Opened earlier this summer, 718 Hookah Lounge Bar and Grill is one of just a handful of hookah bars in Forest Hills.
While many Queens residents think of the hookah lounge as an Astoria staple, owner Joe Salim has worked to tailor his lounge and restaurant to the unique clientelle in Forest Hills.
We spoke with him about opening his lounge and how he's hoping to grow his business in Forest Hills.
Forest Hills Patch: Tell us a little bit about 718 Hookah Lounge.
Joe Salim: We live in this neighborhood, I've been living here since 1994, what we have here is something new. The area hasn't had, on Austin Street, Middle-Eastern food, and at the same time, we're a hookah bar.
It's been good so far, it's up and coming, in the summertime it's a little slow but it's starting to pick up.
Patch: What's your business philosophy so far?
Joe Salim: Customer satisfaction is always number one, at the top of our list. We want customers to come in here, have a good time, be safe, and leave happy. We do a lot of carry out, a lot of deliveries, and we have a lot of people who sit down and eat as well.
People love the place because it's different. They love the food that no one else has on Austin Street.
Patch: The lounge has its share of sports-bar elements, why add that in?
Joe Salim: People are into sports, and they want to watch the game, so that's why we put in the six large screen TV's. If we on't have TV's, customers will go someplace else.
Patch: Talk a little bit about your cuisine.
Joe Salim: The cuisine is all Lebanase, Middle-Eastern. Falafel is a very popular dish, everybody knows it, and that sells a lot. We have shawarma, beef and chicken and people love that as well. Personally, I love the falafel sandwich, we make our food fresh here, nothing is frozen, it's all from scratch.
Patch: What's been the biggest challenge so far?
Joe Salim: One of the challenges is being able to hang in there while the business gets noticed and gets going. When you open up a new business, you've got to be able to hang in there, work hard, and it will come by itself but you've got to put in that good effort.
Any business takes time to grow, being patient is one of the challenges. You've got to be optimistic all the time.
Thanks for talking with us!
This interview has been edited for duration and clarity.