With the opening of Sahara, a Middle Eastern restaurant in downtown New Haven, the numerous multicultural dining options for residents and Yale students have grown more diverse.

Located on Temple Street across from the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale, the newly opened Sahara restaurant serves a wide assortment of both Middle Eastern and American delicacies. The restaurant also provides convenient hours for customers by staying open past midnight.

Sahara’s arrival represents an aggressive effort on the part of New Haven’s economic development office.

“The place was empty for quite a long period of time,” said Craig Russell, a New Haven economic development officer. “The new management was much more aggressive in its recruiting effort for filling those empty spaces.”

The restaurant’s specialties include a variety of meat and vegetarian dishes. All food is prepared in the traditional Islamic way known as halal, which is said to emphasize the health of the body.

“We want to show you the pleasures that come from eating a wide variety of fresh foods prepared with care in the Arabic way,” restaurant manager Ahmed Kabakebi said.

The restaurant’s healthy attitude towards food preparation may be a reason for its early successes. It has been just over a month since the restaurant opened, and already Kabakebi has reported good responses from the community.

“Business is going very well,” he said. “It seems people really like Middle Eastern food.”

But the preparations for opening the business were not easy. Although there were no problems in securing the location, the restaurant’s elaborately adorned interior took a great deal of planning.

“It hasn’t always been easy going,” Kabakebi said. “The preparation for our grand opening took us a very long time — nearly seven months.”

Decorated in traditional Arabic style, the restaurant features mosaics and a variety of Mediterranean art pieces.

“We wanted to give our customers a complete experience,” Kabakebi said. “We not only wanted to teach our customers how to appreciate Mediterranean cuisine, we wanted to teach them how to appreciate the culture as well.”

Students have been pleased with the new restaurant’s convenience.

“Good food, fast service,” Olivia Wang ’02 said. “What more can you ask?”

While New Haven has no shortage of upscale restaurants with high prices, Sahara, despite having a luxurious atmosphere, is more amenable to tight student budgets.

“The prices are not outrageous at all,” Adam Brenner ’05 said. “They are definitely reasonable.”

The owners have also been pleased with the student response.

“We see a lot of students from Yale,” Kabakebi said. “And we really like that.”