoke is pulled down into the bottom of the pipe, where it is filtered through water and pulled through the long hose attached to the side. It goes straight into your lungs with nummy nummy flavor, but without the burn you’d get from your Camel Lights. They typically last 45 minutes to an hour, but you’ll feel so relaxed that you won’t notice the time.
The Purple Caterpillar originally opened on Exchange Street in 2005 when three friends decided that Portland was in need of some hookah love. The location has moved half a block to Fore St., and Ryan and Jen Wilson have since sold their portions in favor of opening ‘Til Death Tattoo directly next door. Jessica is the sole proprietor. Don't worry, everybody's still great pals, and both businesses are thriving.
Having traveled to over 25 countries, Jess has had hookah all over the world, and even brings back a copy of Alice in Wonderland from every nation she visits. They’re all prominently displayed on a shelf, as well as different things she’s found along her travels. And she’s got some of the most interesting stories you’ll ever hear about the world; think Eat Pray Love but way snarkier.
The business not only has a delicious smoke experience, but the ambiance is what brings everything together. Screw the upscale hookah joints you’d find in Manhattan or LA; The Purple Caterpillar looks and feels more like a really badass rec room. There’s a large three-tiered game shelf that has absolutely every board game you could ever want to play. Another table has enough bubbles to please a preschool (HINT: Blow smoke bubbles, but don’t act all cool like you’re the first person to think of it. C’mon man).
The playlist is full of gems that you probably haven’t heard in a long time. You’ll have flashbacks of parachute pants and The Goonies.
Did I mention they have free Tang?
Had a few too many out at the bar? Need to sober up before you drive people home? Way to go, DD. Head to The Purple Caterpillar after you close your tab at the bar, ‘cause they’re open until 2am or later seven days a week.
What’s not to love? You’re in for a treat. You earned it for eating all those kale chips and running five miles. You go, Glen Coco!