This month’s #CSBAspotlight: The Middle East Restaurant & Nightclub!

With its iconic history in Central Square, we’re sharing an inside look at Middle East Restaurant & Night Club and how it’s grown over the years to be the complex that now includes Zuzu and new music venue Sonia.

Photo by Ilya Mirman.

The Middle East was originally founded in 1968 at 4 Brookline St. At the time, it only seated about 24 people. In 1974, current owner Nabil Sater and his family purchased the restaurant and two neighboring spaces and began expanding. The next year, a supper club was formed, where traditional Middle Eastern jazz musicians would play live at the restaurant.

In the mid-1980s, Billy Ruane began promoting rock music and the dining room quickly became a rock club now known as The Upstairs. When the rock club became so popular, the dining room was moved to 472 Mass Ave. (shown here). This space was formerly our Middle East Cafe — serving espresso, juices, and more.

Shortly after, we bought Voroo’s Bakery on the corner and opened Joseph’s Bakery — named after my brother. We sold traditional Middle Eastern and Greek pastries. As business continued to grow, this eventually became another dining room for Middle East. The walls of Middle East pay tribute to some of the iconic artists who have played there — such as Aerosmith, Tony Bennett, Mark Sandman, Eminem, and many more.

Below our spaces there was originally a bowling alley owned by three brothers. When they were retiring, The Upstairs had become so popular with rock music that we needed another space for the traditional Middle Eastern and Greek musicians, so we renovated the bowling alley and turned it into another club — The Downstairs.

In 2000 or 2001, we decided to open Zuzu. It’s a serene escape from the loud, rock-type music and hustle and bustle of all the other sections.”

Now our newest venue, Sonia, opens tomorrow! When the owners of this building were selling, they said we could either try to rent from the new buyers or get out… We somehow managed to find the funds to buy the building! The owners of T.T. the Bear’s, however, decided not to continue. We will now be opening Sonia — a club named after my sister — in that space.

We’re not exactly sure how Sonia will be yet. The beauty of our complex is that each room has its own personality, its own character. Sonia will be DJs and events and live bands, but we’ll find out more about this venue’s personality as we go.”

— Nabil Sater, Owner