Post Pic

Put Your Mouth Where The Money Was: Eat at The Mint in Bethlehem

Comfort food gets a creative spin at Bethlehem’s the Mint, where you can dine in a former bank and not break the bank.

Be Sociable, Share!

Pin It

by Lenora Dannelke

In my experience, lunch is driven as much by agenda as by appetite. Whether the focus is social, business or an amenable confluence of both, The Mint gastropub scores high marks as an optimal environment for eating-with-intent—and enjoying every morsel of the experience.

Interior of The Mint Gastropub in Bethlehem, PA. Photo by Laini Abraham.

First of all, there’s the location, location, location. Situated close (but not too close) to Bethlehem’s bustling downtown, this bank-turned-restaurant offers the convenience of plentiful parking. Next, the vibrant décor, which pays playful tribute to the building’s original purpose without crossing the line into themed kitsch, sets an upbeat mood for a mid-day meal. And this is one place where you should definitely heed your mom’s advice and wash your hands before eating: The restroom area, tucked behind an unmarked door that blends into the wall, is a visual treat. Bright pop art-style currency prints adorn the hallway, and the ladies’ room counts among the most stylish in the Lehigh Valley. (Same for the men’s room, too. Yes, I peeked.)

Fully grounded in the kitchen, chef/owner Domenic “Mimmo” Lombardo started working at Stefano’s, his family’s popular Italian restaurant in Bethlehem, at age 11 before continuing a formal culinary training at Johnson and Wales University and the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners in Northern Italy. However, he broke with his gastronomic heritage when envisioning The Mint.

Domenic Lombardo, The Mint owner and chef.

Lombardo’s educational background included a stint as a student of architecture, and the former Bank of Pennsylvania building, constructed in 1955, offered a glorious mid-century Modern platform for serving contemporary comfort food—essentially familiar childhood favorites gussied up for adult tastes. Examples include butter-crumb topped truffled mac & cheese, with a lobster option, and “franks and beans” weekly specials that can translate into anything from smoked duck bratwurst and mashed white bean mash with cherry chipotle aioli to alder-smoked blueberry venison sausage with black-eyed peas and truffle mustard crème fraiche. Another retro-chic update is the Pork Belly “BLT” complemented by tomato confit and bacon aioli. You get the picture: Like a diner, but oh so much finer. And way more fun.

The adaptive reuse of the building included transforming the bank vault into a wine cellar, repurposing the drive-through teller portico as a patio that functions as a smoking lounge, and turning an office door into a communal table. Lombardo consulted designer Lisette Dell’Appa of First Impressions to execute his postmodern concept and give the place “a woman’s touch.” The punchy decor includes futuristic light fixtures, lime green and neutral stone-lined accent walls, orange bar stools, fifties-style chrome and grape-colored chairs in the dining room and the use of snake plants as living café curtains. “Shopping for something so over-the-top was a hoot,” says Dell’Appa. “I love doing kids’ fantasy rooms and this was like creating one for adults: A playroom with amazing food and beverages.”

Grilled Cheese served on a pretzel roll with tater tots at the Mint, Bethlehem, PA

Grilled Cheese served on a pretzel roll with tater tots at the Mint, Bethlehem, PA. Photo by laini Abraham.

When my two friends and I were seated, we were presented with not only a food menu, but lists of the more than a dozen rotating tap and approximately 150 bottled beers that focus on American craft brews—and the selections are ever-growing. A concise wine list offers most varieties by the glass, and a culinary focus on cocktails puts an innovative spin on martinis and mixed drinks. Although we passed on spirited libations, the freshly brewed Desert Blossom iced tea and the hearty house-blend coffee, served in a wonderfully oversized cup, were excellent.

Although both the lunch and dinner menus, we learned, would be receiving a seasonal revision in early February, selections that included wasabi pea soup, pasta with a short rib “ragu,” and substantial sandwiches, including a hefty Bank Burger, were completely appropriate to a chilly January day, and specials are featured daily. It was also refreshing to see vegetarian and vegan choices that did not seem like afterthoughts. Keep in mind when ordering that dishes can be customized via an insiders’ lingo, such as requesting “heart-attack style,” which puts fried egg and pork belly on a burger; “farm style,” which adds a full array of meats to a dish; or “al funghi,” which crowns your selection with mushrooms. Another one-of-kind feature at The Mint is a late evening “reverse happy hour” from 10 p.m. to midnight, offering discounted drinks and a menu of $7 items that changes weekly.

Apple Pie served with bacon and whipped cream at The Mint. Photo by Laini Abraham.

Peanut Butter and Banana Bread Pudding—a.k.a. The Elvis Presley—with bacon and whipped cream. Photo by Laini Abraham.

The “Mussels ’n’ Frites” I ordered were soulful and satisfying, with the hand-cut fries, steamed mussels—tender and tasty, albeit petite—and warm, chubby “drunken” cherry tomatoes piled on top of a base of chipotle lobster bisque. My companions’ selections included a top notch, no-filler crab cake sandwich served with super crispy crinkle-cut sweet potato fries and a bright lemon dipping sauce, and a grilled cheese sandwich on a pretzel roll oozing with three varieties of cheese, ripe tomato and a bowl piled with crunchy-on-the-outside/molten-in-the-inside potato tots. For dessert we shared the one item that would be carried over to the new menu: The Elvis Presley, a dense and decadent peanut butter and banana bread pudding that sports a thick-cut strip of candied bacon on top and a cloud of whipped cream on side. Even divided among three women, we were unable to finish off the generous serving.

Service throughout the meal was excellent. David, our server, was thoroughly attentive—and able to answer our questions about dishes and their preparation—without being intrusive. A combination gab fest and food quest in an aesthetically delightful setting is my ideal middle-of-the-day mini vacation.

The Mint Gastropub; 1223 West Broad Street, Bethlehem; 610-419-3810

Independent journalist Lenora Dannelke believes there’s more to life than writing about food. There’s also shopping, cooking and eating.

 

Other posts you should check out:

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!
Follow Me on Pinterest

33 Responses

02.01.12

I want to reach into the screen and eat that grilled cheese. Next time!

02.01.12

The grilled cheese was soooo good.

02.01.12

Your Comments

It all looks and sounds very inviting and interesting.
What is a “pretzel roll” ? if I may ask

02.01.12

Holy wow. Your photography looks great! And I sincerely applaud the designer for putting actual thought and effort into the interior. I’ll meet you here ANY time.

02.01.12

Laini,

i see you found one of my favorite “hideouts”. The food has been amazing and the beer list is remarkable.

This was a nice article. Great photographs.

02.01.12

Your Comments

Great piece Lenora and great shots Laini!

02.01.12

Just went to the mint for the first time last week. I loved it. The pom pom martini is my favorite, love the vibe and the food is sooo good. Had a hard time finding the hidden bathroom but will definitely go back!

02.01.12

I was extremely unimpressed with this place. The food was mediocre to bad (seriously, how hard is it to cook potatoes properly?). The servers and waitstaff were clueless about everything from what was in certain dishes to what’s on their beer menu. There’s far better places for your money.

02.01.12

Thanks, everyone for the compliments on the photos. I really appreciate it.

At for the criticisms of The Mint, and as someone who’s worked in and dined in more restaurants than I could possibly count over the years, I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as a restaurant that doesn’t have an off day or night, especially a new one. What I know about the Mint is that they have had zero turnover of staff since they opened. That is pretty much unheard of in the restaurant business. Domenic is a restaurant pro. This is obvious. I can only speak for my two experiences there, but both were worth every penny. Before you ask, yes, all food was paid for, nothing comped, and the first visit was done without anyone at the restaurant know I was coming or that there was a review in progress.

I also know that it’s not easy to do something new in this Valley. And I give anyone who’s willing to try to introduce a new, somewhat ambitious concept a lot of credit. It’s easy to tear people down. What’s not easy is to actually create something. Something special and unique and beautiful and unpretentious at the same time. That’s what’s happening at The Mint. I encourage people to try it for yourselves and for your own opinion. Don’t take this reviewers or any unimpressed commenters as truth. Make your own.

And in the spirit of full disclosure, The Mint is an advertiser in the pocket guide to Bethlehem. They have a listing in the Dining Section. But if I didn’t genuinely like the place, I wouldn’t pretend to.

02.01.12

And @Marsha (aka my mom, in the spirit of full transparency :), a pretzel roll is just what it sounds like. It’s a roll made of soft pretzel. It’s sliced in half lengthwise and the cheese goes in between. Four cheeses to be exact. It was awesome. And while they are not homemade, I loved, loved, loved the tater tots. Totally took me back.

02.01.12

I just want to clarify something, with Laini’s permission, regarding the turnover. Dom said that there’s been no kitchen turnover since he opened. And yes, that’s really unusual for the restaurant business. There has been, and always will be in restaurants and bars, server turnover.

02.01.12

Thanks for the clarification, Carrie. I misunderstood. Either way, it’s still impressive.

02.01.12

The Mint isn’t exactly new. They opened in May(?) and should have their kinks worked out by now. Secondly, they certainly have lost staff. Where is Zack, the former Bar Manager who was at their Victory Beer dinner?

These aren’t really reviews…they read like Morning Call fluff pieces. I think LVTransplant said it best with: “Susan Gottshall’s restaurant reviews are so overly descriptive and sweetly positive that by the time you get to the end, you feel full.” Same thing here. No big shock since the article’s writer freelances for the Morning Call. Too bad we don’t have people like LVTransplant or Lehigh Valley With Love reviewing restaurants around here. We’d get some honest opinions. We desperately need our own Frank Bruni.

02.01.12

Apologies, didn’t see the new turnover clarifications until after I typed my post.

02.01.12

Miss Jaime K, you are so right. The place is beautiful. And again, not in a pretentious or overdone way. Let’s get a date on the books!

02.01.12

I guess I’m just not that interested in tearing things apart. It’s easy to look for something to be wrong at a restaurant or elsewhere. We have major problems in our society. I’d like to help solve them. Part of what that means to me is promoting local businesses. New businesses, ones which have been around for a few months, and ones who’ve managed to stay in business for years. I also want to create well-made things and work with people who are good at what they do. Anyone can criticize, but can they write? Lenora can. Not every blog exists for the same reason. This one’s here to promote local businesses and show the best theValley has to offer. Most people would enjoy and be thankful for a meal at the Mint. At least I was.

02.01.12

For my money a meal at somewhere like The Mint costs I’d rather have an honest opinion detailing even the bad portions of a business (including the good, of course) than reading fluff articles. There’s a reason people read things like Consumer Reports instead of reading press releases. If your sole purpose is to promote businesses and make money for your business as well (no shame in that) then I would hesitate to call these reviews. The tourism bureau does similar things: extols the virtues of local businesses and doesn’t mention the bad things. However the difference is that they’re a tourism bureau, and publications like your blog, LV Style, The Morning Call, The Express Times, and LV Magazine are not. None of them seem very critical or local restaurants in the slightest and to claim every restaurant in the lehigh valley is a masterpiece is laughable and naive. I wish someone around here would grow some balls and tell it like it is instead of trying to create a happy fairy world where underpar faux-upscale establishments get glossy reviews and people end up disappointed.

02.01.12

Like I said, it’s easy to criticize. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this post. Like Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Maybe you could look into making your own blog, and you could give the kind of restaurant reviews you’re looking to see. You could call it “Unimpressed in thelv” or something like that. Or maybe you have already have. 😉 Either way, I’m sure you’d do a great job. Maybe just chill a little on the harshness. We’re all just human, trying to do the best we can. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. It’s always good to know more about what kinds of posts people like to read.

I will only start doing restaurant reviews if I can also include Joe’s Tavern on the list of having “The most awesome burgers that I don’t wish to know where they came from”.

It’s almost weird that I was having nearly the same conversation this morning. It’s like, in NYC or Philadelphia, etc. you can find restaurants that can really weather the storm of some horrible reviews. But, then you think about the Lehigh Valley and you wonder if a REALLY bad review (true or not) from the Morning Call or some other “widely read” publication, could actually hurt a locally owned place and cause them to shut down.

Now, I’m not saying that locally owned places should be getting any sort of passes in terms of honesty, but, maybe it’s just a way of also pointing out some short comings that are evident. I mean, there always HAVE to be some things that aren’t great with a place.

I think reviews like that can definitely be done. For example, I think Mama Nina’s food in Bethlehem is awesome. However, the way they shuttle people in and out of there like cattle leaves a ton to be desired. I’d rather just order my stuff to go and eat it those huge portions for three weeks.

It has to also be said that it’s super easy to be cynical (I specialize in that). It’s important to take in the whole environment a new Lehigh Valley (non-chain) restaurant undergoes not only to serve you the food, but to open, employee local people, etc. Ugh, but then it sucks to get shitty service and it sucks to feel bad for talking about it.

I think there is some wiggle room in this whole gray area, however. Honesty in reviews needs to be there in order for it to be credible. However, by placing in some bits about what a place can do to get better (or by putting in things that can be improved without super harsh words) I think it can get the point across that local establishments will get local support as long as they respect their customers.

I think it’s hard to review new places honestly. They need a good year or two to get their feet on the ground to the point where they can be ripped apart if needed.

I’m not sure what I’m talking about anymore. Can I review that Kenyan place on Main St? I totally despise that place. But, I love The Cafe on Broad Street and I recently read a bad review on it.

I dunno, opinions are so finicky. Ok, back to coffee. PEACE.

02.01.12

Thank you for your comment, Lehigh Valley with Love. I think you make some very valid points.

And if you would like to do a guest review of The Café for this blog, you’re hired.

I can already tell you that I love the cafe, but I’m a tad weirded out by their waitresses. They are all very mousey. I mean, it’s not BAD, it’s just odd. Also, when you walk in there is some huge cake display thing going on. Never understood that. It’s a thai place, right? Anyway, I’ll keep you updated.

I have to keep my review of the Subway at the Westgate Mall though. That one is going to be just for my site 🙂

02.01.12

I’ve not had a bad experience at The Mint with the drinks, service or food, but the food can be rich and belly-busting and I don’t go there very often. I have to agree with the writer’s review, and there’s good info in the post too.

But if Uninspired had an uninspiring time there, that’s good to know before you go, too.

I’ve had some poor experiences at places where everyone raves about the food. I’m one of the few people, it seems, who’s not a big fan of the Apollo Grill, for example.

I can’t stand Susan Gottshall’s reviews in the Morning Call, I don’t take them seriously at all. Not every morsel at every new restaurant is “toothsome.” This is my 1st visit here but I’ll check back, thanks.

02.01.12

I will say, this is one of the reasons I love photography. I’m much more comfortable (personally) communicating my experiences visually. I think it’s somehow more objective, too. Not that I don’t believe writers, including this writer, to be honest. It may be my own bias. I also have very little patience for finding the right words. Good writers do that. That’s why I like working with people like Lenora and Carrie. They have that gift.

We only ate at the Mint once and enjoyed it. My son lives in Philly and is a foodie (Philly is a great place to eat ! ) and he did liked it. His comment was
why didn’t they have this when I was growing up in Bethlehem. Yes , it might be trendy but so what , lighten up. As a local I’m glad to see our little town shine a bit !!

02.01.12

I hardly have the time to write about restaurants due to my line of work but thanks for the suggestion. Conversation has been good. Where’s this cafe place? Is that the name?

Here is The Cafe’s … really bad website http://www.thecafebethlehem.com/. The food is great and it’s in an old large house, so, you can even eat up in someone’s old master bedroom. It’s Thai inspired American cuisine. It’s a bit pricey, so I’ll go like once or twice a year, but it’s always worth it. Rack o lamb, yo!

02.01.12

I feel the need to intervene here. Uninspired, to lump together Lenora with the Morning Call is inaccurate. She’s a freelancer for many places and writes a column for the MC–she is not a restaurant reviewer for them–and to lump her together with them just because she writes for them is flawed logic. I have known her for ten years and she is one of the best writers I know about food, hands-down, with national and local credentials that speak for themselves, as a writer, recipe developer, and reviewer. Furthermore, she has an excellent palette, and a superior ability to describe food and the whole experience. Her writing reflected her experience, just as your comment reflects yours, Uninspired. I’m sure that you know altogether very well in your experiences with bars and restaurants that these places have kinks, off nights, and missteps because they’re run by humans. However, if she had had a terrible time there, she would have had NO trouble saying that. She’s a total pro and I know Laini would have no problem running a negative review provided it’s balanced and fair, which it would be.

And LVwith Love, yeah, we need honesty. That’s totally your stock and trade, and I love that we have that. It’s also partly why the Pocket Guide lives. It’s not a glorified press release; it’s not in the pocket of the regional tourism people: it’s an independent voice whose online presence grew organically out of a local published guide. We may never have a population demographic that fully appreciates and/or the culinary climate that can support the likes of a Ruth Reichl or Frank Bruni or Craig LaBan, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be honest and fair and that we can’t try. I think the LV suffers at times from lack of perspective; institutions may be too eager to get excited and wave flags and say, “hey, we’re cool too. We have neat things here, too. Look look!” As for me, it is my responsibility as a journalist to be honest and fair; my background (professionally and academically) was most strongly and fully formed by study of reviews and criticism. For example, people around here, for the most part, fell all over themselves when Bolete opened, and talked about how awesome it was–and it is–but there was this idea circulating that Bolete invented farm-to-table in the LV. People have short memories. Michael Adams was ahead of the game in the 90s at the Farmhouse, and pairing beer with food long before that was really anything that was happening on a national scale, too.

In any event, thanks, everyone, for reading, and for all the spirited commentary. I think there are always going to be off nights. If you read Yelp’s reviews, Chowhound’s boards, or Trip Advisor (for hotels), you’ll always find people who had negative and positive experiences. Such is life! That’s why reviews are so important. The comments here illustrate their very vitality and necessity.

02.01.12

Your Comments
Gee, who knew that saying we had an enjoyable lunch (because we *did* have an enjoyable lunch) could be so controversial???

Not sure how the fact that I write The Morning Call’s Scene column relates to any of this. If I’m supposed to be embarrassed to count them among my clients — well, I’m not. 🙂

02.01.12

Your Comments

I am a little confused by all these comments. Simply stated, this is a review by two people. It is based on THEIR expectations, taste buds, and personal preferences. It is well written and honest according to THEIR opinion.
Reviews are just that, an opinion. They are not objective. To the contrary, they are very subjective. As we all know, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”
I use reviews as an insight, not a definitive end in making a decision as to where to go, eat, read or buy. We are all individuals and should use our senses to decide what suits our needs best. Reviews let us know what is out there to investigate, if we so desire.

[…] Put Your Mouth Where the Money Was: Eat at The Mint in Bethlehem […]

[…] Put Your Mouth Where the Money Was: Eat at The Mint in Bethlehem […]

[…] Put Your Mouth Where The Money Was: Eat at The Mint in Bethlehem […]

02.01.12

lsqevui

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required