Foodie fairyland beckons
Nine vendors offer variety of cuisines and drinks starting Thursday along ArtsWalk
Hungry for sushi, steak frites or a sundae? Craving falafel, fried chicken or a formaggio pizza? How about bao buns, baklava, butter-griddled naan, a banh mi burger, bulgogi beef cheesesteak, blueberry doughnut or bourbon cocktail?
No matter what your taste buds are craving, there’s a good chance they’ll be satisfied at the Downtown Allentown Market, scheduled to open 5 p.m. Thursday on Allentown’s ArtsWalk.
The 12,000-square-foot market, next to Queen City BBQ, features the Robert Irvine-led Fresh Kitchen and eight local food and beverage vendors, including sweet spots such as a doughnut shop and microcreamery and savory destinations such as an artisan pizza shop and Middle Eastern eatery.
City Center Investment Corp., which owns the building, spent the past several months overhauling the space that previously housed clothing stores Sage and Aquarius.
The market features new flooring, kitchen equipment, spherical white pendant lighting and an Allentown road map wall mural.
Some vendors offer counter seating, and there’s also a variety of dining areas that feature couches, communal tables and high-top seating.
The market, next to Queen City BBQ, is smaller than the 4-year-old Easton Public Market, which has 16 vendors and totals 16,000 square feet, as well as the 19,000-square-foot Trolley Barn Public Market, slated to open early next year at 116 E. Broad St. in Quakertown.
“We hope we’ve created a really fun environment where people can come and enjoy the food, their friends and family, and then stay downtown, visit some of the stores and just really enjoy all of what downtown Allentown has to offer,” said Natalia Stezenko, City Center’s retail leasing and activation manager. “We really thought about what types of cuisine we wanted in here ahead of time and then sought
out multiple options in each of those categories. I think we got the best of the best.”
Here’s what you can sink your teeth into starting this week:
The startup will offer 16 rotating flavors of made-fromscratch, premium ice cream and sorbets, along with floats, milkshakes and ice cream flights, tacos and nachos.
Ten signature sundaes such as Maple Bits (homemade waffle, espreso ice cream, pure maple syrup and bacon bits) will be available as well as hard milkshakes with alcohol such as Banana Creme Pie, Boozy Chocolate and Spiked Samoa.
“I was born and raised in south Allentown, so when this opportunity arose, I immediately jumped at the chance to give back to my community,” owner Rick Pongracz said. “I was born when Hess’s was leaving downtown Allentown, so seeing the revitalization of the area, with new restaurants and retailers drawing people back, is amazing.”
Batch’s fall flavors include pumpkin, caramel apple and cranberry apple. A veganfriendly ice cream made with coconut milk is coming soon.
You also can purchase ATreat soda, Funk beer and ice cream pints to-go.
The 4-year-old, Lansdale distillery offers an array of premium spirits, including a “core lineup of vodka, rum and gin,” and a “Fresh” line of flavored vodkas — citrus, cranberry and ginger, co-owner Marat Mamedov said.
Local ingredients, including corn, grains and apples from Frecon Farms in Boyertown, are incorporated into all of the spirits.
“We don’t use any artificial flavoring, food coloring, juices or concentrates,” Mamedov said. “Everything is made with real ingredients.”
About a dozen signature cocktails, $8-$12, include a cranberry fizz, gin gimlet and smoked old fashioned.
The distillery’s outpost also will feature six beer and wine taps, tiki cocktails and bottle sales.
“Clean products allow us to curate an awesome cocktail menu that showcases the quality of the spirits,” Mamedov said. “We’re looking forward to bringing some great drinks to the Lehigh Valley — everything from the standard to the unique.”
Doughnut Love, started by Susan Ott in 2017, has become a big hit at the Easton Farmers Market.
Each day, the Allentown shop will offer four to six flavors from the business’ catalog of more than 40 varieties, including popular selections such as apple cider, chocolate peanut butter cup, cookies and cream and matcha ginger. Vegan and gluten-free options are available.
“My husband and I really enjoy coming to downtown Allentown because we love trying new restaurants and attending events at the PPL Center, so it just seemed like a no-brainer to add to that evolving food scene,” Ott said. “My husband and I also have six children, so when we go out on a date night, we like to make it good because it doesn’t happen often.”
Doughnut Love also will sell Monocacy Coffee Co. beverages along with other sweet treats such as cookies, muffins, cinnamon rolls, scones, dessert bars and breads such as banana and pumpkin.
Fresh Kitchen by Robert Irvine
Celebrity chef Robert Irvine, star of “Restaurant Impossible” and “Dinner Impossible,” will open the second location of his Fresh Kitchen by Robert Irvine concept, supplementing a location at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.
It will offer high-quality, creative dishes, including “table bites” such as carbonara mac ‘n’ cheese and curry feta fries; “hand helds” such as carne asada street tacos and pesto and a portobello mushroom grilled cheese panini; and “dinner plates” such as tandoori naan and chicken curry and maple bourbon-glazed salmon.
“These are all [Irvine’s] creations from traveling all around the world,” general manager and executive chef David Crespo said.
The downtown Allentown menu is “completely different” than that of Irvine’s Pentagon restaurant, according to Crespo, who attained a culinary arts degree from the Art Institute of Philadelphia.
He labels the Mother Clucker fried chicken sandwich and ahi tuna and salmon chirasi bowl as “menu highlights.”
“Everything is fresh and healthy,” Crespo said. “We also have a power bowl with a lot of protein, including two fried eggs, Italian sausage, kale, broccolini, avocado and spinach.”
Irvine will make appearances at the Downtown Allentown Market several times a year.
Licensed 2 Grill @ The Market
Licensed 2 Grill @ The Market is a Southern diner concept from Robert and Diane Johnson, who also operate a nearly 3-year-old eatery in Emmaus and a food truck.
Customers will find familiar favorites such as gourmet burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches available in various styles, including Hawaiian, Philly and banh mi, along with new “Southern food with a Northeast flair” such as fried okra, fried green tomatoes, a Kansas City ribeye sandwich, St. Louis pork loin sandwich and New Orleans fish, chicken and shrimp po’ boys, Robert Johnson said.
“I’m channeling my roots and putting my own chefy twist on all the dishes I’ve known and loved from a young age,” said Robert Johnson, who grew up in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
The business’ second iteration also will feature breakfast items such as breakfast burritos and biscuits with sausage gravy, along with local beer and made-fresh-daily drinks such as sweet tea, cherry limeade and seasonal lemonade, available with a shot of moonshine, gin or vodka from Emmaus’ Triple Sun Spirits.
Little Miss Korea
Little Miss Korea, an authentic Korean concept with a 1year-old location at the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market, will offer a variety of made-to-order Korean dishes, including homemade dumplings such as chicken and spinach and kale, make-your-own bibimbap (rice, noodle or salad bowls with your choice of protein, sauce and other toppings), bao buns (steamed white buns stuffed with your choice of toppings) and sandwiches, including a bulgogi cheesesteak and kielbasa with kimchi.
Owned and operated by 24year-old Lobynn Cha, Little Miss Korea also will offer modern twists on classic dishes.
For example, one of the eatery’s most popular selection is fries topped with caramelized kimchi, cheese, gochujang aioli and choice of meat. The kimchi is made from scratch by Cha’s mom, Youme.
“I think [the market] is a concept that the entire Valley will love,” Cha said. “It’s fast, fresh and different.”
The business, which has also become a presence at the Easton and Emmaus farmers markets, also will sell homemade drinks such as chai iced lattes and cocktails such as green plum soju slushies.
For fans of Asian cuisine, Shinsen is a sushi and poke bowl concept from the owners of the 5-year-old Asian Bistros II on Schoenersville Road in Bethlehem.
Shinsen will offer more than two dozen regular rolls, 16 signature sushi rolls (eight cooked and eight raw), sashimi, poke bowls and appetizers such as edamame, shrimp tempura and seaweed salad.
It will feature some of Asian Bistros II’s most popular signature rolls, including Sex in the City (spicy tuna, tempura eel and avocado wrapped in pink soy paper and topped with lobster salad, red tobiko and eel in honey wasabi sauce), owner Daisy Chow said.
“Shinsen in Japanese means ‘fresh’ and that’s what we will be striving for,” Chow said. “We’ll be looking for the freshest fish to make our sushi. Freshness will always be the most important to us.”
Pizza lovers will soon have a new haven at Tavola, a startup artisan pizza and signature pasta concept using locally sourced ingredients.
You’ll be able to build your own 10-inch, personal-style pizza or choose one of the vendor’s signature creations such as the “Butcher Block,” with pepperoni, ham, bacon, meatballs and sausage.
The business, owned by husband and wife Anthony and Melissa Diem, also will sell pastas such as macaroni and cheese, salads such as antipastos and caprese, desserts such as cannolis and bottles of wine.
Anthony labels the “classic” pizza al taglio, with Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce, as a highlight.
“Pizza al taglio has a thick crust,” Melissa said. “It’s airy in the middle and crispy on the bottom — almost like foccacia. Those will be sold in slices.”
Rounding out the market’s lineup is Zahra, a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean concept from the Younes family, who operates Allentown’s Aladdin restaurant, which originated in 1981 on Second Street before moving to its current location on Union Boulevard in 1999.
Zahra will offer a condensed menu of Aladdin’s selections, with highlights including chicken and steak shawarma (available in a wrap or bowl), falafel and fattoush salads, Zahra owner Samantha Younes said.
It also will offer grab-and-go items such as hummus, babaganoush, tabouli and labne along with specialty beverages such as Turkish coffee and fresh-brewed teas.
“If you’re in a rush and literally want your lunch in your hand in 30 seconds, we have a great grab-and-go menu,” Younes said.
Zahra, which means “cauliflower” in Arabic, is a nod to one of Aladdin’s most popular dishes, arnabit (fried cauliflower with tahini sauce), which also will be available at the market, Younes said.
The downtown spot will serve local beers such as Funk and Bonn Place, along with international selections such as Almaza from Lebanon and Goldstar from Israel.
The market, which features a newly constructed outdoor patio, will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Live music will be offered 8-10 p.m. Saturdays and happy hours will be held 5-7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays.
Vendors serve samples of their menus during a preview night at the new Downtown Allentown Market on Tuesday night. The market will open to the public on Thursday.