‘Love at first bite’: Couple opens second Bethlehem eatery, plus other restaurant and shopping news | Lehigh Valley Regional News
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The husband-and-wife team behind a popular Latin American restaurant in downtown Bethlehem have brought their culinary chops to a new delicious business a few blocks away.
Michael and Mayra Collado, who run the three-year-old Casa del Mofongo eatery at 553 Main St., in mid-October opened Casa del San-Gwich at 20 W. Broad St., next to Exclusive Cutz barber shop.
The new restaurant, with seating for around 20 customers, specializes in made-to-order, gourmet sandwiches.
More than a half dozen signature varieties, $11-$13, include El Chimi (angus beef patty, cabbage, tomato, onion and chimi sauce), El Pollo (sauteed chicken breast, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and garlic-mayo sauce) and El Papotico (fried pork carnitas, mozzarella, cabbage, tomato, pickled onions and mayo-ketchup sauce).
There are also breakfast sandwiches (available until 11 a.m.), including bacon or sausage with egg and cheese on your choice of a plain bagel or Kaiser roll.
Michael labels the Cubanito (roast pork, Swiss cheese, ham, pickles and mustard) and Dominican-Philly (sauteed steak, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and garlic-mayo sauce) as the top sellers in the business’ first month.
“We sell out of the Cuban almost every day,” Michael said. “I make the roast pork fresh daily, and I don’t make too much of it because I won’t use it the next day.”
In addition to sandwiches, other menu highlights include empanadas (cheese, beef, beef and cheese and chicken and cheese) and loaded fries (grated mozzarella, tomatoes, cilantro and onion with your choice of meat).
The shop, which also sells specialty drinks like fresh fruit juices and milkshakes, occupies a renovated space that was vacant for several years.
Upgrades include new flooring, lighting, kitchen equipment and decorative accents like faux greenery and brick walls. There are also two swings suspended from the ceiling.
The Collados were attracted to the space due to its close proximity to a six-story, mixed-use complex – featuring more than 200 apartments and ground floor space for commercial tenants – that is expected to be complete in early 2024 at the former Boyd Theatre site.
Casa del San-Gwich, which has a tagline of “love at first bite,” is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Info: 484-896-9330.
More foodie finds
A couple of blocks west of Casa del San-Gwich, a popular food trailer serving Mexican favorites like tacos and guacamole is expanding with its first brick-and-mortar location.
LU Taqueria, which launched as a mobile operation in May, is planning to open a fast-casual, BYOB eatery in mid-December at 559 Main St. in Bethlehem, co-owner Rogelio Romero said.
The space, on the lower level of the Main Street Commons, previously housed Marlo’s Pizza.
LU’s restaurant, with seating for around 25 customers, will offer freshly prepared Mexican items that include soft corn tacos, churros and gringas (crispier versions of quesadillas).
Info: facebook.com/lutaqueria; instagram.com/lutaqueria.
From street-style tacos to spicy miso ramen, Takkii Ramen, a fast-casual modern restaurant specializing in Japanese comfort food, is planning to open five more locations — one in Easton, another in Kutztown, another in Muhlenberg Township and three in other states — in the coming months.
The new regional locations will include outposts at 164 W. Main St. in Kutztown, which is expected to open in early December; 36 N. Third St. in downtown Easton, which is expected to open in mid-February; and another in Muhlenberg Township, which is expected to open in the winter or spring in the Plaza 222 shopping center on North Fifth Street Highway, chef and owner Marco Lu said.
Other regional Takkii Ramen outposts can be found in West Reading, Quakertown (inside the Trolley Barn Public Market) and Washington Township, Lehigh County (inside the Slatington Farmers Market).
Robots, with 3-D sensors, autonomous path planning and artificial intelligence voice interaction capability, will supplement staff in Easton, Kutztown and possibly Muhlenberg Township.
“It’s hard to find workers these days, and so we will have robots to help the customers,” Lu said. “The robots seat the customers, and they also deliver the food from the kitchen. A separate robot takes empty plates and dishes back to the kitchen.”
Barbecue fans, take note of a tasty new concept dishing out smoked ribs, brisket and more at the former Sammy’s Drive-In Restaurant in Greenwich Township, New Jersey.
Drake’s Joint, a roadside eatery specializing in slow-smoked barbecue, opened Nov. 5 at 1193 Route 22, across from the former Phillipsburg Mall.
The business is run by Chris Sterlacci, who also operates the Mountain Dudes Good Food restaurant on Route 22 in the Pohatcong Plaza in Pohatcong Township, and Dan Risis, who also owns the Phillipsburg Antique Mall on Fleming Drive in town as well as the temporarily closed Toby’s Cup hot dog stand on Memorial Parkway in Lopatcong Township.
It’s primarily a to-go operation, with a few outdoor tables, but the partners are renovating the restaurant’s interior to include a new 12-seat dining area.
They’re also planning to convert Mountain Dudes into a full-service second location of Drake’s in the coming months.
The partners really have their hands full as they are also working to revitalize another landmark dining spot, Toby’s Cup, at 857 Memorial Parkway in Lopatcong Township.
The pair is renovating the structure, with plans to reopen the roughly 80-year-old business within the next few months. They plan to maintain much of the menu, which includes hot dogs, burgers, fries and milkshakes.
Lehigh County news
The Lehigh Valley Mall’s retail and restaurant roster continues to change in Whitehall Township.
In recent months, the two-story shopping center at MacArthur Road and Route 22 has seen two restaurants close and two retailers open as another pair of tenants prepare to join the lineup.
Closures include Almost Vegan, which shuttered in late summer after less than a year on the mall’s second level, and Bravo! Italian Kitchen, which closed in October after a year-long comeback at the mall’s outdoor lifestyle center.
Openings include Better Life With Bry, offering natural and handmade body, home and cleaning products, which held a grand opening in September on the first level (across from Verizon Wireless); and Chrystols Shoetique, offering women’s shoes, handbags and other accessories, which opened in October on the second level (next to Country Memories).
Forthcoming tenants include Lovisa, offering “on-trend jewelry at ready-to-wear prices,” which is coming soon to the former Dough Life spot on the first level; and Otaku House, offering anime merchandise, cosplay costumes, props and accessories, which is coming to the former Norman’s Hallmark spot on the second level.
About seven miles west of the mall, Sports Factory of the Lehigh Valley, a state-of-the-art facility offering individual and team training along with other features like toddler play times, birthday parties and private events, is holding its grand opening noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at 6616 Ruppsville Road in Upper Macungie Township.
The building previously housed other businesses, including entertainment complexes GameChangerWorld PA and Rascal’s Food & Fun.
The 22,000-square-foot facility is suitable for a wide array of sports training and practices, including baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and flag football.
Another spot for athletes and fitness enthusiasts: Trek Bicycle Allentown in late October reopened in its new digs at 935-A Airport Center Road in Hanover Township, Lehigh County.
The business, near Golf Galaxy in the Airport Shopping Center, previously operated at 1728 Tilghman St. location in Allentown.
Trek Bicycle Allentown offers the latest products from Trek and Bontrager, service and tune-ups for bikes of any brand and advice about riding in the Lehigh Valley.
A couple of fast-casual restaurant chains are expanding their footprints in the region:
First, Bojangles, the North Carolina-based restaurant operator and franchisor specializing in “craveable Southern food made by hand,” on Wednesday opened its newly constructed eatery at 85 S. West End Blvd. (Route 309) in Quakertown.
The property was formerly the site of another restaurant building, which most recently housed Tom’s All American BBQ.
Established in 1977 in Charlotte, N.C., Bojangles offers biscuit breakfast sandwiches, hand-breaded bone-in chicken and “fries and fixins” such as cajun pinto beans, mashed potatoes and gravy and macaroni and cheese.
The chain has more than 780 company owned and franchised restaurants in 15 states, with its only other Pennsylvania location operating at 3215 N. Fifth Street Highway in Muhlenberg Township, Berks County.
Second, Bubbakoo’s Burritos, a New Jersey-based chain serving made-to-order burritos, quesadillas, tacos and more, opened Wednesday at 3578 Route 611 in Bartonsville.
The new eatery, near East Gourmet Buffet in the Shops at Crossroads, supplements more than 100 existing and coming-soon locations in 19 states, including another regional outpost that opened in 2021 on North West End Boulevard (Route 309) in Richland Township, Bucks County.
I’ll finish with a couple of closures:
First, as my colleague Tom Rader reported, the owners of the Canal Street Pub & Restaurant said they have accepted an offer for the longstanding space in south Reading.
Nov. 4 was the business’ last public evening, but it plans to finish out its schedule of private events, according to an announcement on the business’ Facebook page.
The pub’s been a unique destination for fine dining, live music and rare micro-brewed beer since opening in 1996.
Second, as my colleague Jeff Ward reported, Sally Beauty Holdings Inc. will close 350 stores, and it confirmed that a Pennsylvania distribution center will be shut down.
In October, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry said a Sally Beauty distributor in East Norwegian Township, Schuylkill County, would eliminate 57 jobs by Dec. 16. In Thursday’s statement, the company said distribution centers in Oregon and Pennsylvania will close in December.
Sally Beauty operates several stores in the region. A list of stores due to close was not included with the company’s “store optimization plan” and earnings statement. Most of the stores will close in December, the Denton, Texas-based company said in its statement.