Budget-Wise Bites: Allentown

Editor’s note: This column features the findings of food writer Lenora Dannelke, who aims to introduce you to (or, in some cases, remind you of) the types of restaurants that you’ve probably walked or driven by countless times and said, “I should try that place…” Lenora has done that, and then some.

by Lenora Dannelke

If The Great Recession has put a crimp in you dining-out style, turn dinner into a budget-friendly foreign affair: Allentown boasts a delicious assortment of ethnic restaurants to spice up your life. Most are off-the-beaten-path—at least if you’re a suburbanite—but good food at affordable prices can be a powerful incentive for exploring unfamiliar neighborhoods.

An optimal combination of flavor, value and convenience—with friendly service as a bonus—makes Winston’s West Indian & American Restaurant an unbeatable choice. Entrées, which vary daily, are well seasoned (though not too “hot” for American palates), and may include jerk chicken, goat curry, braised oxtails, and fresh fish. Take-out orders are ready in a snap, but if you wish to eat-in, just carry your styrofoam box and plastic fork to one of several small tables lining the wall. Dinners come with rice and beans, sautéed plantains, and a blend of veggies du jour, and generally run between $8 and $12. While super-substantial portions will satisfy even bottomless-pit guys, an average woman can easily get two to three meals from one order. There’s also an assortment of Caribbean-style cakes and pastries for the sweet-toothed. And be sure to check out the intriguing collection of Caribbean sodas and juices in this small shop’s beverage cooler. You may be amazed to learn that Irish moss makes a surprisingly delicious drink!

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Just two blocks up the street, La Mexicana Grille has been dishing up authentic Mexican fare for nearly two decades. Americanized chain versions of south-of-the-border dishes are pale gringo imitations of the real, Puebla-style meals served at this family-run establishment. The atmosphere is pure fiesta festive and the foods are freshly made, including pico de gallo salsa and guacamole blended-to-order in a stone mortar. Along with serving lunch and dinner daily, the restaurant offers an appealing brunch menu from 11:00am to 3:00pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Hearty dishes range from chilaquiles to huevos con chorizo, with prices starting at just $5.95. Be sure to tap a MAC before you go, though, since credit cards are not accepted. If you forget to bring your favorite wine or brew along to this BYOB, you can grab a six-pack of Sol at nearby Liberty Lunch.

Winston’s West Indian and American Restaurant: 619 N. 7th St., 484-221-9682; La Mexicana Grille: 405 N. 7th St.; 610-776-6376

Lenora Dannelke, a food and travel writer who lives in Old Allentown, loves the abundance of ethnic grocers and restaurants in her neighborhood. She’s still waiting, however, for Ethiopian and Korean restaurants to come to town.

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