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Food Shopping/Cheap Eats in the Lehigh Valley

  • m

As NYC-ers who've been spending lots of time in the LV, we've been checking out the non-Wegmans shopping and the cool (read inexpensive, low-key, non-chain) places to eat with a 10-year-old. This is what we have so far and I'm hoping other LV chowhounds will tell us what we're missing!


Amelia's Grocery Outlet (Chain store, 4628 Tilghman) -- some great deals here, mostly on snack foods. The key to Amelia's is checking the expiration dates carefully and figuring out what's OK past the date (sometimes way past the date) and what isn't. We've gotten excellent prices on yogurt drinks, OJ, pretzels and some frozen foods. The people are super-nice and will let you make timely returns with receipt. Cash/debit only, closed Sundays.

Aldi's (Chain store)-- mostly good prices on the basics -- milk, eggs, cheese, baking supplies. Closed Sundays.

Queen's health food (Chain store). Good prices on stuff like cashew butter.

The Farmer's Market in Allentown late Saturday afternoon. Prices are high until the end of the day and even then... We love the bread place and the kiffles are excellent. Love looking through the selections of Penn Dutch foods.

Valley Farm Market (610-867-4600) -- the most amazing selection of bagged nuts and candies hard to find anywhere else. Lots of chocolate-covered stuff, penny-candy-type stuff. Good produce, though sometimes on the high side.

Latino Grocery on S. 3rd, I think. Never been. Anyone?

Middle Eastern grocers -- We like going to Sam's and Elias's for produce that we eat the same day. Decent hummous, baba ganouj and olives. Good prices on spices and nuts.
We LOVE Soumaya's home-baked pita bread and their baklawa, as well as their meat pies. Soumaya's has become our favorite place to look around, even though it's tiny.

I haven't been blown away by the tiny farmer's market in Bethlehem near Lehigh U on Thursdays in the summer. The Middle Eastern table's OK, nice people. Anyone have suggestions?


The burritos at Tulum were pretty good, a little off the beaten burrito path. We also liked the burritos at La Lupita (4 W. 4th in Bethlehem)

--Pho Vung Tao in Allentown. We used to go all the time, haven't been recently. Is it still good?
--Little Saigon was delicious but we came away with major MSG headaches.
--Cafe Phuong (4th St. N. of Tilghman) gave us our first unfriendly LV experience. We walked in, all conversation stopped. The owner told us "no Bahn mi." We walked out.

We always order from Mi Chong (Allentown's better than Bethlehem). Nothing out of the ordinary, but dependable.

Middle Eastern
Aladdin-- Is it closed?

We found Nawab unimpressive -- is there something better out there?

Puerto Rican
We've heard great things about El Caribe (which we can't find) and La Favorita, both in Bethlehem. We're going to try La Favorita next time we're nearby. Anyone been?

The Cup/The Bethlehem Dairy Store -- yum. And Rita's is always fun.
Anyone tried Tulip's Cafe and Creamery at the Crystal Spring Farm in Schnecksville?

We love LV diners, though recent experiences have been disappointing. The Trivet seems to have lost quality in it's new fancified incarnation, the Bethlehem Diner had at least one waitress from hell, there are other diners that still have big smoking sections that encroach on the non-smoking. But usually if we order one of the Penn Dutch specialties anywhere (chicken or corn pot pie, chicken croquettes (!)), we've been pretty happy.

Vegan Treats Bakery sounds great. Anyone been?

That's it for now. Opinions please!

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  1. A couple of things to add...

    Wert's on 18th St for one of the best burgers in the area.

    Egypt Star bakery on Hamilton has some of the best bread and rolls I've had anywhere.

    When in the mood, I like a Yacco's hot dog.

    1. Crystal Spring Dairy is worth it for the milk, if you're not coming from too too far away. Noticeably better than supermarket stuff, although it does not last as long in the fridge. Good bacon also, and corn on the cob. I don't think there is anything too special about the ice cream, but it is nice to sit on the outdoor deck in summer and appreciate the aroma of the nearby cows. (I'm not being sarcastic... but I am from the country.) I would rather eat food at the Neffs Hotel in that area. The drive-in in Ironton ain't bad at all for soft-serve.

      Paolo's in Northampton offers very tasty sit-down, come-as-you-are Italian. Also have enjoyed the place by Indian Creek golf course, formerly Basili's Gaden, cannot recall current name (changed due to owner's whim).

      I had a good Indian meal (despite indifferent service) right in the middle of Emmaus once, but cannot remember the name. Palace of Something. Also in Emmaus, be sure to check out Shangy's beer distributors, if you at all enjoy beer. Their inventory is rather stupefying.

      Grumpy's BBQ Roadhouse on Mauch Chunk, a few miles north of the LV mall area. It's not fancy but it is good smoked 'cue. I have yet to track down the mobile bbq operation in Walnutport...

      Yocco's has grown on me. I thought it was abhorrent growing up, but now sometimes make an effort to get a couple dogs and blazing hot pierogies.

      3 Replies
      1. re: SteveK

        Steve--is this the place? Looks great! Think it's still there?


        1. re: SteveK

          Yes, Yacco's! Seventy five years feeding Muhlenberg students can't be missed(Liberty St. location)!
          Even my 91 yr old mother loves them.

          1. re: SteveK

            another neat hot dog place:
            114 W. Fairview (Just off Main Street)
            Bethlehem PA
            (610) 865-6644
            I like bacon, american cheese and ketchup
            My husband is a traditionalist: Chili cheese with mustard and onions

          2. i second both grumpy's and yoccos.there is also a newer bbq place on 37th off of lehigh that was good

            1. Another really great ice cream place is Nuts About Ice Cream (610) 861-7733 at 1124 Linden Street. Alot of great flavors, owners are super-friendly.

              1. Don't forget Josh Early Candies on Tilghman Street in Allentown. (There's another location in Bethlehem, too.)

                I'll second Ehmer's Meats. It's a great German-owned place that carries a lot of imported sweets around the holidays, as well as good German breads and canned goods, in addition to their excellent meats.

                1. I love House of Chen for Chinese food. Family owned and operated. Food is always excellent!

                  Dumplings are the best! Still made by hand! Delish!

                  Also, for non-alcoholic drinks, the Polynesian punch has always been my favorite!

                  El Barrio on Hamilton for chicharonnes and pastillerios! Yum!

                  Don't forget Yocco's, an Allentown staple!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: coeurvide

                    Great posts! Wish Josh Early had tours -- and it looks like there are about 3 new boutique chocolate places that sprouted up in Bethlehem alone.

                    Reporting back some more: Vegan Treats is an amazing place for the non-dairy crowd (they do a lot of business in NYC) and our non-vegan son really enjoyed their "cheesecake" (have yet to try their chocolate/pb bombe). Items seem to average $6.50 each. http://www.vegantreats.com/

                    We had nice meals at La Favorita and El Caribe, both in Bethlehem, even though we got to each around 6pm when they were closing (on Saturday--looks like the time to go is lunch weekends or any time on weekdays). Proprieters at each were friendly and we tried everything they still had left. Enjoyed the pastelitos, and for $1-$2 they're a perfect walking-around-town snack.

                    La Favorita
                    Mon-Fri 10:00 am to 6:30 am (not sure about weekends
                    )1053 East 3rd Street
                    Bethlehem, PA

                    El Caribe Restaurant
                    558 BROADWAY
                    BETHLEHEM, PA
                    18015-2851 (610)867-9072

                    For some reason am not getting alerted to the posts, but will keep checking back for all your recs. Thanks!

                  2. Hi Mooms,
                    there is an underrated italian restaurant in Bethlehem, DAVINCI's. It is on 512, north of 22 by a few miles.
                    For Chinese, EASTERN STAR, i think its called, is in the WALMART shopping center on rt 191. The place looks very nice, and the times I have been there its always tasted pretty good, but do not order takeout there, the one time I did that, the bags were greasy and everything was horrible.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nettmutt

                      A friend gave me a menu for Asia (1102 E. Susquehanna Street, Allentown, 610-798-7777), said it's her new favorite Chinese. Haven't been there yet, but tried some of her eggplant dish which was blessedly spicy. We're here through Musikfest so hope to have some more good news. These recs will keep us busy!

                    2. One of my favorite places is Damascus (Syrian/Middle Eastern) on N. 2nd in Allentown. I live in NJ and look for excuses to get out that way for a kibbe, fatoush salad and lamb kabab fix. They make great homemade bread on Thursdays.

                      1. OK...whoever recommended Jak-E's for panini, thanks so much -- can't find your post!
                        Loved our roast beef/cheddar/red onion, and it fed 2 adults, 1 child, and one very spoiled dog. The fresh thick-cut fries were delicious, especially smeared in the special mayos (we chose garlic). Prices are reasonable, given the size of the sandwiches, $5-10. Great place to visit after hiking the park on Jacobsburg Road.
                        The Jake-e Potatoe Co. 6070 Sullivan Trail, Plainfield Twsp.
                        M-Th 11-8pm, Fri & Sat 11-8:30pm

                        He also accepts Visa/MC/AmEx and long may he prosper.

                        1. Olive Branch in Bethlehem is a great Middle Eastern restauraunt. Good baba ganoujsh (sp??), arnabit, nice fish on Fridays and Saturday. BYOB. sometimes crowded, other times empty - call ahead. AMAZING DESERTS!! made on premises by owner. I won't tell you our favorite because my husband would kill me. We often buy the whole "pie" to take home - much to my chagrin (lots of calories!)
                          Olive Branch
                          355 Broadway
                          Bethlehem, PA 18015
                          Phone: (610) 814-0355

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: kathknows

                            Enjoyed the lamb-y gyro at Aci Halal, the Turkish restaurant/grocery in Allentown (34 N. 2nd), and are looking forward to trying the vegetarian meze platter -- everything in the case looked fresh. We also enjoy the gyros at Gyros Queen in Allentown (1601 W. Liberty St).

                            Ate well on a Wednesday at the vegan Balasia booth in the Allentown Plaza Growers Market -- a friend and I split portobello bbq and a tofu bbq sandwiches. Though I don't need brown rice inside an enormous pita bread (more grilled vegetables instead, please?), the food was really tasty.

                            Had terrible soft-serve at Jack's in Allentown (24 flavors, though all they do is add flavors to basic vanilla) but luckily the fly topping didn't cost extra.

                            Swooned over the brisket at Tex's bbq in Schnecksville. We stopped because of the incredible smell wafting from their truck on 309. The man who ordered before us got an extra drumstick in his meal because, the woman inside explained, the legs they got in their shipment were too small. We'll be back -- they're only around weekends. Though we love Grumpy's bbq, Tex's just became another favorite:


                            5 Guys burgers were good; the fries are great. We went to the 5 Guys on Tilghman St; there's a new one in the Airport Rd. mall area, near the new Target.

                            We and now our friends crave the flan sold by the Hogar Crea guys -- we've picked up at their headquarters in Freemansburg, and outside a church Sundays on 4th St on Bethlehem's South Side, right near Sunrise Valley Donuts.

                            Sunrise Valley donuts (102 E. 4th St, Bethlehem) have amazing sour cream cake donuts with maple topping. We like the chocolate-topped ones, too, but the maples are our favorites. Wish they always had them.

                            Hope you all have a restful Labor Day.

                            1. re: mooms

                              For meats and all sorts of great things (Original Moxie soda as well as rocky mountain oysters) you have to check out Dietrich's.


                              1. re: lost squirrel

                                Thanks! Do they have a stall in the A'town Farmers Mkt? I'm unfamiliar with Moxie. Will check it out.

                                My son's thrilled there's now a Melting Pot (fondue place) in Bethlehem, but it ain't cheap.

                          2. Unfortunately Dietrich's is not in Allentown's Farmers Market. They are in the Renningers Farmers market in Kutztown, but if you are in Allentown, their Krumsville store is probably closer, as well as having a greater selection.
                            They have an unsurpasssed selection of Pa Dutch meats. Their pies are also generally excellant -except for the shoefly, which oddly I've only found average. Their pickles and preserves are also first rate.
                            Oh, and Moxie is a New England soda- hard to find around here. It has a strong almost medicinal flavor I'm told by New England friends its an acquired taste. I have yet to acquire a liking for it.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: brookquarry

                              Moxie is made with gentian root, it's kind of like a bitter nasty medicinal root beer or birch beer. I don't know why, but I like it and can't stop buying it whenever I see it.

                              Come to think of it, I may have found a 6-pack in the A-town Farmers Market once (perhaps at the end where the 'grocery store' type place is.) Sorry, I haven't been there for about 5 years so my memory is a bit hazy.

                              As for the A-town market, check out Mr Bills Turkey London Broil. Mr Bill is a great guy, and he really knows his poultry.

                              Chicken pot pies at the Rotisserie chicken shop (bottom of the ramp - kind of middle market - underneath seafood place) are pretty good from my memory as well.