Foodie fairy­land beck­ons

Nine ven­dors of­fer va­ri­ety of cuisines and drinks start­ing Thurs­day along Art­sWalk

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Ryan Kneller

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:

Batch Mi­cro­cre­am­ery

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.

Board­room Spir­its

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

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.

Shin­sen

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.”

Tavola

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.”

Zahra

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.

AMY SHORTELL/THE MORN­ING CALL

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.

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