A couple years ago, you probably couldn’t find a poke bowl, a dish with origins in Hawaiian culture, on many menus in the Lehigh Valley, let alone from one that prides itself on using healthy ingredients in a fast-casual environment. People are coming into Playa Bowls specifically for them, and they’re gaining in popularity. There’s a simple answer as to why. “The easy answer to why our poke bowls are so popular is that they are delicious,” says Rich Miller, district manager for the Playa Bowls in Easton, Bethlehem, Center Valley and, now, Nazareth. So what, exactly, is a poke bowl? “When we meet a customer who isn’t sure what a poke bowl is, we describe it as a deconstructed sushi roll, constructed in the same manner as our açaí bowls, with the base being rice and the toppings being proteins and vegetables instead of fruit,” he says. The poke bowls are made with fresh produce. For the sushi lovers, the Salmon Avocado Bowl with sustainable Atlantic salmon and the Shoyu Ahi Tuna Bowl both use sushi-grade fish, he says. As an alternative to the raw fish, they offer the California Bowl, the Basic Beet Bowl (totally vegetarian) and Rock-N-Roll Shrimp Bowl. The bowls are great because they give Playa Bowls customers a more savory alternative to their other bowls and smoothies, says Miller.
The Hoss Pierogis at The Wooden Match can be deep-fried or sautéed, and are served with caramelized onions, sour cream and demi-glace. Find them under their Primers (appetizers) list.
The Bayou’s signature Bayou Mac N’ Cheese comes with smoked ham hock, aged cheddar, fontina and sweet peas. For another take on their already legendary dish, try the Nashville Mac N’ Cheese, with crispy fried chicken, Bayou hot sauce, broccoli, fontina and aged cheddar.
Put a Philly twist on your ordinary nachos with P.J. Whelihan’s cheesesteak nachos, which are loaded with shredded cheddar jack cheese, American cheese sauce, shaved steak and caramelized onions. Or try the Wicked Chicken Nachos, piled with chicken and cheese and drizzled with any of PJ’s famous sauces.
Photo courtesy P.J. Whelihan's Pub and Restaurant
The Brass Rail, an Allentown staple for more than 85 years, doesn’t limit itself to the typical cheesesteak. They also offer a California cheesesteak, a buffalo chicken cheesesteak, the Brassy Chicken Cheesesteak, the Pizza Steak (not to be confused with their cheesesteak pizza), the Mushroom Steak and a chili cheesesteak. And that’s not mentioning the cheesesteak salad and cheesesteak omelet.
Photography by Shelbie Pletz
This isn’t the Northampton Seafood Market’s first recognition from Lehigh Valley Style readers—and for good reason. They offer a wide variety of delicious fresh and frozen seafood as well as heat-and-eat meals. Make sure to check out their weekly specials!
Egypt Star Bakery boldly claims to have the freshest bread in town—and you’d have a hard time proving them wrong. From starchy staples like rye and pumpernickel to challah and cinnamon bread, this bakery has no shortage of variety. You can check them out at any of their four locations in Allentown, Whitehall, Coplay and Emmaus.
Vince’s Cheesesteaks is a family-run business dating to 1957, and father-and-son Vince and Chris Cocca know a few things about doing a food truck biz—although back in the ’70s when they went mobile it was more generically referred to as “mobile food.” These days, you’ll find the truck in any number of locations scattered throughout the region, at McNabb’s (Wescosville), Dries Do It Center (Macungie) and Lazarus Farm Market (Whitehall). Sometimes they travel up to the Poconos, too, depending on who makes the call for their food. Certainly, if you’re looking for a good cheesesteak, Vince’s is your go-to, but they’re also known for their homemade pierogies, burgers, fries and even offer some vegetarian options. Chris says they've been locally sourcing whenever possible, and says it’s even more important during what he calls “uncertain times,” but that doing so “makes for better quality [food] and a stronger community. “The people who come out to our trucks or to see us at the PPL Center or who hire us for catering jobs aren't just customers, we think of them as friends who are supporting our small family business. We're very grateful to keep building every year on what Vince Sr. started decades ago,” says Chris.
This New Tripoli-based distillery believes that small batches produce better sprits. They use locally grown grains and ingredients to craft drinks that are truly farm-to-bottle. You can pick up their wide selection not only at their New Tripoli distillery, but also at their stand at the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market, the Easton Public Market and the Reading Terminal Market locations.
Brought to you by the same restaurateur behind Tapas on Main (winner of Best Fries and Best Sangria), The Flying Egg is all about its namesake. Egg platters, egg sandwiches, egg wraps, Eggs Benedict and omelets make up the core of their breakfast menu. But if you’re looking for something sweeter, opt for their apple and honey ricotta toast or their stuffed French toast with fresh strawberries, jam and chocolate sauce.
Photo courtesy of The Flying Egg
This Catasauqua-based shop’s cupcake fame has reached far beyond the Lehigh Valley, appearing on both Food Network and Spike TV. With an ever-rotating selection of standard and muffin-sized cupcakes, Blondies has a flavor for every occasion. Make sure to check out their second location at the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market.
An upscale, modern take on the hibachi experience, KOMÉ prides itself on setting the standard for modern Japanese cuisine and gourmet hibachi in Southeastern PA. The restaurant’s warm atmosphere and hibachi entertainment complement its expansive hibachi and dinner menus. Don’t skip out on dessert, either. KOMÉ’s dessert selection—featuring mochi ice cream, banana panna cotta and dessert Bento Boxes— offers the finishing touch on a perfect hibachi meal.
Photo courtesy of KOMÉ Fine Japanese Cuisine
There’s nothing that hits the spot quite like a grilled cheese sandwich. At Dubs on 5th, grilled cheese is serious business. Dubs is owned by Patty Wilkinson and her family, named as an abbreviation of their last name. They offer a wide menu of easy, comfortable fare including burgers, fresh-cut fries and wings that go through a high-pressure fryer to retain their juiciness. But it’s the grilled cheese that distinguishes them from the competition. It’s no ordinary grilled cheese. Their signature Buffalo chicken grilled cheese is something to behold. After much experimentation, they got it right. “We landed on two buttered pieces of Texas toast bread, three gooey pieces of cheese—two parts American, one part Cheddar—and our signature Buffalo chicken dip recipe shlopped right in the middle," says Wilkinson. "It’s a messy sandwich, but well worth it. Lots of regulars choose to get a side of our homemade ranch or blue cheese to dip their already sloppy sandwiches in to complete the taste.” Buffalo sauce not your thing? How about one with American cheese, fried onions and two deep-fried pierogies? Or a pizza grilled cheese? Maybe a spicy Southwest grilled cheese? OK, we’ll stop there . . .
Aladdin owner and head chef Violette Younes prides herself on making daily batches of hummus using only the freshest ingredients. The restaurant also has an expansive lunch and dinner menu—with plenty of dishes featuring their signature hummus, of course!
Is the typical ice cream cone not enough to satisfy your sweet tooth? The Udder Bar’s got you covered. Sandwich any of their 100-plus rotating flavors between waffles, cookies or donuts, blend them into an over-the-top specialty shake, or pile them high in a customizable sundae. Or try one of their “Hot Bunz,” a warm pressed brioche bun filled with ice cream, toppings and sauce.
Photo courtesy of The Udder Bar
This frozen yogurt chain is all about doing yogurt your way. With several different flavors and an endless array of sauces and toppings, Menchie’s certainly lives up to that promise. Don’t forget to order one of their frozen yogurt cakes for a twist on a traditional ice cream cake.
Photography by Colin Coleman
The team at Bolete curates their farm-to-table menu daily, so the brunch selection is never stale. Dine where they take pride in hand-crafting each dish from local ingredients.
This California-style burrito joint has plenty of options to choose from, including The Big Sur (steak, pinto beans, rice, ranchero sauce and cheese), The Mendocino (ground beef, pinto beans, rice, cheese and pico de gallo) and The Nepenthe (falafel, rice, black beans, pickles and tahini sauce). They also have burrito bowls and breakfast burritos—because it’s never too early for a burrito—as well as several vegetarian options. For something new, consider mixing it up with their burrito of the week.
Photography by Donovan Roberts Witmer
Franklin Hill, the first and oldest winery in the Lehigh Valley, continues to be a favorite with readers, but residents aren’t the only ones who show their love for this 45-year-old vineyard’s wines. Through the years, Elaine Pivinski and her faithful team have garnered numerous awards for their wines, including one for their Beach Bum, a pineapple coconut white wine, which garnered them a gold medal. A standby, of course, and the wine that helped put them on the map, is the Sir Walter’s Red, a 100-percent Concord wine named for Pivinski’s father, who would often help out around the winery. “I like to think he’s still helping us from beyond,” she says. Franklin Hill is truly a family affair with many long-time employees who are dedicated to the craft of making fine—and fun—wines. They keep trying new things, keep pivoting and experimenting (it’s how they ended up with Social Still, which her son Adam Flatt runs), and it’s why Franklin Hill fared well throughout the past six months during COVID-19 with curbside sales. They sold and shipped lots of cases of wine, many a wine slushie and wine flights. “We learned something. The whole world drinks,” she says. Looks like a small portion of it is drinking—and loving—Franklin Hill’s offerings.
Alongside more conventional beef, chicken and shrimp options, Geakers also offers fish and gator tacos for their more daring patrons. Each taco can also come in regular, jerk, buffalo, Asian sesame or bourbon flavors. Can’t make it to the Bethlehem location? Keep an eye out for the Geakers taco truck at events across the Lehigh Valley!
It’s impossible to talk about Two Rivers without mentioning their Peanut Butter Bacon Cheddar Burger—a half-pound burger slathered with peanut butter, topped with smoked bacon, sharp cheddar, peanut brittle dust and chili gastrique, and sandwiched between a brioche bun. Other choices include the Smoked Bacon & Cheddar Burger, the Vegan Black Bean & Chickpea Burger and the Buffalo Chicken Burger. | Photography by Colin Coleman
When you talk to Tito Negron, owner of The Joint Coffee Co., about how he got into coffee, it’s clear that the beverage is in his blood. “My grandmother is from Puerto Rico and used to roast her beans on a pan, and had a grinder that was attached to the table… essentially it’s her fault,” he says, laughing. Which then begs the question—how old was he when he had his first cup? “Young,” he says, still laughing. Such a story brings new meaning to the idea of something being handcrafted, and it defines how he runs his two locations of The Joint (Bethlehem opened in 2013; Whitehall, across from the Apple store in the Lehigh Valley Mall, 2019). Negron wanted to bring some of that specialty coffee experience to the region, and offers single-origin coffees that are served very fresh, within a week or so of roasting. “Send It” is their signature roast for espresso, sourced from Colombia, Guatemala and Ethiopia, but they offer other unique roasts, such as the “Bourbon Barrel,” which makes good use of Pennsylvania bourbon barrels as 30-day storage vessels before roasting the beans. Additionally, The Joint makes its own infused simple syrups with organic sugar and real ingredients, whether it’s lavender, vanilla, sage or cinnamon. “If someone orders a lavender latte, they’ll get what it tastes like. It won’t taste artificial.” That attention to detail is apparent in the other beverages too, whether it’s matcha, chai, teas, cold brew or nitro offerings.
Sangria and French fries might not sound like an ideal combination, but at Tapas, it’s a match made in heaven. Their Papas à la Francesa put a Spanish twist on traditional fries, hand-cut with Manchego cheese, truffle oil and mustard aioli. And you can wash them down with a pitcher (or two, or several) of their nine varieties of sangria, including Pineapple Mint, Grapefruit Thyme and Limoncello Raspberry Cava. Photography by Colin Coleman
At Grumpy’s, there’s only one right way to do barbecue: low and slow, then seasoned and smoked to perfection. They promise to make the best ribs you’ve ever had—but you should also try their chicken, brisket, pulled pork and seafood. There are no wrong choices.
With dozens of locations in eight states, Primo Hoagies is far from your hometown sub shop—but that doesn’t mean they don’t take their sandwiches seriously. Each Primo hoagie comes with award-winning seeded bread, a unique blend of spices and fresh-sliced gourmet meats and cheeses.
This restaurant offers great Thai food in the heart of Bethlehem. Thai Thai II’s Pad Thai is made with ground peanuts, bean curd, scallions, egg, fresh garden bean sprouts and your choice of chicken, pork, shrimp or flank steak.
There’s nothing more frustrating to the pizza lover than inconsistency. Sometimes there’s too much cheese; sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes the crust is too thick, sometimes it’s burning up. Lehigh Pizza understands this. That’s why its pizza makers, many of whom have been with the place for more than a decade, grate the cheese, make the dough and create its pizza sauce from a 20-year-old secret recipe from scratch. All of these moves speak to the consistency. “We haven’t changed anything in a very long time, so people who used to eat our pizza as kids 20 years ago are still eating the same pizza with their kids, now,” says Brian Mixtacki, who runs the marketing and social media for Lehigh Pizza. The attention to detail carries through the entire process. “Our dough making process has been developed to assure consistency. Everything is weighed out. We even air-condition our dough prep and flour storage area because changes in temperature and humidity affect the consistency of the finished dough,” says George Lioudis, whose family owns it along with the Gouvalis family. And while there are definitely standards in place, poetic license is granted, too. “We train our pizza makers to be as consistent as possible, yet we welcome their artistic abilities and slight variations because it reminds our customers that we handmake all our pizza,” he says. Lehigh Pizza does a brisk biz with plain, of course, but the taco pizza is a recently introduced product (steak with taco seasoning, diced tomatoes, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses), and the Italian wedge is popular with the lunch crowd; it’s basically an Italian sub on a slice, served hot or cold, your choice. Pizza: Is there anything you can’t do?
Who else? Maybe it’s the bordering-on-100 years of experience and tradition, or maybe it’s the secret recipe for Yocco’s famous chili sauce—either way, you can’t go wrong with this Lehigh Valley staple.
Over the summer, Yum Yum Bake Shops closed its Quakertown location for renovations, so they’re more excited than ever to welcome new and returning customers. Their doughnuts are freshly made on the premises twice daily. Feeling extra hungry? Order the Big Kahuna, which is a doughnut big enough to serve between 10 and 12 people!
Skip the standard sandwich and pig out with a Wally’s Hog—a round-roll sandwich piled high with one or several types of meat and cheese. Each hog comes with its own sauce selected to complement the flavor. And while some patrons opt for meat-heavy varieties like the Squealer, the Oinker or the Wart Hog, the most popular is the meatless Veggie Hog.
Diner 248 does comfort food right. Their dishes range from comfort classics (like chicken parmigiana, pierogies and beer-battered fish and chips) to new twists on old favorites (like the 248 Melt, with hickory-smoked bacon, tomato slices and melted American cheese on thick-sliced grilled sourdough).
Photo courtesy of Diner 248
When we're talking about good chicken wings, it all comes down to the sauce—and with a wide selection of sweet, spicy and sweet-and-spicy wing flavors, Keystone Pub and Grill has a sauce (or spice) for every situation. Add a kick of sweet heat with their honey chipotle wings, or go for a tropical kick with grilled pineapple habanero.
Photo courtesy of Keystone Pub and Grill
With more than 80 varieties of rolls and dozens of sushi entrées and appetizers, this Easton restaurant has no shortage of creative (and colorful) sushi options to choose from. Some of their signature rolls include the Picachu Roll (whitefish, avocado, crabmeat and shrimp wrapped in yellow soybean paper) the Surf N’ Turf Roll (creamy spicy lobster, asparagus tempura and avocado inside, topped with seared pepper beef tender and scallion) and the Green Devil Roll (crunchy spicy salmon and avocado with jalapeño).
Catch Grille 3501’s happy hour Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at The Loft Bar and The Grille Bar, with happy hour specials and top-notch cocktails.
With a massive selection of taps, Porters’ Pub has everything a beer lover could ask for. And even if you’re just there for drinks, don’t skip out on Porters’ soup of the day.
Photo courtesy of Porters' Pub and Restaurant
Tacos, wings, pizza, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, platters and more—all for less than $10. For great food, great drinks and a great dive bar atmosphere for an even better price, Stahley’s is your best pick.
Photo courtesy of Stahley's Family Restaurant & Sports Bar
It’s never a good idea to fill up on appetizers—unless you’re at Apollo Grill, in which case, go for it. At Apollo, you can skip out on the entrées entirely and stick to their outstanding selection of small plates. Try the short rib quesadilla, pan-seared scallops with charred mango salsa and cilantro oil, or garlic bread with gorgonzola cheese sauce.
Photo courtesy of Apollo Grill
Outdoor dining has been having something of a moment this year—and at Blue, they’ve been doing outdoor seating right for years. Their patio dining makes for a meal that isn’t simply enjoyed, it’s experienced.
Photo courtesy of Blue Grillhouse
In the four years since Lost Tavern Brewing opened on Main Street in Hellertown, owners Ken and Kenny (father and son) Rampolla and Anthony Gangi have garnered a loyal following in a crowded craft beer landscape. “What has made us stand out is that we have a very high-quality product that we try to continuously improve on. Our slogan is ‘honor the past, craft the future,’ and we try to continue to offer classic-style beers that everyone can appreciate, along with new things that give us the ability to experiment,” says Kenny. With 32 taps, a handful of beers in cans and the requisite innovative spirit, Lost Tavern has shied away from creating flagship beers and instead tries to always improve upon itself. To date, more than 300 beers have run through their lines. “We have ones we return to more often than not, but we’re always improving them,” he says. Some of those include Seeker, its American IPA, and Grace, its wheat beer. There’s always a cider, too. Although the business is set to expand into a recently purchased warehouse, the tavern itself isn’t going anywhere. The name is an homage to the first tavern on record in Hellertown, Wagner’s, whose location has been lost to history over the years.
Josh Early Candies has been a premier destination for Lehigh Valley chocolate lovers for decades. Keep it classic with their fan-favorite nonpareils, caramels and assorted chocolates, or add some spice to your sweet tooth with their habanero sea salt caramels.
Photo courtesy of Josh Early Candies
This restaurant’s bar food—mouthwatering wings, ribs, sandwiches and apps—alone makes it a worthwhile game-day destination. Pair that with dozens of TVs, outdoor seating and a great atmosphere, and Copperhead Grille will make the perfect place to celebrate the return of sports.
Photo courtesy of Copperhead Grille
Seasons Olive Oil and Vinegar Taproom is a gourmet cook’s paradise. Their signature oils, vinegars and seasonings make for the perfect finishing touch to any meal.
Photo courtesy of Seasons Olive Oil and Vinegar Taproom
Hummus—and Middle Eastern food more generally—really lends itself easily to vegan preparations. After all, we’re talking about chickpeas with garlic, olive oil and lemon, at the most basic level, but that doesn’t take into account all the different hummus varieties the Hechme family (Albert, Samar and Anthony) makes on an everyday basis. (Roasted red pepper! Roasted garlic! Spicy avocado! Yes, please!) But since it opened in 2014, Hummus House has become truly more than its namesake, so much so that son Anthony says they are contemplating a move and a name change sometime in the near future, to better reflect the wide range of foods they serve. Regardless, one thing won’t change. If you’re dying for some lunch options that are vegan and you don’t want soup or salad (not an easy accomplishment), Hummus House—or whatever they are going to call it in the future—is your place. Where else are you going to find a falafel cheesesteak that’s served rolled in a panini with garlic tahini and vegan cheese? Or an award-winning vegan mac and cheese? Or a falafel flower panini, named for the addition of cauliflower? But there’s also the Beyond Burger, too, that you can order. Creativity is not in short supply in this family. When asked what’s popular, Anthony says, laughing, “it’s hard to say what’s popular because everything pretty much gets ordered daily. It’d be easier to tell you the least popular items.”