Best Cigar Lounge in the San Francisco Bay Area: Cigar Loft and Lounge

With all the anti-smoking legislation and laws in effect, it has become increasingly difficult to find a safe haven where one can legally light-up and enjoy a smoke. And with my wife expecting our first child, I definitely don’t want to expose either to any second-hand smoke, so I’ve been looking for cigar lounges around San Francisco and the Peninsula and I’ve found some places thanks to CigarGroup.com. Unfortunately it seems like the information on CigarGroup.com hasn’t been updated in a while, but it still did offer a great starting point.

From the list, I selected four locations to try and I called each looking for a few things: cigar lounge, cost to use their lounge, do they carry the Zippo Blu butane lighter, and do they carry any NUB cigars. Of the four places I called, only one place fit everything I was looking for: Cigar Loft and Lounge (Yelp review) in San Mateo, CA. With two other stores in the East Bay, I decided to pay the San Mateo store a visit after my dentist appointment and not only was I not disappointed, but I met a few new cigar buddies.

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Cigar Loft and Lounge (650-312-1141) is located at 106 W. 25th Avenue, San Mateo, CA across from Lucetti’s Italian Restaurant (an excellent Italian restaurant from what I’ve been told) along with a number of other stores. Parking is decent, with many 1-to-2-hour metered parking spots on 25th Avenue and be-careful not to make a u-turn on 25th because it’s prohibited and is a costly ticket according to one cigar aficionado who got a $300 fine.

My first impression upon entering Cigar Loft and Lounge was how nice a setup this place is. They have a number of large floor-to-ceiling humidor cabinets filled with a huge selection of premium cigars from many brands such as Opus X, Padron, AVO, Olivia, Fuente, Rocky Patel, Ashton, NUB, and so on. One brand I couldn’t find there that I’ve really been anxious to try was Pete Johnson’s Tatuaje brand (Wiki article), but with their selection so huge, I’m sure there are plenty of other brands that I can try. [2009-12-30 UPDATE: Further proof that I am blind, turns out that Cigar Loft and Lounge does in fact carry Pete Johnson’s Tatuaje brand cigars. Will clarified this in email to me. ] I also found the prices to very reasonable for a brick-and-mortar store. A number of the Opus X cigars was priced at ~$28, which is a great in-store price considering I’ve seen other places sell them for as high as $50 or more because of how limited and hard to find the cigars are. Although I usually buy my cigars online, I’ve been making an effort to support my local b&m store for a number of reasons including supporting the local economy and fellow BOTLs (Brothers of the Leaf).

20091219-Cigar-Loft-and-Lounge-San-Mateo-Bui4Ever-002I found Will Shekaib (store owner) and “Z”, Will’s cousin, very personable, professional, friendly and knowledgeable especially in helping me, a NUB noob, select the right NUB cigar for me, the NUB 460 Cameroon for $6.83 (review here). They were also the only store in the San Francisco/Peninsula area that carried the Zippo Blu butane lighter, which I’ve been looking to buy. There were two to select from: Zippo BLU Shadow Lighter Dark Chrome or Zippo Blu Sable Lighter; I selected the Shadow Lighter Dark ($54.95) as the Sable ($51.95) had a plastic cover cheap feel to it. I also purchased a large can of Vector premium refined gas that is “Quintuplus filtered 5+ times” for ~$7, as the cheap butane refill gas that I’ve using are crap and causing my lighters to perform less than satisfactory. A testament to their service, I had a bit of a struggle in filling my newly purchased Zippo Blu and Z took the initiative to help and spent the time to show me how to properly fill it.

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After completing my purchase, I decided to partake in their cigar lounge. While there is no cost to use the lounge, you do have to purchase at least a cigar, though you don’t have to smoke what you just purchased and are welcome to smoke anything you may have bought with you. I find it rude when some people come to a cigar lounge, don’t buy anything, and expect to use the lounge for free. That would be like going to Starbucks drinking home brought coffee sitting at the tables. The cigar lounge at the Cigar Loft and Lounge is quite generous taking up half, if not more, the size of the store in the back with plenty of large, over-sized, comfortable leather single-seat couches, a large wall-mounted Plasma T.V. complete with a microwave and a fridge. I joined two other BOTL (regulars there) who were already watching the football game and they were very personable, friendly, and inviting. Before long, we were joined by other regulars, all of which were extremely friendly and welcoming. With the relaxed atmosphere, comfortable couches, and friendly cigar aficionados, we discussed everything from favorite cigars to the football game to life in general. Who could ask for more.

This is a very friendly and relaxing atmosphere where you can bring your significant other, provided that he/she enjoys cigar smoking or can tolerate the smoke, and a bunch of friends. While the store has great ventilation, because of the enclosed room, you will end up smelling like cigar smoke after you leave. It’s like eating at Hot Pot City, food is good, but you smell like it afterward. You get people from all walks of life: retired/active police officers, teachers, engineers, CHP, and so forth. There are many great conversations to be had and shared over a fine stogie.

The lounge complete with microwave, mini fridge with beer, and big screen flat panel
The lounge complete with microwave, comfy leather seats, mini-fridge with beer, and big screen flat panel

The Cigar Loft and Lounge has a number of private humidors for rent for $25/month. Renting one gives you certain perks such as invitations to all their events, special discounts (anywhere from 10-25% depending on the cigar) and more. The group I was with there all had a private humidor.

I will definitely be back every couple of week or so. San Mateo is a bit more of a drive for me, but the ambiance, friendliness, fair prices, and great service is worth the drive for me. I didn’t really get a chance to take any snaps, but next time I’m there I’ll be sure to get more pictures. Will was generous enough to let me snap some pictures.

Cigar Loft & Lounge
106 W. 25th Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94403
(650) 312-1141
Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10 AM – 8 PM, Sundays: 10 AM – 6 PM

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