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Seafood landmark returns to Allentown

Clams, crabs, calamari and a plethora of other ocean fare will once again be satisfying starved seafood lovers beginning Monday at a new and improved Youell's Oyster House in west Allentown. The popular restaurant, which was destroyed by fire last year, has risen from the ashes in grand fashion.

"There's more cubic footage, natural light and menu items," owner Christian Filipos said.

Filipos learned of the blaze just a couple of hours after it was reported by a J.P. Mascaro trash hauler around 4:15 a.m. Jan. 22, 2013. An Allentown resident who lives only a mile from the restaurant, he rushed to the smoldering scene and immediately vowed to rebuild.

"I went to the zoning office the same day to apply for a permit," said Filipos, whose father, Constantine, purchased the restaurant in 1984.

The Zoning Hearing Board voted unanimously in June to approve Filipos' plans, but not without first hearing residents' concerns about parking. The original building at 2249 W. Walnut St. dated to the early 1800s (when it operated as a stagecoach stop, general store and, later, a tavern) and never had on-site parking. It still only offers street parking in the largely residential neighborhood.

Another obstacle arose when construction workers discovered sandy soil and were forced to dig an extra 9 feet — costing additional time and money.

"The time was the worst part as it pushed us into a bad winter," Filipos said.

The 170-seat restaurant, which is handicap accessible, features hardwood floors, a granite bar displaying oysters (shucked to order) and a mezzanine level for private parties and overflow dining. There are also plans for a rooftop garden and apiary, which will produce vegetables and honey for dishes.

According to Filipos, customers should expect to see the "same friendly faces" as about 90 percent of the staff is returning.

"I'm super proud of my crew," he said. "Everyone works well independently, but we come together like a symphony."

Also returning is Youell's original menu, which includes its classic crab cake and stuffed-shrimp dishes. New featured entrees, small plates and raw selections will change every few days.

Seafood hailing from states along the East Coast, including mussels from Maine, crab meat from Maryland and scallops from New Jersey, arrives fresh "almost daily," said chef Tim Plante, who labels his tuna and cobia dishes as personal favorites.

"While we are known for seafood, about 15 percent of the menu caters to other items such as chicken, duck and steak," said Plante, who has been with the restaurant for almost 10 years.

Youell's, whose tag line reads "sea to table since 1895," traces its roots to Easton where it operated under various owners and at various locations, including its last spot at 322 Cattell St. The Filipos family expanded the restaurant's footprint to Allentown in 1992 and sold the Easton location two years later. Much to their dismay, the new owners closed that location in 1996.

Youell's, which also features an enhanced selection of wine and craft brews, is open 4-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3-8 p.m. Sunday. Info: 610-439-1203 or youellsoysterhouse.com.

In South Whitehall Township, Grille 3501 is preparing for an expansion of its own.

According to manager Jane Lewis, demolition of a barn/garage at 3501 Broadway began about a month ago and construction on a two-story building is set to begin in the coming weeks.

The new venue, which will feature a sliding glass door for al fresco dining, will bring a square-shaped bar on the first level and 50 more seats on both levels. There also will be an outdoor lounge and fire pit.

The addition, set to be complete in June, will feature access to the 125-seat main restaurant, which has been serving a blend of Asian, French and Mediterranean cuisine since 2001. Info: 610-706-0100 or grille3501.com.

Main Street in Hellertown is witnessing much action these days.

First, Antonio's Brick Oven Pizza at 837 Main St. closed its doors after more than 15 years of business on Feb. 2. The eatery was "home of the jumbo 28-inch party pizza."

Owner John Papageorgiou of Center Valley said business was good, but he "wanted to try something different."

That new venture is a produce market, Lehigh Valley Produce, that he plans to open in the same space in early April. It will offer fruits and vegetables, primarily from local farms, as well as flowers.

"Some food like bananas, you obviously can't find around here," he said. "But wherever possible, we will sell local produce — such as apples, cherries and tomatoes."

Second, two neighboring storefronts in the 1100 block of Main Street (next to Saylors & Co.) will receive new tenants in the spring.

At 1109 Main St., Joann Raab of Hellertown plans to open Lighthouse Laundry on Main in the former Wash and Fold laundromat space in late April or early May.

Raab, who has operated Lighthouse Washbasket and Dry Cleaners on Stefko Boulevard in Bethlehem for more than 25 years, is revamping the space and installing new washers and dryers.

Next door, Brit Ash of Hellertown is breathing new life into the space formerly occupied by Hellertown Deli, which closed in December.

Ash is planning to open the Hellertown Lunchbox, a luncheonette serving unique home-cooked items, sometime in April. He is still working on the menu, but says customers should expect fresh, made-on-premises food such as turkey and roast beef. Entree specials will change weekly.

Ash previously operated Cook to Order, a restaurant in Hunterdon County, N.J. He said his new eatery will offer seating for 14, but it will focus on takeout.

I'll finish with a few salon happenings in Northampton County.

First, Pentanails opened Jan. 1 inside Miss-Tresses Urban Hair Studio at 299 Industrial Park Road in Upper Nazareth Township.

Rhea Coral of Lower Saucon Township owns the nail business, which offers a variety of manicures and pedicures, including the "vegan manicure" (all vegan, animal-friendly materials) and the "MAN-icure" (customized for men). She doesn't do acrylics, but instead, focuses on gels and natural-nail services.

"I also do acrylic damage repair," said Coral, who named the business after her five sons. Info: 484-268-0668 or pentanails.com.

Second, Kathy Avila of Bethlehem Township is aiming to open her Style by Kathy Avila blow-dry lounge and boutique at 3 W. Broad St. (inside the Marketplace at Bethlehem Plaza) in April.

The 2,100-square-foot space will feature comfortable chairs in which men and women will receive hair styling (no cuts or coloring), scalp massages and other skin and hair treatments. Additional furniture will be available for customers to enjoy tea, wine and other beverages while they wait. There will also be clothing and accessories for sale.

Avila, whose resume includes makeup-artist gigs in New York City and the Lehigh Valley, described the business as a "relaxing retreat reminiscent of Miami." Info: 610-997-8953.

The final bit of salon news is Couture Salon and Spa's Jan. 14 opening at 310 E. Third St. (same building as Molinari's) in south Bethlehem.

According to owner Christina Little Haus, the business offers hair services, facials, massages, waxing, manicures and pedicures.

Little Haus has more than 10 years of experience managing salons, including her most recent past position at Evolve Salon and Spa at the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley. Info: 610-882-0890 or mycouturesalon.com.

Retail Watch keeps track of new store, restaurant and bank development in the Lehigh Valley. Have a question about a retail construction project, a store opening or a chain you'd like to see come to the area? Call reporter Ryan Kneller at 610-820-6597 or email retailwatch@mcall.com. Retail Watch appears every Sunday.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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