There's no shortage of nightspots in Cebu. But where is the coolest place to hang out? Which place is most deserving of your money? Wa'y Blima! spent an inebriated month crawling from bar to bar, night after night, and this is the result: the first article in a series of three, featuring the top nightspots in Cebu.
But before we proceed, question: what makes a good nightspot? It's not the decor, though that helps. It's not the quality of the drinks, either, because the drinks served are all made by the same brewers and distillers wherever you go. The bands, too, rotate between the clubs. Is it the food? Again, the food helps, but if it were up to the food we'd all be partying in sushi restaurants and barbecue joints.
No, the quality of a nightspot is defined by something ephemeral, something you can't put your finger on. It's made up of the excitement that hangs in the air and the palpable sense of expectation that mounts as guests continue to arrive. The best nightspots all have something in abundance, something generated not by the nightspot itself but by you and many others like you. That something is vibe, and it comes from the crowd.
Casbah's vibe is definitely unique. Casbah is a sheesha bar in the Rivergate Complex, along Mango. A sheesha bar is a place which offers Arabian water pipes, also known as hookahs, for the enjoyment of the patrons. Actually, Casbah is technically a restaurant, but while it fails miserably as a place to eat, it shines as a place to party.
In fact, Casbah is currently no less than the top nightspot in Cebu. Live bands provide the beat on
weekends, the beer is ice cold, and the Casbah crowd is a good mix of local celebrities, up and coming young people, and beautiful faces.
Before you head to Casbah, here's a quick primer about sheeshas. In the Middle East, you are supposed to get one sheesha per person. In Cebu, where it's OK to be koriput, you can share. One of the hubbly bubblies will set you back between 130 and 240 pesos, depending on whether you want the regular or the hardcore.
Essentially, a sheesha is a way to inhale tobacco smoke after it has been cooled and filtered by water. The sheesha tobacco, unlike that of cigarettes, comes in a variety of flavors: apple, orange, jasmine, banana, melon - even mango! Unfortuantely, due to difficulties at Customs, the supply is somewhat erratic, and Casbah's supplier, resident Omani Mansour Al-Balushi, sometimes runs out of all flavors save apple.
But the apple is good enough. A few minutes after the sheesha is brought to your table, a waiter will come by with burning embers. These can be replenished if so desired.
Despite having last stubbed out a cigarette in 1994, Wa'y Blima! decided to give it a try. What they say is true. Sheesha smoke is not just smooth, it is incredibly smooth, so smooth, in fact, that you may not notice that you are smoking at all, were it not for the white color of your breath.
Although the sheeshas help make Casbah cool, however, these are not crucial.
The crucial thing about Casbah is the owner, Mike, a towering giant among men - literally and figuratively. Physically, Mike is huge, and, not surprisingly, he's a core member of the flag footbal scene. But he also happens to have one of the biggest intellects in town. Having quit investment banking in New York ("I got burned out"), Mike retired to Cebu at the ripe old age of 26. Too honest by far to be running any kind of business, Mike overpays his staff and tells journalists - without having been asked - that he doesn't smoke.
But it is precisely because of Mike's personality, his wit, and his interests - he supports the local literary scene - that the best and the brightest flock to Casbah. And where the best and the brightest go, so do the rest - and that is why Casbah is the hottest nightspot in Cebu, and will continue to be as long as owner Mike Briones is around.