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Big City Dining

By Michelle Pittman

When it comes to dining in and around Bethlehem, there is no shortage of options. From hip downtown fare to unique, off-the-beaten-path destinations, there’s something for every palate and price range.

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When it comes to dining in and around Bethlehem, there is no shortage of options. From hip downtown fare to unique, off-the-beaten-path destinations, there’s something for every palate and price range.

Restaurant Row

Apollo Grill

85 W. Broad St.
Eclectic, Upscale American
This upscale yet casual grill strives to maintain the friendly and sophisticated service that keeps customers coming back for more. The lively atmosphere perfectly complements the wide array of food on the menu. Go with a group and order several selections from the extensive appetizers list or enjoy any number of excellent sandwiches, pizzas, or stellar entrees. The kitchen is very accommodating and everything is made to order. Reservations are strongly suggested as this is a very popular spot.

Petra Mediterranean

81 W. Broad St.
Mediterranean/Middle Eastern
Petra is one of the newer restaurants in downtown Bethlehem, and its simply prepared Middle Eastern food is a welcome addition. Incredibly fresh, heart healthy and a vegetarian’s dream, Petra offers up the traditional fare of the Fertile Crescent, including grilled vegetables with tahini sauce, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, falafel and kabobs. Try the lunchtime buffet to get a taste of everything this café-style restaurant has to offer. Stop by in the summer and enjoy outdoor seating and feel free to BYOB year round.

Edge

74 W. Broad St.
French-Asian Fusion
Looking for a dining experience with a little oomph? Edge is it – a little taste of the big city in historic downtown Bethlehem. As one of the first fine-dining restaurants in the area, Edge has set the standard for fine food, quality atmosphere and a knowledgeable staff. Dress to impress and hit the bar for an after work drink, or call ahead for a special occasion dinner reservation – you can even eat outside during the warm weather months. A private room for up to 55 people is available. Executive chef Tim Widrick creates an impressive selection of French- and Asian-inspired flavors and the desserts here are second to none.

Starfish Brasserie

51 W. Broad St.
Seafood/American
Head chef and owner Kristofor Sandholm traveled the world before settling in the Lehigh Valley. He brings a taste of far-flung locales to Starfish, where sustainable, eco-friendly seafood is always in-season. While seafood is the star, Starfish also prepares dishes that include fresh, local ingredients in unexpected combinations. The menu changes with the seasons and desserts are made in-house. Not hungry for a full meal? Stop by the Star Bar for an exotic cocktail and enjoy the tapas menu, where smaller portions of a selection of dinner items are offered at a fraction of the price of the regular menu.

Bethlehem Brew Works

569 Main St.
Pub/American
Come for the microbrews, but please, stay for the food! Brew Works features plenty of dishes that use the brewery’s own drafts – from beer and cheese soup to “Brewschetta” and the restaurant’s twist on mac and cheese. Servers are happy to recommend a cold one to complement your meal. This downtown hot spot, which attracts locals and tourists alike, offers a variety of comfort foods – from traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dishes to a host of steakhouse favorites. There’s plenty of bar food, too – burgers, fries, wings and nachos are all well represented.

Thai Thai II

509 Main St.
Classic Thai
What Thai Thai II lacks in storefront, it more than makes up for in taste. Tucked among historic buildings on Main Street, the large kitchen here serves up classic Thai spice – customized to your taste – in a simple but elegant setting. House specialties range from drunken noodles to deep-fried red snapper. Plenty of vegetarian options mean there’s something for everyone. Don’t miss out on the excellent soups and desserts. And BYOB – the staff will gladly keep your drinks chilled for you.

1741 On the Terrace

437 Main St.
Upscale American
Located inside the historic Hotel Bethlehem, 1741 – so-named for the year Bethlehem was founded – offers fresh, organic and local ingredients prepared by award-winning Executive Chef William Murphy. Seasonal menus feature contemporary American cuisine and a musical brunch is offered on Sundays. The restaurant also offers a tasting menu for dinner, with smaller portions that allow for trying a variety of dishes at a reasonable price. The dining room has one of the best views around – downtown Bethlehem as seen through floor-to-ceiling Palladian windows. Reservations are recommended.

Also Downtown

The Other Fish

59 E. Broad St.
Sushi/Japanese
The Other Fish is the reincarnation of The Dancing Fish, a former South Side sushi staple that relocated to Bethlehem’s downtown after nine years in business. With over 75 fresh, original sushi rolls to try, there are more options than seats at this small, café-style eatery (only 24 diners can eat at a time, unless weather permits outdoor seating). Twinkling lights overhead, a cozy atmosphere and a warm, friendly staff that has worked together for years make this a restaurant you’ll want to savor. If sushi’s not your thing, there are plenty of fresh fish entrees that are served fully cooked and the appetizers are out of this world.

Billy’s Downtown Diner

10 E. Broad St.
Diner Classics with a Twist
This downtown institution brings out hungry locals as well as hungover co-eds, but don’t go expecting the same old greasy spoon. Billy’s offers classic diner fare with a twist – from Huevos Rancheros with a fresh and simple guacamole to cannoli waffles stuffed with rich cheese filling, there’s something for every taste. Billy’s makes guests feel welcome while turning over tables with breakneck speed. Ask your server for a recommendation or ask Billy yourself – he’s the big Greek fella walking around checking on tables, manning the cash register and taking the names of patiently waiting diners. If you simply can’t wait for a booth, squeeze in at the counter, where you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the hard-working line cooks.

South Side

Nawab

13 E. Fourth St.
Indian
As far as its clientele goes, Nawab boasts the most diverse crowd. Students, professors, visitors and lifelong city residents flock to this super casual, slightly kitschy, pink-appointed restaurant to enjoy the staples of coastal Indian cuisine – naan, vegetable samosas, tikka masala and vindaloo. Not sure if Indian food is your thing? Try the ultra-affordable lunch buffet and get a little taste of everything. If you love spice, go for dinner and choose from a wide variety of entrees – just be sure to tell your server to crank up the heat. True to Indian cuisine, Nawab is extremely vegetarian friendly.

Olive Branch Café and Restaurant

355 Broadway
Middle Eastern
Owned and managed by a husband and wife team hailing from Syria, Olive Branch features authentic Middle Eastern dishes prepared with exceptional attention to detail. Regulars say the hummus here is the best around and don’t miss the baklava, which is made fresh on the premises. Order a sampling of appetizers or the Dinner for Two – it offers a nice introduction to Middle Eastern classics and includes a strong cup of Arabian coffee. Olive Branch boasts a number of vegetarian and vegan options. Reservations are recommended for weekend dinners. Feel free to BYOB.

La Lupita

4 W. Fourth St.
Authentic Mexican
Forget the Nachos Bell Grande. La Lupita offers authentic Mexican food in the heart of Bethlehem’s South Side. Owned and operated by a family hailing from Vera Cruz, La Lupita is a bit of a carnivore’s dream. Nearly every dish contains meat, or fish, as well as the requisite onion, cilantro and garlic. The cuisine is definitely out-of-the-ordinary for those whose definition of “Mexican” runs more towards Tex-Mex and fast food. Come with an open mind, and ask for a recommendation, and you’ll be in for a treat. Try the mole poblano, the national dish of Mexico, or any one of the dishes local to Vera Cruz.

Blue Sky Café

22 W. Fourth St.
American/Café
Known for its super-sized breakfast sandwiches, Bethlehem’s best pancakes and an outstanding lunch menu, Blue Sky has recently opened its doors for dinner, as well as live music and art shows during First Fridays. Everything at this small, funky café is made to order, so expect some waiting, but the unique dishes and seasonal specials are well worth your time. Plenty of vegetarian options are available and picky eaters rejoice – Blue Sky is not only accommodating, you can even watch the cook prepare your food from the counter.

Just Down the Road…

Bolete Restaurant & Inn

1740 Seidersville Road
New American Fusion
Refined but not fussy, this nationally acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant offers some of the finest food anywhere. From sauces and stock to meats smoked in-house, everything at Bolete is fresh, seasonal, locally sourced and handcrafted by Chef Lee Chizmar. With an ever-changing menu, unique cocktail offerings and stellar ambiance enhanced by an attentive and knowledgeable staff, Bolete offers a relaxed yet decadent dining experience. Tucked away just outside the city in Salisbury Township, a meal here unfolds at a refreshingly relaxed pace – trust us, you won’t want to rush.

Shula’s Steakhouse

2960 Center Valley Parkway, Center Valley
Upscale American
Shula’s Steak House celebrates steaks and football while still feeling like a swank, underground club. Service is the star – from complimentary valet to the phone call you get the next day from the “head coach” asking about your meal. Less than 1 percent of all beef raised in the nation is good enough to be called Shula’s. Portions are generous – you can attempt to win over the 48-ounce porterhouse – and sides are meant for sharing. Order your dessert with your entrée – they’re freshly made and can take up to half an hour to prepare.

Sands Casino Resort

77 Sands Boulevard
Mix of Eateries
While technically not a restaurant in and of itself, Sands Casino Resort offers a variety of dining options, including Emeril Lagasse’s first and only restaurant in the Northeast, Emeril’s Chop House, a traditional steakhouse set in a contemporary, sophisticated atmosphere. Not on a steak budget? You can still get a taste of Emeril at Burgers and More, offering fare from the grill and classic sides with a uniquely Emeril twist.

Sands is also home to much more than just meat – Market Gourmet Express has pizza, salads, sushi, smoothies and a variety of customer favorites for sale. Cobalt Café offers classic American and European cuisine, with an a la carte menu served 24 hours a day. Get a fresh-made sandwich at Carnegie Deli or a taste of Ireland at St. James Gate Irish Pub and Carvery, the home of fine Irish food, beer and whiskey in Bethlehem. Sands is an excellent choice when you’re not quite sure what you’re in the mood for and it has the added benefit of built-in entertainment just steps away.

Hampton Winds

3835 Green Pond Rd.
American
This may be the Valley’s best-kept secret. Hampton Winds offers fine dining at a fraction of the cost. Located on the Bethlehem Township campus of Northampton Community College, the restaurant is run by the school’s hospitality and culinary students. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual; with no table turnover, guests are encouraged to dine at their leisure. The menu changes with the seasons and there’s always something new to discover. Due to limited serving hours, reservations are recommended for lunch and required for dinner. BYOB.



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