Arabian Nights Will Take You Away on 231st Street
Transcending into the depths of a beautiful foreign land while you’re in The Bronx is much like a daydream for most of us – that is, until you step into the Sex & The City-like scene of the Morroccan-inspired Raine Lounge. With its dark and sexy ambiance, Raine Lounge brings the chic feel of downtown hot spots to uptown. Its owner, Deena Diaz, took some time out of her schedule to sit with me and give some insight on the concept behind her swank lounge.
Immediately, you notice gorgeously etched black lanterns hanging from the ceiling, silver elephant statues all around the tables, and my personal favorite – a dominating tree spliced in half coming out of the red brick wall in the middle of Raine. You’d immediately forget you were on 233rd and Broadway. Raine sticks by the unique Manhattan-born standard of the most upscale places not having outside billboards or logos advertising the name of the establishment. Once you turn the corner, it’s hard to miss with its dark exterior and blue lights coming up the walls. So, what brings the Kingdom of Morocco to the Boogie Down? “I’ve always wanted to go to Morocco”, says Diaz, “I just fell in love with the decor and I read all about the desert and castles, but I’ve researched the place up and down.” But, what sets Raine Lounge apart from its neighbors like Silhouette and Dubai? It stays true to its theme so much that all of the lanterns were imported straight from Morocco, thus keeping its authenticity in tact.
Raine Lounge has been open since 2010, and has big plans in store for expanded hours (currently it’s only open on Fridays and Saturdays) – offering Happy Hour 2-for-1 drink specials, themed-appetizers, and original recipes for martinis and cocktails that Diaz personally created. Diaz has been in the nightclub business since she was 18, starting out as a bartender, moving around into event planning and bottle serving. You can now find her behind the bar; mixing and serving some of the best drinks I’ve had in a while. Beginning February 21st, Raine Lounge will kickoff it’s Happy Hour with Flamenco dancers (who will be there every Thursday) and signature exotic fruit cocktails – like the Raine Martini featuring pureed ginger and tamarind.
On my recent trip to Raine, I took some girlfriends along and we ordered the peach hookah for the table. The sweet taste of the peach hookah, amplified the dangerously attractive atmosphere around us. One thing that was a pleasant surprise was how affordable everything was. Raine Lounge boasts top shelf bottle specials at $100 before 1am on Fridays and 12:30am on Saturdays and flavored hookah (Peach, mint, and bubblegum are some of the more fun flavor options) at $15. On Fridays, ladies in a party of 5 or more will be given a free bottle of champagne to enjoy for their table.
“I wanted to do something for the neighborhood and the community to bring a downtown concept uptown,” says Diaz, “People tend to think that when you’re looking for a nice hookah lounge, automatically you’re going to go downtown into the city.” But with Raine being just a few blocks short of the 231st Street stop on the 1 train, why not head here instead? Next time you stop by Raine Lounge, look out for its imposing brick wall exterior with a blue waterfall flowing down and get ready to be whisked away into an Arabian enchantment.