Downtown Middle Eastern restaurant Saha to close

The exterior of Saha restaurant
Amanda Ramirez/Senior Staff

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The Middle Eastern restaurant Saha, located on Shattuck Avenue and Haste Street, will be closing its Berkeley location this Sunday, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

Saha opened in Berkeley in October 2016. The restaurant’s owner, Mohamed Aboghanem, said Saha is closing its doors because the establishment is too big for one person to run and does not make enough money to stay open. Aboghanem said he recently reopened a Saha restaurant in San Francisco and plans to focus on that restaurant instead.

Aboghanem explained that he originally started the restaurant in Berkeley with his wife. They have since separated, and Aboghanem has been running the restaurant himself. The space really needs two or three partners to make it work, according to Aboghanem.

Saha originally opened in San Francisco, but Aboghanem said he moved the restaurant to Berkeley because he thought he was ready to expand and wanted a bigger space. Aboghanem himself, however, never left San Francisco since moving there 28 years ago – commuting to Berkeley six days a week.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Aboghanem said. “You put all your energy and all your love and all your talents, and you see it — it’s not working. I just hit a wall like I got to stop. So I decided to stop.”

According to Aboghanem, the most popular dish at Saha is the Lahem Sougar, a lamb dish served with Baba Ganoush, olives, harissa and pita. Aboghanem said it is a “simply seasoned” dish that is “ugly” but “very tasty.” The restaurant has three courses, an extensive wine list and desserts.

Rachel Foster, a customer who came to the restaurant often, said it is a “bummer” that the restaurant is closing but added that she would visit its San Francisco location.

“It’s one of the best places you can eat. The food is the highest quality,” Foster said. “Mohamed is a great man, and the staff is really cool. It’s been a kind of home for me. I know a lot of the people here. I like it.”

Aboghanem said he does not know what will happen with the space Saha occupies currently. He said whoever takes Saha’s place will come in and “give it their all.” Aboghanem emphasized how beautiful he thought the space was, pointing out the high ceilings and how it’s on a street corner.

Aboghanem said part of the reason the restaurant did not stay open is that it was just a little too far from the main area and the theater district. He is more optimistic about the restaurant’s San Francisco location in Hotel Carlton on Sutter Street because he said there is more foot traffic.

“People know Saha,” Aboghanem said. “It’s working now. It’s open — it’s working. I just can’t do two restaurants anymore. I’m tired of it, and I have two kids.”

Contact Brennan Havens at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BrennanHavens.