Monday, July 18, 2011

Friday night out in Easton

My dear high school friend was visiting her family for the weekend and set aside Saturday night to visit with my FH and me.

It's been a while since she's been "out" in the Lehigh Valley and she was staying on the east side of the area, so I suggested dinner at Sogo in downtown Easton. It really has come a long way in the last 15 years, and I hoped she'd be impressed.

I didn't count on the street closures related to the Crayola Factory's 15th Anniversary being an impediment to our travel for a 7:30 p.m. dinner reservation. We who are familiar with Easton handily avoided the barricades and found a parking space (meter parking is free after 6 p.m.). But our friend was forced to navigate a series of one way streets through an area that is less than desirable to be lost in. She ultimately found a space on Northampton Street and arrived at the restaurant just a few minutes after we did.

We'd already put our names in for a table on the outdoor patio (one of the best in Easton IMHO - covered and above street level). Before we could even order a drink at the inside bar, we were whisked away by the hostess and seated al fresco. We enjoyed our delicious meal of sushi, edamame and sashimi, and shared a bottle of wine. Though the service wasn't remarkable, our orders were accurate, and our server was completely unobtrusive to our conversation and we were not left waiting.

Our friend suggested ice cream after dinner, but we knew that Purple Cow Creamery had already closed for the night (it was after 9 p.m.), so we offered to walk her to her car. On the way, we heard some laughing and talking going on inside Connexions Gallery. We stopped in and caught Anthony Marracini and a large group of art lovers in the middle of this event, a festive art auction for a program called Lehigh Valley Art Wars, which earlier this year pitted 16 artists against each other in a timed and themed paint-off. In the contest, these 16 artists were whittled down until the audience and jury decided on one winner. The winner, Alexander Clare, received $1000 and a solo gallery show. I had heard about the art wars but had not paid much attention to the contest. Maybe you'll recognize his work from Brew Works...

After we parted ways with our friend, we determined that we'd swing by the newly-opened Black and Blue on the way home. We found street parking one block away (in the direction of the Northampton County Courthouse). When we walked in the door, the bar was full but the restaurant area was empty, and the crowd was decidedly young and hip. Music was playing over a PA system - loud but not noisy. The bar's 12 microbrews on tap were listed on a chalkboard on the wall. We both caught up with people we hadn't seen in a while and tasted some delicious beer. It felt like Porter's and Which Brew and some of my favorite cozy Washington, DC, bars, wrapped in one. We'll definitely be back to sample some of Black and Blue's popular menu items as well.

If you are going out for dinner, even sort of last minute, I would encourage you to try to "make it a night" instead of just going to a restaurant. That could mean going to some place for a drink, stopping by an art gallery, or seeing a free concert in the park, a show at a theater, or a baseball game before your meal, or getting ice cream after (if you are finished earlier than we are). It might take a little bit of research, but it can really make an evening memorable.

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