When Josh Palmer opened his restaurant, Sette Luna, in Easton's historic district seven years ago, he had a good feeling about the struggling city's revitalization efforts. Today, he's even more confident. His urban Tuscan trattoria at 219 Ferry St. is still going strong.
So Palmer and Sette Luna's co-owners — Palmer's wife, Elizabeth Carlson Palmer, and his parents, Bud and Terry Palmer — decided to spread their wings and open another restaurant in downtown Easton.
On Tuesday, they celebrated the grand opening of their latest venture — Maxim's 22 Bistro & Brasserie, a classic French restaurant that features "the finest of bistro fare, including a raw bar, burgers, steaks, roast chicken, quiches and a large selection of beer and wines."
Like Sette Luna, Maxim's 22 is playing a role in Easton's revitalization. It's at 322 Northampton St., in the lower back portion of the long-vacant Pomeroy's building, which is coming back to life with loft apartments, his new restaurant and more.
"I've always loved the food of a classic brasserie and there's been nothing like it until now in the Lehigh Valley," Palmer said. "My wife and I would travel to Philadelphia and New York for this type of cuisine." The Palmers figured that if foodies like them longed for a brasserie-type restaurant in the Valley, there had to be others who hoped for one, too.
In addition to serving lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, Maxim's 22 offers brunch on Sundays and a late-night menu for weekend theater-goers. Maxim's 22's website: http://www.Maxims22.com.
Now, Palmer believes downtown Easton is earning the reputation as "the spot to dine in the Lehigh Valley," he said.
Could he be right? Maxim's 22 certainly adds more flavor to an already diverse, cosmopolitan-type dining scene that includes Sette Luna, as well Pearly Baker's Ale House, Porter's Pub, River Grille, Valenca, Sogo, Ocean, and Slate Café & Grill and others, all within a close proximity of each other.
"It's going to be great to be part of something so diverse, so different," said Karina Turtzo, who recently added yet another fine-dining option to Easton's downtown.
She and her husband, Brian Turtzo, recently opened Casera, a small Spanish-Caribbean restaurant, in the historic district. The BYOB restaurant that seats 15 is in the Turtzos' 134 N. Second St. home.
"We live upstairs and our restaurant is downstairs," Karina Turtzo said. Casera is open Friday and Saturday evenings, by reservation only. A three-course dinner is served at 7 p.m. and limited to one sitting. Karina does the cooking and Brian manages the front end.
"We want people to feel like they are in their friend's home, enjoying a dinner party," Karina said.
Collectively, the Turtzos have more than 12 years of experience in the service industry. They have a limited dining schedule because both still hold down full-time jobs in addition to operating Casera. Karina is a partner at a wine bar and restaurant in New York City and Brian is a brand design manager at a New Jersey company. They've lived in Easton for eight years.
The restaurant also serves as a gallery for local artists, whose works hang on the walls and are available for purchase.
"Casera is a labor of love," Karina said. "I love that I get a chance to cook here." Her menu, she added, will change monthly. You can find it at Casera's website, http://www.casera.co.
And, at least one more restaurant is scheduled to open in Easton by mid-November. Former boxing champ Larry Holmes will soon be in the restaurant business again when he takes the name and theme from his second restaurant, Champ's Corner, and moves it back to the 91 Larry Holmes Drive site of his first restaurant, Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant & Lounge, which closed in September 2011. Opening of the new Champ's Corner, which will be a bar and grille, is pending the liquor license transfer. I'll provide more details on the new restaurant when it opens.
Go! Calendars & Games, a seasonal shop that returns to malls throughout the region every holiday season, opened this week at The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley in Center Valley and at the Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall Township. It also is scheduled to open in South Mall in Allentown and Salisbury Township on Thursday. These shops or kiosks, which sell calendars, games and toys, will remain open at least through the end of January, said Lindsey Sklodowski, manager of the Lehigh Valley Mall location.
Aikido Masters Self-Defense Academy in Whitehall has moved from its old location to a new building next door with 1,000 more square feet. "We'll be able to provide more amenities and have more offerings for kids," owner David Nemeroff said. The new martial arts academy building at 2010 Eberhard Road features new décor, bigger dressing rooms, spectator areas, a kids' play area and more training space.
Two weeks ago, I reported that Massage Envy Spa, a chain with more than 800 locations nationwide, was moving into the Tilghman Square Shopping Center in South Whitehall Township. It officially opened Oct. 16 at 4640 Broadway, next to Planet Fitness. Massage Envy offers a wide variety of massages — Swedish, deep tissue, sports, reflexology, relaxation, prenatal, hot stone and more — but they can be customized to address painful trigger points. You can make an appointment or simply walk in. Learn more at the spa's website: http://www.massageenvy.com.
In case you missed it, Morning Call freelancer Kelly Martin reported a plan last week to add two more buildings to Tilghman Square Shopping Center at 4650 Broadway. A larger building will house offices for Univest Bank. A smaller, 4,000-square-foot, one-story building will be divided into retail space and a space for a fast-food restaurant with a drive-thru. Tenants for those spots have not yet been determined.
At the Kmart Shopping Center, directly across Tilghman Street from Tilghman Square, signs are posted announcing a new Thai Restaurant moving into the strip near Dunkin' Donuts. I'll let you know more when I know more.
And one more tidbit of news from South Whitehall Township: Mangos Coastal Cuisine at 3750 Hamilton Blvd. will close its doors on Nov. 17, after nine years of business. Owner John Pena said his family has other plans for the property.
Last week, I told you Panera Bread plans to move into the shuttered Sonic Drive-In on N. West End Boulevard in Quakertown. On Monday, I received an email from Retail Watch reader Bob Brown that provided a link to an online story saying Sonic is thinking about reopening the Quakertown Sonic. I also found several other online news articles saying the same thing.
A Panera spokesperson told me the restaurant plans to open at Sonic's 139 N. West End Blvd. location. Sonic would only tell me it "currently is evaluating opportunities" in Quakertown but does not have an announcement to make about Sonic returning to Quakertown.
So, will it be Panera or Sonic at that site? I guess only time will tell.
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 features reporter Irene Kraft at 610-820-6597 or email email@example.com. Retail Watch appears every Sunday.