If food is art, then barbeque is a thousand new movements. Although the definition of the ideal restaurant is changing all the time, barbeque and its millions of local varieties remains uniquely American and wholesome. We are fortunate enough to live in a country that has many types of great barbeque, and I am fortunate enough to live in an area with surprisingly great barbeque restaurants. In my opinion, Allentown, Pennsylvania, is a great place to smoke.
Probably the best place in the whole Lehigh Valley, Grumpy’s barbeque on Mauch Chunk road is a Mecca for fans of great food. Their special sauce is excellent but their ribs are superbly juicy, full of flavor, and come in huge portions. Most dishes are hickory smoked and the cooking style itself is a mix of different barbequing traditions, the end result being very juicy meats with a lot of flavor that are not chewy but rather tender. When it comes to steak the prime rib that they have on special only on certain days may be the best you ever eat, each time I’ve ordered one it has arrived almost falling off the bone tender. In addition to great food Grumpy’s also plays host to a variety of live music on Fridays and weekends and has a general party-like atmosphere.
Dan’s Bar-B-Qued Chickens
Of all the meats you can barbeque, chicken is perhaps the hardest. In the center of the Allentown fairground you’ll find Dan’s, in the farmers market building. With a cafeteria seating area, Dan’s has the best chicken in the area at great prices – you can get a 1/4 chicken meal with three side dishes for $6. The secret? Dan gets his chickens straight off the farm and has a secret recipe for cooking them in his sauce. The result is an extremely tender chicken, skin falling off the meat, and to boot there is a large assortment of side dishes (I love the potatoes au gratin) for a low price. You won’t leave Dan’s hungry.
The Great Allentown Fair
Every year at the end of August Allentown throws one of the largest fairs in the region to celebrate farm culture. Behind the musical acts and rides and petting zoos is a single thing: barbeque. You can get food here that is straight off the farm and barbequed to perfection by local concessionaires like the two above and professional barbecuers alike. Come and walk around and you’ll see that the whole event smells of barbequed brisket and meat.
The Caribbean Indian word “barbacoa” was the start of a great American cooking tradition that is founded on ancient methods of smoking meat. This tradition is alive and well in the city of Allentown, next time you’re in the area make sure you smell what’s cooking.