Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lehigh Valley Patio Guide

I am a big fan of dining al fresco, drinking on a rooftop deck, and playing outside in the fresh air. When I lived in DC, On Tap published a photo-illustrated patio guide each spring, which I used as a checklist for all the hot spots to visit that offered table service outdoors. Some were distinctly urban, a few cafe tables on the sidewalk. Others were more elaborate, and offered a respite from the rush of the city (I'm thinking of Firehook Bakery's Cleveland Park garden patio). 

I wish there was such a thing in the Lehigh Valley, but for now you've got to settle for little old Lehigh Valley Transplant

Props to Carole Gorney from Lehigh Valley Marketplace for her piece. Definitely read it. I've treaded on the patios at Edge, Vintage Restaurant at the Club at Morgan Hill, and Bolete with my strappy sandals. It doesn't hurt that all three have fantastic food, phenomenal service, and kind of a "getaway" feel, despite being minutes from the action. 

I recently visited Cosmopolitan Restaurant in downtown Allentown for the first time in a few months. The restaurant opened its rooftop deck again to dining and drinking. It is one of the most stunning urban vistas in the Lehigh Valley, and the food is superb. The chef, formerly of Melt, has developed a great seasonal menu. If you are looking for a great place to spend happy hour, say on a warm Friday night with friends (a la Melt’s Level 3), keep it in mind. It’s one of the only places in downtown Allentown with free valet parking and is within walking distance to the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley, the Baum School and the Allentown Symphony Hall.  

Mark's cousin Jenelle called last night to ask our recommendations for an evening of drinks and fun with the girls. We suggested ArtsQuest's Steelstacks campus, since there's always live free music (Th-Sun nights all summer), table service (or order at the bar if you prefer), and a chill vibe. If they wanted more action later, there's always nearby JP McGrady's for a very casual patio experience. I can't believe I just recommended McGrady's and Cosmopolitan in the same blog post, but there you have it. We saw a jazz band perform at SteelStacks last Saturday night, and had a blast. We usually bring camping chairs and hang out on the lawn, but our guests forgot their chairs and we wanted to show them a different perspective. We took the elevator to the second floor and sat at a table outside on the Sands Deck (not at the casino - just sponsored by the Sands). There were only a few other tables occupied, and we purchased drinks and ice cream from the concessions stand on the ground floor. We had a great vantage point to watch the sun go down and the uplights come up on the blast furnaces.

After a class at St. Luke's Hospital, Mark and I enjoyed a late dinner at Molinari's, also very close to SteelStacks on the South Side of Bethlehem. The menu is inspired northern and central Italian (do not ask for the tour of Italy or garlic bread or extra marinara), my favorite. Their patio allows for great people watching on Third Street. Service is slower than at the Coopersburg Diner but absolutely worth the wait. We enjoyed our appetizers and drinks on the patio and got a wood oven pizza to go. 

What's your favorite patio spot? Should someone (Laini? :) ) publish a patio guide for the Lehigh Valley?


  1. Megan

    Thank you for your comments. I am very sorry service was slow. We recognize this and are working hard to improve that area. Lastly, I really appreciate you coming and I hope you will come again.
    Fran Molinari, owner

  2. Thanks, Megan - some good suggestions here....The patio at Limeport Inn is the most beautiful and tranquil, in my opinion and the food is wonderful!! ALSO: The former Hawthorne House (off East Broad St., Bethlehem) is under renovation. Driving by, I noticed that a lovely outdoor dining area is under construction. Also love Starters at Bethlehem Municipal....nice deck and beautiful views of the course. I agree....that we definitely need more al fresco locations. Hopefully, more southside Beth and the new places planned for downtown Allentown will develop these special areas to dine!

  3. Fran, good things come to those who wait. If people want speedy diner service, they should go to the Coop(ersburg Diner). If they want a lovely evening with beautiful atmosphere, attentive service and good food, they should go to Molinari's.

    Sharon, thanks so much for the suggestions! I love the Limeport Inn, I've never sat outside, though! I will give it a try. And I'll keep my eyes peeled for the Hawthorne House's newest incarnation. Hope you are well!