Breakfast is not hard to execute as far as restaurants go, but it’s also really easy to mess up and do it all wrong. There’s no way to leave The State Cafe hungry, which means they’re doing it all right, and have been for six years now. That consistency comes from having the same chef since the start. “Coreen Freeman and chef Bill Poplawski have both been here with me since the beginning. I couldn’t have done it without them,” says owner Bill Sneeringer.
The State Cafe is also sourcing locally as much as possible, from the likes of Breakaway Farms, Salvaterra’s Gardens and Scholl Orchards, which ensures a high degree of quality and freshness—right down to the coffee from Homestead Coffee Roasters in Upper Black Eddy. There are so many omelets, and so many ways to customize your breakfast, whether it’s soy sausage, regular sausage or a range of veggies including hot peppers and caramelized onions. Those who love pancakes should save room to indulge in whatever the seasonal pancake offering happens to be. (Cinnamon Bun Pancakes? Peach Cobbler Pancakes?!) You won’t be disappointed.
This Spanish restaurant in the heart of Downtown Bethlehem took home two Best Of awards this year (Best French Fries and Best Sangria), but that’s only the start of what Tapas has to offer. Their Spanish flatbreads, empanadas and paellas are also worth some attention—and are the perfect complement to any of Tapas’ signature drinks.
At Gio, they take pizza seriously. Every pie is hand-tossed with flour imported from Italy and cooked to perfection at 600 degrees in an open flame. Their classic Margherita pizza comes topped with fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Or try one of their specialty pizzas, like the Bianca Neve with ricotta and roasted garlic, or the Campania with goat cheese, pear and arugula. No matter which pie you pick, we promise you’ll be fighting your friends for the last slice.
Forks Mediterranean is your favorite hometown deli with a Mediterranean flair. Ask for a pita wrap or specialty sandwich drenched in their signature olive oil, crafted from family-grown olives in Lebanon, unfiltered and cold-stone pressed the old-fashioned way. Their menu also includes regional classics like kibbi, falafel and shawarma, as well as delectable pastries like baklava and maamoul.
If you’re looking for a dinner that’s truly an experience, go to Zest. Brought to you by the creators of Grille 3501 (also on this list), Zest boasts a terrace with skyline views of Bethlehem. If you’re there for dinner, the menu has an expansive selection of appetizers, so there’s no reason not to take your time and savor the view. Or you can just grab drinks, kick back and watch the sun set over SteelStacks.
This family-owned Lebanese restaurant has a menu packed with Middle Eastern staples, but the best comes before the main course. Start your meal off with hummus, baba ghannouj or labne dips, or appetizers like falafel, baked kibbee or fried meat pies.
This is Italian food done right. Their menu offerings include authentic Neapolitan pizzas, a wide selection of pastas and entrées like wood-oven-roasted Norwegian salmon and chargrilled jumbo shrimp served over vegetable risotto. Pair that with a massive beer and wine list, and Sette Luna is your Easton dinner destination.
Most of the regulars live within a five-mile radius of this rural restaurant, making Limeport Inn the definition of the small-town favorite. Head chef Emily Fischer, whose parents Mark and Angel Jamison own the restaurant, says the support has been incredible.
They do their best to accommodate special requests especially during this challenging time and to bring a sense of “normality and home” to the experience. “One of our regular couples had an anniversary and I cooked them a special ‘off menu tasting’ to take home. Little touches like that make us special,” she says. But you don’t have to go off menu to get something delicious, especially if you like to dine with an eye toward ingredients you don’t typically prepare at home, such as burrata and beets, fried brie en croute or, say, an entire rack of za’atar-crusted New Zealand lamb. The pasture-raised burgers and steaks are standouts.
Even in Allentown’s highly competitive restaurant scene, Union and Finch rises above the rest. Their expansive menu includes your standard American fare, as well as Mediterranean, Indian and New Orleans-inspired dishes. Start off with their Truffle Finch Fries (seasoned with salt, pepper and truffle oil) and then for the main course go for their crab po’ boy with Old Bay aioli. Union and Finch also offers an outstanding brunch menu, so don’t forget to come back in the morning.
Apollo Grill has secured a number of Lehigh Valley Style awards over the years, and it’s not hard to see why. This Bethlehem staple offers some of the best appetizers and small plates the area has to offer—ahi tuna tartare, Asian beef short rib lettuce wraps and mouthwatering garlic bread with Gorgonzola sauce. Assuming you make it to the main course, don’t miss out on the B.L.A.T. (an upgraded BLT with avocado and herb aioli on sourdough bread) or the short ribs with roasted corn grits and guajillo chile barbecue sauce.
Take takeout to the next level with Asia Oriental Cuisine. This restaurant offers authentic Chinese dishes inspired by cuisine from the Sichuan, Hunan and Canton provinces. It also draws on the flavors of Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese cuisine to ensure there’s a dish for everyone. Not convinced? Asia Oriental Cuisine has been ranked in the top 100 Asian restaurants in the United States.
There’s nothing quite like diner food, and nobody in the Valley does diner food better than “The Coop.” Burgers, wraps, sandwiches, melts, pancakes, omelettes—if you’re searching for comfort food, this is your place. They also have an entire sauté menu devoted to their signature sizzling dishes, including chicken cacciatore and shrimp and scallops marinara. Don’t skip out on dessert, either. If you’re looking for something sweet, try the Cooper Bun: vanilla ice cream sandwiched between a homemade cinnamon bun and topped with chocolate syrup and whipped cream.
Grille 3501 is a regional icon and a recurring recipient of Lehigh Valley Style accolades. If you’re wondering why, the food speaks for itself. On top of its excellent bar and wide selection of drinks, Grille 3501’s menu takes classic dishes and makes them unforgettable. Try their pan-seared scallops with crawfish risotto, or their pan-seared Chilean sea bass with pineapple rice.
This Salisbury Township restaurant’s fame extends far beyond the Valley, as the restaurant was even a semifinalist in the national James Beard awards. Bolete proudly makes all their dishes with farm-to-table ingredients. Their offerings include a Korean fried chicken sandwich with house kimchi and sriracha aioli, seared scallops with pork belly ravioli and braised Tuscan kale, and a sandwich called “The Best Sandwich Ever.” You’ll have to verify that for yourself.
Most restaurants don’t make it through their first year. Even when you know what you’re doing, which Jeff Virojanapa does, having owned White Orchids Thai Cuisine in Center Valley with his parents since 2007, it’s still a gamble. Add in a pandemic and you’re operating without precedent. Notch stayed open the entire time—within its legal constraints, of course. “From the first day, we sat down as a core team and began expanding on ideas and tweaking from the ground up where we were when we first opened last August,” says Virojanapa. They paid attention to what customers were ordering throughout the curbside-only phases; items that became popular during curbside transitioned to the green phase menu, he says. Notch takes Asian fusion to new levels, merging the concept of comfort food classics with Asian favorites: think Drunken Bolognese, brisket chow mein (a dish that migrated from its special chef’s table to curbside quite easily) and a bulgogi pulled pork “bbq” sandwich.
Staying afloat and then winning an award (shout-out to chef Tyler Baxter and his team in the kitchen) are small and big feats, but the pandemic has taken so many “normal” parts of hospitality out of the equation. “We were taking care of guests takeout container by takeout container, not being able to put a face to a name. We are so thankful that our guests appreciate what we’ve been trying to do.”
The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley hosts some of the best restaurants in the Lehigh Valley (a few more of them are on this list), and White Orchids Thai Cuisine is a must-try. They use top-shelf imported products for their dishes, and their curries are made with the highest quality coconut milk. For authentic Thai flavor with a twist, go for their Bangkok Curry Noodles, Hawaiian Pad Thai or Tropical Fried Rice.
3rd & Ferry Fish Market
There are so many little hidden gems tucked away on and just off 611, heading south away from Easton. Terry’s is one of them. Established in 1951 by Bob and Terry Mugione, Terry’s is the epitome of the warm and welcoming Italian-American restaurant, best known for its thin-crust pizza that’s kind of inside out—the sauce on the top, mozzarella cheese on the bottom. People also adore the homemade ravioli and the fresh weekly seafood specials. Since March 2010, Nancy and Tom Winters and their son T.C., who went through the culinary program at Northampton Community College over a decade ago, have been running Terry’s.
“We are very family oriented and we recognize that all of our staff, from head chef to sous chef to servers to dishwasher and busser, have played a big part in getting us to where we are today,” says Nancy. “[And] our customers, who not only voted us into this award, but who have stood by us from the beginning transition back on March 1, 2010 right through to today, including the difficulty of navigating COVID!”
It might be the completely open kitchen that energizes anyone who comes into 3rd and Ferry, and makes everything about your meal prep totally transparent. It might be the super-fresh seafood (delivered six days a week), fantastic cocktails served at that long, copper-topped bar, excellent appetizers and unbelievable lobster roll. Oh, there’s also the ceviche, too, a dish that offers no room to hide quality as the citrus juices basically “cook” the fish. It could also be his gregarious, warm nature—all of these are some reasons why Mike Pichetto has been voted the favorite chef this year.
This year isn’t really an average year, either. Pichetto capitalized on his ability to order necessities and pass on those deliverables by making them available to customers—bread, milk, eggs, that kind of thing—during the pandemic. The restaurant never really closed, but now they’re rocking curbside, outside and serving from about 75 percent of their menu—and the entire raw bar. “It feels pretty awesome to win this award. I never really think of myself like that, and the chefs that have won in past years are pretty bad ass. It’s nice to know that people see all the hard work and dedication,” says Pichetto.
If you’re looking for the best pasta dishes in the region, head to Tre Scalini. Every dish at this Tuscan- inspired restaurant is prepared with fresh ingredients and the highest level of attention. Their pastas, which include bucatini with smoked bacon, plum tomatoes and pecorino along with pappardelle tossed in mushroom sauce and served goat cheese and truffle oil, are truly unforgettable. Bring your own bottle to complement an already perfect experience.
If you’re looking for a taste of the unexpected, Savory Grille is your go-to. With a menu that changes daily, the only constant at this Macungie restaurant is the quality, locally- sourced ingredients. Even though the dishes typically draw from French, African, Asian, Mediterranean and Southwestern cuisines, Savory Grille truly offers a taste of the Valley. Find it operating out of the historic Seisholtzville Hotel.
Come here for some of the best cuts the Lehigh Valley has to offer, from New York Strip to filet mignon. And all their beef is aged in-house, in a dry-aging room lined with Himalayan-salt bricks. The atmosphere at Three OAK Steakhouse is top notch, too, with every fixture, decoration and piece of furniture constructed on-site.
If you follow the food truck scene around these parts, you may know the name Vegan Voyagers. Well, the food is now parked and available at a brick-and-mortar business on Church Street in Bethlehem. Since December 2019, it’s been home to VegOut, run by Mary Lopresti, and it offers all your favorite comfort foods—rendered vegan. Mac and cheese? Got that. Impossible and/or Beyond Burgers? Yep, that, too. Pierogis, Reuben-style? Also available. Oh, and if you want loaded pierogis, they top it with coconut bacon, cheese sauce, fried onions and parmesan—you can have those things, too. Everything at VegOut is plant based, including the decadent milkshakes—the flavor changes every week. Can’t decide? Lopresti says the mac and cheese is a best seller. “We also have various toppings including our Big Mac and Cheese, Buffalo Mac and Cheese, Taco Mac and Cheese and a loaded version.”
True Blue is a cozy coffee shop on Emmaus’s Chestnut Street, serving up specialty drinks like hot, cold and frozen lattes in an endless variety of flavors. There’s Nutty Buddy, Snickers, Cherry Jubilee, Caramel Royale and so many others. But as the name (and win) suggests, True Blue is most celebrated for its Mediterranean fare. Try the Cauliflower Basmati—roasted and lightly fried cauliflower served over basmati rice—or their Lamb Kabobs—grilled lamb marinated in olive oil, lemon and garlic, served with grilled vegetables and seasoned basmati rice.
Aman’s is back in the Restaurant Awards for another year, and given their tradition of top-notch Indian cuisine, it’s not hard to see why. Choose from expertly crafted curries, naan breads and tandoori dishes. And don’t forget to order one Aman’s signature drinks, including mango lassi and masala chai.
With its local art, relaxed boho vibe and smoothies for days, Terra Cafe feels less like the Lehigh Valley and perhaps more like some spot on the West Coast; it seems like you should be able to walk out the door and onto a beach rather than the streets of Downtown Easton. These days, cafés are even more important to a sense of community, and Terra has plenty of it. Run by Marcel Bedoya and Manuel Fresneda, Terra offers overflowing sandwiches, smoothies (in bowl or cup form!), fair trade and organic coffee (from Homestead Coffee Roasters in Upper Black Eddy) and unique offerings such as Colombian empanadas, arepas and pandebonos (the latter is a baked cheese bread). Try the Jungle Sunshine smoothie to get a taste of why they won—orange juice or coconut water as the base, with banana, mango and pineapple.
Coal is the Lehigh Valley’s premier Ghanaian restaurant, serving up authentic West African fusion cuisine. All of their ingredients come from local farmers’ markets or are imported from Ghana. Try their loaded yam fries (toppings include bacon, chicken, sour cream, onions, peanuts and cheese) or chicken khebabs fresh off the grill and drizzled with house marinade.
Torre is south-of-the-border done right. Their wide assortment of tacos, enchiladas and fajitas are some of the best in the area; their salsa and guacamole come with house-made corn chips. Don’t forget to order one of their specialty Mexican drinks, either, from spiked coffees to D’Aristi Xtabentún (a traditional Mayan drink made from flower nectar, honey and anise).
With unique takes on gumbo, jambalaya, fried chicken and po’ boys, The Bayou brings the taste of New Orleans to the Lehigh Valley. If you’re looking for a new take on a classic—or just a reason to get breakfast for dinner—try their chicken and waffles, topped with pickled fruit, spiked syrup and powdered sugar. The Bayou also won this year’s Best Of award for its stellar mac and cheese, so don’t forget to order a skillet-full the next time you go.
The Tavern at the Sun Inn offers a unique tavern dining experience in a historic location (the Inn’s museum could tell you more about that). Chef Billy Gruenewald has crafted a unique colonial-modern fusion menu featuring unforgettable dishes, including grilled confit wings with strawberry habanero sauce, a slow-roasted pork wrap with red cabbage slaw and a black bean burger topped with grainy mustard aioli and arugula on a brioche bun. In true tavern fashion, there’s also a wide rotating selection of draft and bottled beers.