Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Latin food in the Lehigh Valley

my lunch - a beef burrito (just eh) and chicken and cheese taco (YUM). Hot sauce on the left.

Danielle and I had lunch at General Zapata (15 East 4th Street, South Side Bethlehem, a.k.a. GZ) last week. I'd been there a couple of times before (notably, once with the gang from RenewLV) and even ordered some quesadillas for a little office open house we held last Friday night.

The restaurant's name pays tribute to the former Zapata's Place (ZP) on Stefko Boulevard, where Rick worked for 10 years. Rick told me that even the hot sauce on each table is an homage to ZP's owner. Rick's extended family operates Amigo Mio (545 Cleveland Street, Allentown), a place known as much for its incredible food as it is for its strict rules (open 6-9 p.m., cash only, long waits because staff is limited). In addition to great Mexican, General Zapata's also includes cuisine from Rick and Carmen's Puerto Rican heritage. Rick makes the tortillas from SCRATCH, people. That means they are seriously fresh and chewy, not rubbery from refrigeration like the kind you get at many Mexican places. He also sources his beef and some other ingredients locally.

GZ open its 30-seat Mexican/Caribbean fusion dining room in May. When it's full (as it's been many lunches and dinners since it received a positive review from The Morning Call), it's tough to get in. I adore this size of restaurant; many are BYOBs and usually, the owner's in the back cooking up a storm or in the front, making sure everyone is comfortable. Sette Luna (219 Ferry St., Easton) started out about that size (before expanding into the space next-door). Sagra Bistro (620 Main St., Hellertown) seats about 30 in the dining room. The Cafe (221 W. Broad St., Bethlehem) probably seats about 50 in two separate, intimate rooms. You get a cozy feeling in a place that size. I know there are other restaurants this size - did I miss any gems?

Speaking of Mexican, Danielle told me that Fiesta Ole is opening where Fuddrucker's was (2955 Linden Street, Bethlehem), and then I read about it in Retail Watch. She is not the first person to tell me that Fiesta Ole is good stuff. But Mike at Beyond Scrapple (and Capri) panned it, so I'll need to investigate for myself. There are now three locations (in addition to Bethlehem, at 1116 Chestnut Street, Emmaus and 1808 MacArthur Road, Whitehall) in the Valley and two in Reading.


  1. Speaking of Fiesta Ole, when I went to the Emmuas location (the Whitehall location isn't open yet), there were more things I liked about it than I didn't like about it: http://lehighvalley.typepad.com/insite/2009/06/fiesta-ole.html. I'd say, It's definitely worth a try. - Jenny

  2. Anonymous12/15/2009

    I have you ever tried Mex-tex Trio In Easton.. Heard they were good.

  3. Yes! In fact, Becca and Cody just reminded me about it last night and we couldn't remember the name. They lived in Texas prior to moving to the LV, so when they recommend a Mexican place... I listen.

  4. Mexico Lindo on Main St. in Bethlehem, all the way.