The Hops Fogelsville Hotel is a historic landmark and the winner of multiple Patch "Reader's choice" polls for food and drink, so it came as a surprise to me that Patch had yet to fully review this restaurant.
I set out to rectify that with a lunch the first Wednesday of this month with my husband Bruce and dear friends Stan and Matt Stephens, who run a successful family funeral business in Allentown.
I first met Stan when writing obituaries for The Morning Call almost 40 years ago and was impressed with his professionalism and caring manner that has comforted my own family and countless others.
My first impression of the Hotel was that the "new" owners, Byron and Carol Hoppy and their son, Scott, who bought the place in 2006, were making many improvements to restore and renovate a property at the crossroads of Main and Church streets dating back to 1798.
A new roof, porch posts, patio pavers and an arbor welcomed us inside from a damp and dreary morning. And inside, the bar had been extended and "Pub Room" redecorated to feel like an old English pub.
Specials, which included homemade French onion and cheesy chicken noodle, appeared on a chalkboard and were repeated by our top-notch waitress, Marcie.
Matt and I chose the turkey rachel ($6.99), Bruce ordered a club sandwich ($7.49) and Stan the special grilled chicken ranch wrap ($7.99).
I also ordered the "broccoli bites" appetizer for all of us to sample, since they came highly recommended by a friend who now lives in Georgia.
"I've had fried vegetables before but never with cheese inside," Matt said, enjoying the starter to our meal.
The bites came with a dish of ranch dressing, a cool accompaniment to the hot cheese, broccoli and mustard taste.
Our sandwiches came quickly even though they were made-to-order. Our rachels covered most of the platter, the cheese still sizzling from under the broiler. Under the cheese was coleslaw and fresh-sliced white turkey on rye bread.
I found it delicious and dipped many a forkful into some thousand island dressing served on the side. The portion appeared to be just right for Matt but twice as much as I could handle for lunch.
Bruce thoroughly enjoyed the club sandwich, one of his favorite things to order at lunch. He ate all of it but held his stomach contentedly as he viewed the remaining mountain of chips.
Stan said his wrap was delicious with its grilled chicken breast, olives, lettuce and a mayonnaise-based sauce. He also took half home.
Stan's side was something none of us had seen on a menu before: sweet potato Tater Tots! Much like the popular sweet potato fries, the tots were sweet and delicious.
"We're a wonderful place to be," Carol Hoppy said, when interviewed later the same day by phone. "We feel we are very family oriented...We get lots of customers who come in suits as well as those who come in work boots. Everyone is welcome."
Hoppy said one of the reasons her family restaurant won Patch polls for "best burger," "best bar/pub," steaks, "lunch with friends" and "outdoor dining" is their use of fresh and local foods.
"We make 99 percent of our food cooked to order," she said. "There's not a lot of processed foods. We are big advocates of our neighbors and neighborhoods."
Among the most popular main dishes: prime rib and pasta.
Hoppy said her family got into the business because her folks used to run a tavern and son Scott's first job was washing dishes at the former House of Strawberries restaurant before working his way up to manage the former Rookies sports bar.
They purchased the Paddock restaurant in South Whitehall in April 2011, saving it from closure, and have spent in excess of $100,000 to renovate both properties.
If you like what's happening at the Fogelsville Hotel, she said, just wait.
The Hoppys are redecorating each dining room and plan to remove the thin-set brick to restore the facade to its original brick grandeur.
"We are looking forward to it being pretty awesome," Carol Hoppy said.