On the Menu

In '95, the Valley bid farewell to better fare
By Eric Schmoyer

Well, I've been more than a year here in the culinary desert of the Lehigh Valley -- a far cry from my previous Bostonian stomping grounds. Maybe it's not quite fair to say, but the local pizza shops can't compare to the North End, and who can even come close to Mike's pastry's? Even President Clinton had to stop there during his New England wanderings.

While larger cities tend to have plenty of fine scarfing establishments, around these parts they seem to be gems hidden carefully among otherwise nondescript ground. They're there; it just takes a little digging.

As for Italian, a new-found favorite, Pain e Vino, burned down a while back, and no word on the return of brick oven pizza and great pasta to Bethlehem. But they still have a location in Easton, so a little bit of Sicily is just a little further, or closer, depending on your references. Rants 'n  Raves

Fires seem all the rage this year, as Elias Sweet Spoon has fallen victim as well. Unfortunaly the Middle Eastern fare and simply amazing desserts are to be no more. This seems to be the worst casualty of 1995.

From flaming red to Shamrock green -- but not a Christmas present at all, the casualties continue. Far Pavillions, the best Indian restaurant in the Valley, has been unceremoniously replaced by an Irish pub. I happen to be a Guinness fan, but lamb and potato stew just isn't a replacement for the offerings of Tandoori ovens.

Big beef and beer fan are all safe. Gregory's is packing them in like never before. This place rivals even the best Bostonian steak houses for food, and the drink selection isn't to shabby either. They have Sam Adams on Tap. Yeah, I feel better already.

The local selection of Cajun (a personal favorite) and Thai cuisines is still ominously reminiscent of a black hole. You can almost see it but when you get close you realize it just sucks. At least that's the case at a place just outside the Lehigh Valley, south on 309. The name escapes me (probably a defense mechanism), but anything with New Orleans in the name that has no greens, chickory, or anything served with remole sauce on the menu is just bad news. The one good Creole restaurant in the area, a hole-in-the-wall called New Orleans Delights in downtown Allentown, packed it in.

So the theme for '95 could be "Get it while you can." No rising stars have rushed in to replace our losses. Let's hope that '96 has more gains than losses. Maybe we should all chip in and buy Gregory's some extra fire extinguishers just in case.

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