Cuisine of Allentown, PA
The cuisine of Allentown is greatly influenced by the diversity
of the area's population and Allentown's proximity to Philadelphia
and New York City. Popular foods include a local variant of the
cheesesteak, many types of pizza, pierogies, and soft pretzels.
Allentown is a city of great culinary variety. Its long
standing food traditions are based on the regional influence of
Pennsylvania Dutch and Moravian culture, and the traditions
brought with the immigrants who came to Bethlehem Steel through
the late era of the industrial revolution. More recent immigrants
have brought exciting new variety to the food scene as well.
Pennsylvania Dutch foods are very popular. Most of the diners
in the Lehigh Valley area still exhibit a strong Pennsylvania
Dutch influence in their menus. Scrapple is a pudding formed of
pork scraps and cornmeal, served sliced and fried. Liver pudding
is made out of pig liver and head parts, mostly leftovers from the
animal. Head cheese is parts of the head of a pig or calf that are
made into a gelatin and mixed with vegetables.
A variant is souse, made from pig's feet and pickled with
vinegar. Chow-chow is a mixture of pickled vegetables made into a
salad. It is usually sweeter than when it is made in the South.
Lebanon bologna is a sausage that tastes more smoky than others.
Cole slaw is usually served as a side with sandwiches. Apple
butter can be used on toast or used as an ingredient in another
food. Shoofly pie is a somewhat-sweet pie made out of molasses and
Funnel cakes are found at fairs and festivals across the
region. Fasnachts are made for the day before Lent begins. Many of
these treats can be found at the Allentown Farmer's Market,
locally based grocery stores, and local events like fairs.
Slavic and other Eastern European immigrants of the late 19th
and early 20th century brought many of their traditional foods.
For instance, Pierogies are boiled and later fried dumplings. In
common usage they ore often filled with mashed potatoes, sometimes
with cheese and other ingredients.
Traditional pierogies have a much wider variety of fillings,
including saurkraut and meats; these are often available as
handmade delicacies in specialty settings, such as church parish
fairs and ethnic clubs. Other traditional dishes, such as halupki
and goulash, continue to be passed down through generations.
Another Slavic contribution to the culinary scene is a variety
of specialty baked goods, including holiday-specific delicacies
such as kiffles, kolacky, nut rolls and the Easter bread known as
pashka. These can be found at the Allentown Farmer's Market, Egypt
Star Bakery, and Vallos Bakery in nearby Fountain Hill, as well as
many church sales and festivals. Most of these contributions have
been adopted by the region's majority Pennsylvania Dutch
While the ethnic groups that arrived a century or more ago
exert a strong influence over regional cuisine, more recently
arrived ethnic groups also have a great influence on Allentown's
palate. Many Latinos have opened bodegas, small markets or grocery
stores specializing in Latin American cuisine and products. There
are Indian, Thai, Middle Eastern, Greek and Japanese restaurants
and markets, many along Hamilton Boulevard and MacArthur Road. The
Elias Farmer's Market and Sam's Farmer's Market cater to the
Middle Eastern community as well as other ethnic communities in
The Allentown area is also known for casual and
finer dining. Seafood houses such as Youell's Oyster House,
country inns in the suburbs of the city such as the Inn of the
Falcon, and local steakhouses like Gregory's are all renowned.
Allentown is known for a slightly altered version of the Philly
cheesesteak. The chipped beef, cheese, and roll are similar, but
it is usually topped with a special "steak sandwich sauce", which
will be some form of tomato sauce, but NOT ketchup. It is often
typical of Allentown cheesesteaks to feature American, provolone
or mozzarella cheese instead of Cheeze Wiz, which is common in
Along with the sauce, onions come standard, and pickles and
hot peppers are often added upon request. Zandy's Steak Shop, The
Brass Rail, Stahely's and many others in Allentown have this kind
of steak sandwich.
Hoagies are popular in the area due to their creation in
Philadelphia, and like the cheesesteak, every restaurant wants to
compete to be the best. Also like in Philadelphia, Wawa
convenience stores are prevalent and popular.
Pepper Pot is a soup originally from Philadelphia that is made
of tripe, meat, potatoes, and vegetables.
Allentown's proximity to New York has led to the area having
some great pizza. Pizza shops can be found scattered throughout
the city, with residents arguing over who has the best pizza in
The soft pretzel dates back to 7th century France and was
brought over to Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Dutch in
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Soft pretzels are sold at various
places and vendors across the city.
Water ice and ice cream were not invented in the area but are
popular because of the very hot and humid summers. There are
specialty "microbrew" ice cream producer-shops in the Lehigh
Valley, including Nuts About Ice Cream in Bethlehem.
Until the locally owned Hess' department store closed in the
early 1990s, it's in-store restaurant was a local mainstay; a
visit to the restaurant was an eagerly anticipated coming of age
rite for many an Allentown child. Its strawberry pie, in
particular, was renowned and is still remembered with great
affection by locals. Many bakers enjoy the competition of trying
to redact the "Hess' Strawberry Pie" from these cherished
memories, and these recipes and memories are periodic features in
A well-known fast food restaurant chain is Yocco's Hot Dogs.
Yocco's Hot Dogs has hot dogs made with any toppings, but they
suggest their own creation. Yocco's traditional hot dogs come with
onions, mustard, and the family's original chili sauce. Yocco's
has six locations in the Allentown area.
Beer is a popular drink in the Lehigh Valley, as is in any city
across the country. Yuengling, the country's oldest brewery, is
based in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Their beer is very popular
throughout the region. The Lehigh Valley also hosts several craft
brewers, including the Allentown Brew Works, Brew Works on the
Green, and the Bethlehem Brew Works in Bethlehem. Nearby Emmaus
hosts Shangy's, one of the most comprehensive beer distributors in
A-Treat soda is made in Allentown and is available mostly in
eastern Pennsylvania only.
Just Born candy factory is located
in Bethlehem and is the maker of Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales, ZOURS,
and Marshmallow Peeps. Josh Early Candies, made locally, has a
store on Linden Street in Bethlehem and a store on Tilghman Street
Allentown hosts many of the fast-food and casual dining chains
typically found across the United States.
Allentown Farmers Market is the largest market in the area. The
market has independent retailers selling produce and meat. Elias
Farmers Market has two locations in the Valley. Valley Farm Market
has a location in Allentown and in Bethlehem. Other local markets
operate here as well as chain supermarkets, such as Weis Markets,
Wegman's, Giant, Pathmark, PriceRite, Redner's, IGA, Stop & Shop,
Ahart's Great VALU, C-Town, ShopRite, Aldi, and Bottom Dollar
The Lehigh Valley AVA is an officially-designated American
Viticultural Area located in the Allentown area. The wine region
includes 230 acres (93 ha) of vineyards and 9 wineries. An average
of about 20 percent of Pennsylvania's wine is made from grapes
grown in the Lehigh Valley.