The third city of Pennsylvania
, Allentown was made famous through Billy Joel
’s catchy lyrics. The city has the fastest growing population in the state, accompanied by a parallel expansions of its dining scene. Including a new variety of international cuisines and foods as well as more traditional food joints, Allentown offers many inviting options for a meal out. Here are 10 of the best.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, American, French, Mediterranean, $$$
The winner of many awards since its opening in 2001, Grille 3501 has its status recognised as one of the best restaurants in the Lehigh Valley. Located on 3501 Broadway, this upscale restaurant boasts a fusion menu showcasing an eclectic mix of tastes in a combination of French, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisine. Complemented by a stylish cocktail bar with a copious list cocktails and martinis, Grille 3501 allows its guests to enjoy a sophisticated environment while savouring an appetizer of crab and mango spring rolls, a Thai lobster soup, or a juicy filet mignon.
Grille 3501, 3501 Broadway, Allentown, PA, USA, +1 39 610 706 0100
Restaurant, Seafood, Contemporary, American, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, $$$
Settled in Allentown’s Arts District, a two storey stone building houses Cosmopolitan. From the ground floor to the rooftop level, where a popular nightclub offers charming views of the town, the classy dining halls and ball room are elegantly decorated with chic furnishing and elaborated chandeliers. A contemporary American cuisine with international influences features on the menu, where chef Justin Cogan composes inviting dishes like pan-seared duck with peach farro, baby bok choy, and blueberry jalapeno gastrique, or salmon with purple cauliflower, lentil, orange vinaigrette and pistachio.
Cosmopolitan Restaurant, 22 N 6th St, Allentown, PA, USA, +1 610 435 3540
Henry’s Salt of the Sea
Fresh seafood is Henry’s Salt of the Sea’s strong point, and a French inspiration gives it its flair. In a rustic ambience with an old port tavern feel, where the owner is proud to be wearing ‘an apron, not a tie’, a tiny kitchen serves plates of fresh fish and seafood in a variety of forms (fried, baked, broiled, sautée, on pasta) accompanied by delicious sauces and sides. Among the signature dishes that Henry’s Salt of the Sea delights in offering are the lobster francaise with capers, mushrooms and tomatoes, and the sautéed jumbo lump crabmeat served with brown butter.
Henry’s Salt of the Sea, 1926 W Allen St, Allentown, PA, USA, +1 610 434 2628
Youell’s Oyster House
Restaurant, Seafood, Steakhouse, Soup, Gluten-free, $$$
Youell’s Oyster House
With a long and convoluted history dating back to the 1800s, Youell’s Oyster House is one of the oldest restaurants in Allentwon. Allegedly running a speakeasy outside of town, the Rice brothers first opened the joint on Northampton street. Renamed in 1938 and with a solid reputation built during the following twenty years, Youell’s then passed from hand to hand, switching location, name, and fares over the decades, until the current owners re-established it as the legendary seafood restaurant it was in its golden days. With dishes many times voted as the best seafood in the Lehigh Valley, Youell’s specialises in crabmeat: the house specialty, its famous crab cakes, are a must-try.
Youell’s Oyster House, 2249 W Walnut St, Allentown, PA, USA, +1 610 439 1203
Strange Brew Tavern
Bar, Beer, Wine, Cocktails, Pub Grub, American, $$$
Strange Brew Tavern
While attracting crowds with over 20 different brews on draft and an assortment of micro, domestic, imported, and craft beers, the Strange Brew Tavern is also regarded as one of the best places for a meal in Allentown. A classic pub atmosphere imbues the tavern, while the menu is sprinkled with pub classics, alongside an impressive selection of sandwiches, soups, appetizers, entrées, salads, and burgers. Spicy IPA chicken, available as a main or in a sandwich, and a combination of tenderloin and lobster tail known as Surf & Turf, are a highlight.
Strange Brew Tavern, 1996 S 5th St, Allentown, PA, USA, +1 610 841 3610
Restaurant, Syrian, Fast Food, Vegetarian
On moving to Pennsylvania, Jamil and Marie Jarrah, the owners of Damascus, brought the traditional flavours of Middle Eastern cuisine with them all the way from their Syrian village of Mishtayeh. For many years, they have been using the traditional recipes and cooking techniques of their home country to import the dishes in which their rich culinary culture originates. An ample choice of vegetarian and non vegetarian options is bound to tickle diners’ taste-buds at Damascus. Warm praises go to their kebabs, among which the chicken supreme, prepared with mushrooms, green peppers, and onions is a favourite. Top picks are also their appetizing stuffed grape leaves and babaghannouj.
Damascus Restaurant, 449 N 2nd St, Allentown, PA, USA, +1 610 432 2036
Restaurant, Ethiopian, American, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, $$$
Mariam’s Restaurant only opened early in 2013, but in less than two years made the top of Allentown’s best restaurants list. Introducing a cuisine that was new to the Lehigh Valley, owners Beleteshachew and Ebisa Mulata inaugurated the first Ethiopian restaurant in town among enthusiastic reviews and a growing number of contented diners. Revolving around the flavour of wots (meat based spicy stews), injera (sourdough flatbread), berbere (a combination of chilli pepper and other spices), and niter kibbeh (Ethiopian butter infused with ginger, garlic, or other ingredients), Mariam’s offers a casual and intimate space where to feast upon a rich choice of vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes. Kitfo and doro wot, respectively spicy ground beef prepared with kibbeh and cardamom, and chicken curry simmered in berbere and mixed spices and vegetables, feature among the most tempting options.
Mariam’s Restaurant, 446 N 7th St, Allentown, PA, USA, +1 484 661 5000
Robata of Tokyo
Restaurant, American, Vegetarian, Sushi
Robata of Tokyo
Hibachi and sushi chefs at Robata of Tokyo not only provide a tasty meal, but also offer a rather entertaining display of culinary skills. When picking an hibachi dinner, guests will be sitting around a grill with open fire, where fish, meat, and vegetables are chopped and tossed before landing on the tables accompanied by a mushrooms and scallions soup, salad with ginger dressing, and fried rice. At the sushi bar, a range of sushi and sashimi dishes are masterly sliced by owner and chef Haruyoshi Shindo, carefully laid on platters and beautifully presented for guests to delight upon. Since its opening in 1985, Robata has also been serving traditional teriyaki, tempura, and bento entrées.
Robata of Tokyo, 39 S 9th St, Allentown, PA, USA, +1 610 821 6900
Restaurant, Asian, French, American, Thai, Vegetarian, $$$
For over 30 years, Bay Leaf has been renowned for its unique take on the combination of Thai and American cuisine with international influences. Dishing all from pad Thai rice noodles, served with shrimps, tofu, eggs, bean sprouts, and peanuts in a sweet and sour sauce, to the pistachio encrusted salmon served on pita, from the seafood bisque to the steak sate accompanied by Thai peanut sauce, the menu at Bay Leaf hops across different continents in a culinary feast. Offering a spectrum of choices that is bound to satisfy the most indecisive of dinner crowds, Bay Leaf certainly makes a top choice for a meal out in Allentown.
Bay Leaf Restaurant, 935 Hamilton St, Allentown, PA, USA, +1 610 433 4211
Thai food lovers in the Lehigh Valley will find the perfect destination at Thai Avenue. Black tables, chairs, and banquettes against a backdrop of terracotta walls provide an elegant and relaxing ambience, while the rich menu will stimulate guests’ taste buds and spoil them with choice. As glancing at the appetizers, browsing through the stir fry entrées, the curries, and noodle and rice dishes, and finally laying eyes on the chef’s specials, diners will be forgiven for taking a while to pick their food. From the tofu tod appetizer prepared with peanuts, to the spicy royale tom yum soup made with coconut milk, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, and cilantro, from the tuna panang avocado, to the nam prik pao with crispy chicken, the dishes one must try are numerous.
Thai Avenue, 4791 Tilghman St, Allentown, PA, USA, +1 610 351 9496
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