Sepal erupted into the restaurant dining industry in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1992, where it started as a small shop that then transformed into a Mediterranean restaurant, seating a total of 62. It was praised amongst locals for its falafel sandwich, which was rated the number one sandwich in 2002 by PBS’s “Sandwiches That You Will Like.” In 2002, despite its popularity, owner, Walid Masoud decided to take Sepal in a new direction, altering the traditional, sit-down restaurant to a fast-food chain, all while maintaining the taste, quality and freshness of its food.
Since the first opening of the authentic fast-food chain in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sepal has opened in multiple locations in the greater Boston area. Over the past years, Sepal has become known amongst MIT students, faculty and members of the Cambridge community as one of the best Middle Eastern eateries. Sepal food is currently being served at The Red Parrot Restaurant in Hull, MA by Nantasket beach.
It’s about some guy that has a framed photo of Aerosmith signed by all the band members, and enthusiastically inscribed ”Sepal is great food!” hanging behind the cash register at his Middle Eastern restaurant Sepal.
It was a mystery we had to unravel: Why in the world is there an autographed picture of Aerosmith hanging behind the cash register at Sepal, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Watertown? This isn’t just any old picture, mind you. It’s a framed photo, signed by all the band members, and enthusiastically inscribed ”Sepal is great food!” We sensed a juicy story waiting to be told. So, brimming with curiosity, we implored Walid Masoud, the owner of this Mount Auburn Street eatery, to provide an explanation. He did, and we now share the tale with you. Flash back to the early 1970s, when Masoud was an undergraduate studying mechanical engineering at Northeastern University. At the time, he also was working part-time as a ”promoter” for the Boston Club (now known as the Paradise, of Drew Bledsoe mosh-pit-dive infamy), which Masoud tells us was then ”one of the hottest spots in Boston for bands to come and play.” Like countless other college students, Masoud rented an Allston apartment with several housemates and – here’s where the story gets intriguing – above him lived a young musician named Steven Tyler. According to Masoud, the two men eventually became casual acquaintances. Since Tyler had a little band of his own, a group called Aerosmith, it didn’t take long for him to discover that his downstairs neighbor had a connection to a musical venue. ”Finally,” Masoud recalled, ”he mentioned that he was interested in playing at the City Club with his band, and I said why not let me talk to the management?” ”So, I spoke to the management, and they didn’t like the idea,” he said. ”They didn’t think an acid-rock band like Aerosmith would make it at their hot spot.” But Masoud finagled a deal, contracting Tyler and his band to play for three nights for a grand total of $150. ”They got 50 bucks an evening,” Masoud said, ”and they were happy.” Soon after, Masoud moved to Kuwait for a job. When he returned to Boston four years later, he contacted his former bosses at the club, who asked if he could again book that Tyler fellow for a gig. Meanwhile, said Masoud, ”I didn’t know how famous Aerosmith had become.” He soon learned. When an unsuspecting Masoud contacted the band, ”they said they wanted 20 grand up front before we could even talk to them,” he recalled. ”I said, `What happened, Steve?’ And he said, `We’re not small anymore.”’ Needless to say, Masoud was not able to book Aerosmith for another $50-a-night appearance – nor for any appearance, for that matter. Now jump forward about 20 years, to 1998. Aerosmith is an internationally known rock band. Masoud is a successful restaurant owner who hadn’t given the group much thought in at least two decades. But several months ago, when a customer entered Sepal wearing an Aerosmith T-shirt, Masoud found himself chuckling at the memories the shirt brought back. When the customer asked why he was laughing, Masoud shared his Aerosmith story. The customer, in turn, revealed that he worked for the band. That revelation prompted Masoud to ask the customer to ask the band members ”if they remember their Palestinian neighbor living downstairs.” A few weeks later, the customer returned with the autographed picture, which Masoud promptly put on display in his restaurant. ”I put it on the wall and I’m proud of it – very, very proud of it,” Masoud said. ”Now customers say, `Wow, we didn’t know that Aerosmith eats here.’ And I say, `Well, maybe you’ll catch them here someday.”’ Asked in jest whether he might have chosen the wrong profession – restaurant owner rather than professional band promoter – Masoud laughed, but sounded slightly contemplative. ”Maybe,” said Masoud, who recently opened a second Sepal in East Arlington. ”But now I use my advertising and promoting skills to bring people to my restaurants.”