The Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub consists of three live-music performance rooms, two family-style restaurants with full-service bars, and an elegant restaurant named ZuZu (the childhood nickname of one of the proprieters). Several of the rooms also serve as art galleries, offering a fresh showcase for local and international artists on a monthly basis. Both the staff and the customers are an international mix of musicians, students, townspeople and professionals.
The Middle East first opened its doors in 1970 as a family-owned and operated Lebanese eatery; it was a time in which ethnic restaurants of all kinds were sprouting up all over Cambridge. Customers were at once attracted to the Middle East and won over by the authentic home cooking, the constant presence of and hospitality of the Sater family, and the restaurant’s unique, eclectic ambiance.
In 1975, the storefront next door was acquired and the two rooms connected to create what is now called the Upstairs. That same year, live music at the Middle East was born. After dinner came belly dancing, jazz, latin, and funk.
Music at the Middle East took a serious turn when rock impresarios began renting the 200-capacity Upstairs and booking top talent to play there. This innovation forced the dining room into its present Massachusetts Avenue address.
In 1988, a bakery at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Brookline Street became The Corner, a 70-person-capacity restaurant and bar with a small corner stage.
In 1988, the old, abandoned bowling alley in the basement of the building was converted into the Downstairs, a 550-capacity venue for world-class musical performers.
In April of 2001, the Middle East added an elegant restaurant named ZuZu to the complex. In October of 2002, Lilli Dennison added her own personal touch to the venue, including a sophisticated club decor, a hip hangout menu, and live music several nights a week.
Cover charges for the Upstairs and Downstairs rooms usually vary between $9 and $12. Advance tickets for all shows are available at the Middle East Box Office and Ticketmaster locations.