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Five Cool Bars You’re Probably Not Going To, But Should

We all get stuck on old favorites when it comes to bars and restaurants. But what about the places we overlook, or drive by? Here are five cool ones you should consider.

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By Carrie Havranek

Life is loaded with restaurants and bars you see on a daily (or not so daily) basis, wonder aloud about, and then pass by. Life is also loaded with great restaurants whose bars you might typically overlook in favor of the dining room, but that are lovely and offer the full dining room menu but in a more low-key environment. Here are five of them, spanning the gamut from laid-back and reliable to slightly more fancy and gourmet.

Cheeseburger and Fries served at the bar at Bolete, one of the best farm-to-table restaurants in the Lehigh Valley, located minutes from Historic Bethlehem

Cheeseburger and fries served at Bolete's lovely bar. Photo by Carrie Havranek.

1. Bolete, Bethlehem. The dining room may put the word fine in “fine” dining, but the bar is cozy, dimly lit, and quieter, and you can order from the tavern menu or the full menu. Both are seasonal but the former is limited; you can be guaranteed the burger is on there, with your choice of cheese and the mushroom marmalade (add $2). The bar is first-come, first-served, but you can reserve some of the tavern tables. 1740 Seidersville Road, Bethlehem; 610-868-6505.

2.  The Farmhouse, Emmaus. This 19th-century farmhouse is well-known in the valley for its farm-to-table fare and legendary beer selection, but there’s also the pub, for those who want to just hang out with one of its amazing vintage brews (Chimay from 1994, anyone?) and snack on its charcuterie plate. The Farmhouse’s national reputation for its imbibing options continues: it was named one of the top 100 beer bars in the country by Draft magazine in 2011. 1449 Chestnut Street, Emmaus; 610-967-6225.

3. Riegelsville Inn, Riegelsville. There’s little else better than sitting in front of the massive, open fireplace in the main dining room in the winter at this classic Pennsylvania stone inn along the Delaware. However, the pub comes a close second and has a fairly extensive menu of contemporary American standards—along with live music on Friday and Saturday nights. 10-12 Delaware Road, Riegelsville, 610-749-0100.

4. The Ship Inn, Milford. This one’s across the river, but it’s worth the trip to New Jersey’s first brewpub. Serving British beers they brew onsite in the English style (open fermenters, unfiltered) and U.K. fare (Cornish pasty, fish and chips), the Ship Inn is situated on the Delaware. Sip your hand-pumped beer and contemplate the brewing process; the beer casks are visible to you, right behind the long bar. 61 Bridge Street, Milford, NJ; 908-995-0188.

5. Stemie’s 1818 Tavern, Easton. Yes, we’re talking about another Pennsylvania restaurant and bar in an old converted stone house of some sort—are you noticing a trend here? The bar, situated as the centerpiece of the dining room, shows you it’s a priority here. It also makes maneuvering to your table a bit tricky, but that’s part of the charm. A martini menu of 35 choices keeps you guessing, and the burgers come with waffle fries. This place is so old-school and neighborhoody, it does not have a web site. 2501 Seip Avenue, Easton; 610-258-0064.


Which one of these cool bars is your favorite? Which one would you like to try next?


Carrie Havranek is a writer in Easton who likes finding cool places to eat and drink, on or off the beaten path. (She also takes some killer photos with her iPhone. -Laini)


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4 Responses


Stemie’s Place ALSO has fantastic breakfast. At least they did last time I was there, a few years ago! My favorite.


Thanks for sharing that, Jess! I think Stemie’s Place is different from Stemie’s 1818 Tavern. Stemie’s Place is on 611 south, correct?


So, as I just wrote over on some random Facebook wall, maybe my own, I like sitting at the bar better than at a table. This is why:

I think I feel less trapped at the bar. The chairs usually swivel. Table chairs never swivel. Also, you’re seated a little bit higher, so you have a better view of the rest of the room. This is good for people-watching, taking photos, all kinds of things. When you’re sitting at the table, the server can disappear. When you sit at the bar, the bartender’s sort of trapped there. They can never escape you or your many requests. This is why I think it’s good to tip bartenders well, too. They basically work in a cage.


I hear you, Laini. Plus, I think there’s something sort of subversive (although it shouldn’t be) about women sitting at a bar, either by themselves or with friends, and having a good time without being concerned about getting hassled. I don’t generally worry about that, but I don’t generally go places where that would be even a remote concern. There’s also something about the proximity to the bartender that gives you a different perspective on how the place operates, if you’re into that sort of thing like I am.

Stemie’s Place and 1818 Tavern are indeed two separate places.

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