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The Lehigh Valley is full of restaurants offering outdoor dining. Here are some of our favorite al fresco retreats – new and old – to soak up the sunshine while enjoying a bite to eat. (RYAN KNELLER / 첥Ƶ)
RYAN KNELLER / 첥Ƶ
The Lehigh Valley is full of restaurants offering outdoor dining. Here are some of our favorite al fresco retreats – new and old – to soak up the sunshine while enjoying a bite to eat. (RYAN KNELLER / 첥Ƶ)
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While spring is moody this year — summery and hot one day, cold and rainy the next — the signs and the calendar are clear about one thing: warmer weather is here. That means al fresco dining season is here.

And sure, many restaurants have a patio with umbrellas outside that call it a day. But maybe you’re in the mood for something a bit more than the patio setup.

Here’s a list of some of the most interesting places to eat in the Lehigh Valley under the sun or stars.

The Wooden Match

61 W. Lehigh St., Bethlehem

610-865-1777

www.thewoodenmatch.com

The historic downtown Bethlehem restaurant sits near the Central Railroad of New Jersey and steps away from the D & L Trail. That, combined with the cheerful outdoor lantern lights and greenery of the area makes The Wooden Match a homey and welcoming spot to grab a drink (or a cigar?) and dinner outside.

Wooden Match in Bethlehem
MORNING CALL FILE PHOTO
Patrons dine outside the Wooden Match located at the former Bethlehem train station. (Harry Fisher / 첥Ƶ)

The Shelby

707 N. Krocks Rd.

Lower Macungie Township

610-841-0808

www.shelbyrestaurant.com

The Hamilton Crossings anchor has been a local favorite for a few years now, with its new Americana menu and — during the pandemic — outdoor tent with lush plants, seating, and indoor fans for muggy days. That elevated outdoor dining setup will have a permanent spot at The Shelby come May, when the restaurant unveils its permanent outdoor seating area. Seating approximately 100 with screens to invite or block the elements and a combination of dinner tables and lounging areas by fire pits for moodier nighttime hangs, The Shelby hopes to make the new outdoor seating area a (nearly) year-round fixture.

The Shelby will be opening its new outdoor dining area in mid-May. Above, an artist's rendering of what the final construction will look like. (Courtesy The Shelby)
A rendering of The Shelby’s new outdoor dining area. (Courtesy The Shelby)

Wanderlust Beer Garden

1600 Sullivan Trail

Forks Township

610-438-1093

www.wanderlustbeergarden.com

This destination is the epitome of eating outside and having fun. Within Wanderlust’s expansive ground, the beer garden gives you and your crew a choice of seating: German-style tables, Adirondack chairs, or classic American picnic tables. Wanderlust also has spots for everyone from cozy couples on dates to families out for a summer night. Live music, outdoor games, and food that elevates classic fairground or campground food complete a fun night out.

West End Taproom

2114 Tilghman St.

Allentown

www.illuminationbrewing.com

The former Greenhouse Enoteca spot is going to become a taproom come May by the owners of Emmaus’s Funk Brewing Company at 518 Bank St. (also a great place to chill outdoors with locally crafted beer on a balmy summer evening). That means locally made craft beer and snacks that will kick off summer evenings with pizazz. But even more fun is the fact that the owners plan to keep the greenhouse of its predecessor and make it open to diners and musicians alike. Imagine the magic of being in a summer rainstorm while having a beer and listening to some good music while in a greenhouse?

Thyme Rooftop Grille

100 Northampton St.

Easton

610-510-0309

www.thymeeaston.com

Thyme’s location on the seventh floor of the Commodore Building meant it got instant fans for its awesome, sweeping views of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers. But the fine dining restaurant when one step further with the unveiling of a covered terrace featuring a fireplace, swingy plants, and covered and exposed seating, all with that same fantastic view. And here’s a bonus mini entry to this list: If Easton isn’t your destination but the vibe of Thyme is, their sister location Zest bar + grille at 306 S. New St. in Bethlehem has a similar terrace area that peers over into the vibrant south side strip.

Thyme Easton, a new restaurant that just opened on the top floor of the Commodore building, offers views of the Delaware River, as seen Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)
Thyme Easton, a new restaurant that just opened on the top floor of the Commodore building, offers views of the Delaware River, as seen Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. (Jane Therese/Special to 첥Ƶ)

Rising River Brewery

1955 Willow Lane

Lower Macungie Township

www.risingriverbrewing.com

This one is an al fresco dining fan favorite in the area. For one, it has a tropical-themed deck for steamy nights, complete with a tiki bar and palm trees (yes, in Pennsylvania). And for another, the brewery features a section called The Holler, with a lawn area bordering the Little Lehigh Creek. With a vibrant, rotating list of live music and food trucks, this place was made for warm weather hangouts.

People enjoy the atmosphere featuring drinks, food and games Saturday, July 30, 2022, during the first Mandee's Lunchbox Cornhole Tournament at Rising River Brewery in Macungie. Mandee's Lunchbox is a non-profit that gives tiny tin lunchboxes filled with restaurant gift cards to adults in cancer treatments and is named after Amanda Faidley Layton who passed away from cancer in 2018.
April Gamiz/첥Ƶ
People enjoy the atmosphere featuring drinks, food and games Saturday, July 30, 2022, during the first Mandee’s Lunchbox Cornhole Tournament at Rising River Brewery in Macungie. (April Gamiz / 첥Ƶ)

Ye Olde Spring Valley Tavern

1355 Station Ave.

Upper Saucon Township

484-851-3594

www.oldspringvt.com

This quaint, 18th century tavern has a rule breaking past, becoming a Prohibition-era hotspot nearly 100 years ago. Today, though, it’s much tamer, but still as cute, thanks to a spring that sprouts out from under the main building into a pond, and the tavern’s signature fresh trout. A gazebo houses standard picnic tables, but if the night gets chilly, heating is available.

Ye Old Spring Valley Tavern is pictured in Upper Saucon Township on Thursday, August 28, 2014.
Harry Fisher / THE MORNING CALL
Ye Old Spring Valley Tavern is pictured in Upper Saucon Township on Thursday, August 28, 2014. (Harry Fisher / THE MORNING CALL)

Eight Oaks Farm Distillery

7189 PA-309

New Tripoli

484-387-5287

www.eightoaksdistillery.com

This charming farm is no-nonsense and casual, surrounded by those famously rolling Pennsylvania hills. The distillery takes the phrase “farm to table” literally, growing its own grain, barley, and corn to create its own homemade spirits, all available for purchase and on-site consumption. Think bourbon, rye whiskey, vodka, and gin. Kids will love the open space, and adults will enjoy the live music and folksy setup. The menu is short and sweet but conscious of different diets and both kid and adult friendly. Most importantly, diners can decide to sit inside an open air room or venture out onto picnic tables.

Keith and Evelyn of New Tripoli (no last name) and their rescued Brittany Spaniel Moose, relax outside Eight Oaks, a family farm distillery in New Tripoli, which sits on a 300-acre farm and has 50 acres devoted to grain grown for their spirits on Sunday October 21, 2018. "We love coming out here and sitting by the fire. It's important to support local business," says Keith.Twenty-two farms including Willow Haven, vineyards and orchards participate in the Penn State Extension. Jane Therese / 첥Ƶ 3061715_mc-nws-lehigh-county-farm-tour-20181009
JANE THERESE / SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL
Eight Oaks, a family farm distillery in New Tripoli, sits on a 300-acre farm and has 50 acres devoted to grain grown for their spirits. (Jane Therese / Special to 첥Ƶ)

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