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Fire Fox Cafe brings comfort, culture to Boardman

Published: Sat, September 9, 2017 @ 12:06 a.m.

By Kalea Hall



Mike Nizami had never done construction until he had to complete his vision for a new cafe.

“I figured the area needed a place like this,” Nizami said.

Nizami wanted his cafe to be inviting, comfortable and fun.

Fire Fox Cafe at 7393 California Ave. is more than a hookah bar. It’s a place for people to relax in a lounge atmosphere, sip a lemon-mint smoothie and try some Middle Eastern dishes such as the popular knafeh, a levant cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup and rose water and topped with kataifi, a pastry that looks like it is wrapped in shredded wheat, and pistachios.

“We do have a Middle Eastern [feel], but it’s not overwhelming,” said Mariella Marino, manager of the cafe. “It’s just enough to get people interested in something cultural.”

Hookahs, oriental tobacco pipes with hoses that draw smoke through water, are a part of the cafe, but the central focus is offering a place to relax.

Nizami, who immigrated here from Jordan in 1997, already has a liquor business, Uptown Beverage in Youngstown, and a drone photography business, Flying Fox Photography. The opportunity to open a hookah cafe just fell into his lap one day. He signed the deal to own the cafe in December 2016, and in May, the cafe was ready to open after months of renovations.

“I gutted the whole place out literally,” he said.

What came out of the renovation is a naturally-lit cafe with an indoor garden entranceway. Fox faces can be spotted throughout the cafe along with other interesting finds, such as a knight with a hookah.

Foxes seem to follow Nizami because it was his childhood nickname.

“It just made sense.” Marino said of the fox theme.

Fire Fox Cafe also has cigars and tobacco products, and house-blended flavors for hookahs. Every month, there’s a cultural night for guests, and on Tuesdays, students with their Youngstown State University IDs get 50 percent off. Every other day, students get 10 percent off.

At 9:30 tonight, Fire Fox will have a stand-up comedy night with nine comedians.

“We wanted it to be somewhere that students and families and young people or older people can enjoy,” Marino said. “We wanted to offer something new to the community.”

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