The Middle East is a rock club in Cambridge that is continuously voted one of the top clubs in the Boston area. You’d be selling this place short if you only thought it was a rock club. The Middle East also has a restaurant and bar that lead to great times.
Let’s talk about the venues first. I personally have seen shows in both of the venues that the Mid East has to offer. The upstairs venue is smaller and has a more intimate feeling. You walk in and of course the first thing you can see is a bar tucked in the corner; next is the actual stage. It’s not a big stage of course seeing how this room is primarily meant for local acts but it gives nice closeness and ability to interact with the performers. Buying tickets at the door is likely well under 20 dollars and it’s a fun way to spend a night with some friends. Also, if a performer that you happen to know about is playing the venue it’s a really great experience to see them in such a small room, or you can do what I did and just go to see some local acts and potentially discover a band you really enjoy.
The downstairs somehow manages to keep the same charms of upstairs just on a larger scale and with a better bar; this room dwarfs the upstairs as far as local rock clubs go. A huge bar spans most of the left wall of the room and unlike upstairs, downstairs has bar stools and other seating accommodations. The bar is slightly elevated and has a railing around it which serves as the dividing force between the pit and the bar itself. With this larger stage the more crowd drawing acts are brought down here to perform. Don’t think because The Middle East is usually placed in a rock club category that they don’t have other forms of entertainment; for example, Bone Thugs N Harmony, a popular hip hop act, is slated to perform on the 5th of April. And I have seen flyers for different kinds of dance parties. The downstairs is another great venue and even though it is bigger than the upstairs it still retains a feeling of heart and soul with its minimal distance between the people attending the concert and the people playing it. A lot of places have a gate blocking off direct contact with the stage but The Middle East does not, which allows the early birds to be just short of standing on the stage themselves. I urge you to spend a night at The Middle East especially for those who have never been to a small concert. I’ve been to many small shows and I’ve been to a few large stadium shows and trust me, the smaller venues give an infinitely better experience. Going to large stadiums is like taking the MCAS: fill in this bubble sheet; you’re just a number. But The Middle East captures the essence of what a live show is meant to be and to me it’s meant to be a different personal experience for every individual in the crowd.
You might be finding yourself asking “why is it called The Middle East?” Well I’m glad you asked, Watson. The answer is the restaurant and the bar that are part of the building. The bar called ZuZu offers a very interesting menu of Middle Eastern dishes. It’s not just a bar; they have desserts, main courses, appetizers, salads, tagine (a North African stew that is slow cooked,pictured), and, lastly, on the menu you can find a section called dips. What’s great about the dips is there are 7 different dips to choose from; now when I say different, I don’t mean one has peppers and one doesn’t. These are widely varying dips that should be able to stimulate cravings in anyone. Even though I’ve talked about the food, don’t forget this is a bar at heart with a variety of alcohol and entertainment, from live performances to DJs to get people dancing.
The restaurant that sits right next to the bar serves basically the same purpose as the bar, except (yup, you guessed it) it has more of a restaurant ambiance. The menu boasts a plethora of dishes that should make your mouth water. If you’re going to try this restaurant out, please go with an open mind because, sorry Americans, they do not have a mac and cheese section on the menu; although, they do have a few burgers to choose from but don’t be lame; try something new. Along with more of a restaurant vibe, something that the restaurant does that the bar doesn’t is occasionally have live belly dancers. It’s a nice touch in taking you through a different culture for a night.
I’m not sure exactly what it is about the bar and restaurant but they just seem to be infused with a kind of friendliness and comfort. When I sit down for dinner and I look around it’s not the same phony character that a place like Chili’s gives me. Something about this place feels authentic and when something is real it just makes it easier to have a good time.
In short, The Middle East is great. Whether you want a night of drinking and dancing at the bar, a different dining experience at the restaurant, to see a local show at the upstairs performance room, or a bigger yet still intimate show downstairs, The Mid East is the place to go. There is a reason this place is consistently one of Boston’s best every year. I highly suggest enjoying a night at The Middle East.
You can find the scheduled performances and a full listing of the menu on The Middle East’s website: www.mideastclub.com. The Middle East is located at 472 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02139.