Brisk weather, vibrant foliage and pent-up energy from a months-long lockdown comprise ideal conditions for an outdoor adventure this fall. So, take a hike!
No, seriously, lace up your hiking boots and head out to explore the Lehigh Valley’s many scenic trails.
For people who relish their outdoor feats with a side of tasty eats, a new dining destination in West Penn Township, near the Lehigh-Schuylkill County border, provides the perfect spot to satisfy both cravings.
Thunderhead Lodge, specializing in made-from-scratch American comfort food such as meatloaf, macaroni and cheese and turkey pot pie, opened in the spring at the former Blue Mountain Summit Restaurant at 2520 W. Penn Pike, right where the Appalachian Trail crosses Route 309.
“People can park in our lot and take a short path directly to the trail,” co-owner Meredith Prange said of the restaurant’s access to the iconic Maine-to-Georgia footpath. “We welcome a wide variety of hikers — from day hikers to through hikers — as we are in a very convenient place to refuel.”
Meredith and her husband, Stephen, bought the decades-old building in August 2019, with plans to renovate it and open their restaurant within six months.
The Lynn Township couple installed kitchen equipment, lighting fixtures, doors and a mahogany bar, serving a variety of wines, signature cocktails and bottle and draft beers. They also restored a stone fireplace and refurbished the original hardwood flooring.
“COVID delayed us a bit, but we eventually opened around early May,” Meredith said. “Fortunately, we installed our new patio in time for the yellow phase, which was a lifesaver. We can accommodate more than 100 customers outside.”
Thunderhead, named after the Pranges’ New Tripoli farm, offers socially distanced indoor seating for about 60 customers, with a bottle of Eight Oaks Farm Distillery hand sanitizer on each table.
Menu highlights include appetizers such as French onion soup and chili lime chicken fiesta salad; sandwiches such as a turkey club and “Buford” (barbecue pulled pork, crispy fried onions and more); and dinner entrees (available after 4 p.m.) such as crab cakes and Austrian braised beef short rib. Prime rib is offered every Friday night.
The restaurant’s kitchen, led by executive chef Robert Sidor, sources ingredients from local businesses, including Hartman’s Butcher Shop & Meat Market in Lynn Township, Kreeky Tree Farm in Heidelberg Township and Primordia Mushroom Farm in Lenhartsville.
“Our Thunder Burger, which is a half-pound of hand-pressed ground beef with lettuce, tomato and grilled red onions on a house-made brioche bun, has been our most popular item by far,” Meredith said. “As far as our entrees go, the meatloaf, filet mignon and chicken Francaise have also been big sellers.”
This weekend, Thunderhead is ditching its regular offerings to present an Oktoberfest menu, featuring German-inspired dishes such as open-faced pork schnitzel, rye spaetzle, potato pancakes with apple butter and sour cream, and donnerwurst (house-made veal and pork sausage with sauerkraut, bacon and potatoes).
Renovations are still underway in parts of Thunderhead, and the Pranges hope next year to debut a renovated three-bedroom bed-and-breakfast and a shop, selling items such as coffee and sandwiches and hiking-related gear such as bug spray and socks.
Restaurant hours are 4-9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays. Info: 610-248-0524; thunderheadlodgepa.com.
More foodie finds
Staying on the topic of restaurants coming back to life, Nick’s Diner reopened Oct. 9 after a three-month closure at 1802 W. Tilghman St., Allentown
The family-owned and -operated diner, a staple of the city’s West End for decades, had been closed since July as repairs were needed following a kitchen fire.
Temporary hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, with dinner hours expected to resume once “things get back to normal,” according to a post on the business’ Facebook page. Info: 610-439-5070.
Some more delicious news: Fans of the 18-year-old Edge Restaurant in downtown Bethlehem will be happy to learn that the owners are nearing completion of their new dining establishment in Forks Township.
Surv — a dual-concept restaurant offering new American cuisine and wood-fired pizza — is expected to open the last week of October or first week of November near the back of the Park Plaza at 1800 Sullivan Trail, co-owner Spencer Cobb said.
It will occupy a 9,000-square-foot space, with seating for about 130 people, and feature a mix of popular dishes from Edge and new culinary creations.
Edge staples will include tuna tartare, mushroom risotto and a triple truffle house-ground black Angus burger, while new items will include a 10-ounce prime bone-in pork chop (with celeriac, Yukon gold potato hash, ginger plum chutney and roasted pistachio); and crab hash (with roasted fingerling potatoes, charred poblano peppers, cippolini onions, an over-easy egg and lemon caper aioli).
Surv will feature two full bars — one indoors and one on a covered patio set to open in the spring, Cobb said. The partners are also looking to obtain heaters to serve guests at nine tables in the shopping center’s courtyard during the fall and winter. Info: facebook.com/surveastonpa.
A few miles south of Forks, Sonny Daze, a store selling customized, handmade products such as blankets, mugs, clothing and home decor, opened last month at 126 N. Fourth St. in Easton.
Mindy Tomaro opened the boutique in memory of her 17-year-old son, Santino “Sonny” Tomaro, who died by suicide in 2018.
A corner of the shop features bandannas, friendship bracelets, sunflower earrings and other items, with proceeds benefiting the SVT Foundation, a nonprofit organization that Mindy established last year to help with counseling for survivors of suicide and their families as well as scholarships for individuals pursuing a career in the mental health field.
Tomaro incorporated several of Santino’s loved ones’ fond memories of him into the store’s items, including onesies and T-shirts featuring a variety of designs and quotes.
The shop, open Thursday through Sunday, primarily carries items that are made by Tomaro, including cheese boards, dish towels, keychains and face masks, but it also features pieces made by Santino’s other family members, including painted screens by his aunt and winter hats embroidered by his grandmother.
“Sonny was a ray of sunshine,” Tomaro said. “So, everything in here promotes positivity and has some connection to him in that way.” Info: 484-541-5360.
Carriage House at Heintzelmans
It took more than three decades, but David Heintzelman finally fulfilled a vision for his Hellertown business, Heintzelman Funeral Home.
The funeral home supervisor, who’s also Hellertown’s mayor, on Wednesday celebrated the grand opening of Carriage House at Heintzelmans, an event center designed for after-funeral gatherings, birthday parties and other private functions.
The newly constructed building, on a lot that previously housed twin homes, is adjacent to the funeral home’s rear parking lot and is 25 steps from the funeral home itself.
It provides space for more than 100 guests and a unique workaround for a state law prohibiting funeral homes from serving food and beverages, Heintzelman said. The detached facility is distinct from the funeral home.
“Now, people can leave the work of setting up a gathering to us,” he said. “They can mourn, socialize and have the quiet time that they need to heal and move forward.”
The 326 Main St. facility utilizes Brooklyn’s Catering, operating out of The Springtown Inn, and also plans to partner with additional local food and beverage providers, including Braveheart Highland Pub a block away in the borough, and McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub & Whiskey Bar in downtown Bethlehem. Info: 610-838-0521.
I’ll finish with a few closing notes:
First, two dry cleaning businesses — Spring Hill Cleaners in Hellertown and Saucon Square Cleaners in Lower Saucon Township — have closed permanently in recent months.
The 12-year-old Spring Hill Cleaners, at 21 Main St. in the Shoppes at Hellertown, closed in August due to “financial hardship caused by COVID-19,” according to a sign in the window.
Second, the 21-year-old Saucon Square Cleaners, at 3683 Route 378 in the Saucon Valley Square shopping center, closed Oct. 3, a sign in the window reads.
The coronavirus pandemic hit dry cleaners and tailors hard as many of the “reasons to dress up,” including proms, weddings, business trips and religious holidays, were greatly diminished with the widespread cancellation of formal events.
Lastly, for people inquiring about the status of Tocci’s Tailgater’s Pub & Grill at 1313 Center St. in Bethlehem, it appears the nearly 4-year-old upscale sports bar won’t be reopening as recent signs on the building indicate it is available for lease or sale.
Retail Watch, appearing every weekend, keeps track of retail and restaurant news in the Lehigh Valley. Contact Ryan Kneller at 610-820-6597 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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