Unfortunately, it has taken me until the start of my senior year to realize how many different kinds of food Bethlehem has to offer. I love food, some may say a little too much, and I love going out to eat but I never gave many of the restaurants in the area a chance. At the start of the year, some friends of mine introduced me to a few new places to dine and I have been impressed with each and every one of them. First I tried Cilantro, where my friends and I enjoyed some delicious Mexican food and shared some salty but sweet margaritas that kept coming round after round. Next, I went to Apollo Grill and I indulged in some mouthwatering crab cakes that made me reminiscent of those warm summer days spent at the beach this past summer. I have been trying out new restaurants in the area since the start of the semester and have no regrets thus far. To keep my streak going this past weekend I was introduced to a restaurant called The Bayou.
The Bayou opened in March of 2014 located in North Bethlehem just across the bridge from Steal Stacks and the Sands Casino. The chef, Tyler Baxter, delivers a unique dining experience to the Bethlehem community filled with southern inspired dishes, cocktails and multiple craft beers. I did not know of the restaurant prior to this past weekend but I was invited to a birthday dinner and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try some new food. All I knew was that it is a restaurant and bar with a rating of 4/5 stars on yelp and that was all I needed to see.
On the night of the dinner I was in a rush because I was already running late and I did not read over the message from the birthday girl saying to come well-dressed, so I casually threw on my favorite hoodie, a pair of jeans and hailed an uber. My uber arrived at my house and I told the driver to speed on the way to the destination hoping I would not be that guy that shows up late to the someone’s special dinner. The Bayou is only a short drive from Lehigh’s campus but of course, we hit every red light on the way to the restaurant, just my luck. Fortunately, I was able to spark up a conversation with my uber driver and he knew of The Bayou very well. He said that he and his wife dine at the restaurant at least once a month and that all the food is delicious. He also told me his favorite dish was the fried chicken and recommended that I give it a try since it was one of their chef specials. I never fully trust uber drivers but since he mentioned that he was also a Philadelphia Eagles fan I took note of what he said.
When my uber pulled up in front of the restaurant I saw the birthday girl and her party of friends entering the restaurant so I jumped out to catch up with them. It was then than I realized I was the most underdressed person in the group, and the only man not wearing a button-down shirt and pants. There was nothing I could do at that point so after a small joke about my appearance we all proceeded inside and were seated at our table. There were 13 people in our party and we were all ready to indulge in some tasty southern food. The atmosphere was unique and every aspect of the restaurant gave off a genuine southern feel. Once we were all seated our waitress introduced herself and started us off with drinks. The cocktail list was exotic to my 21 year-old standards and all of the beverages sounded enticing.
The birthday girl ordered her favorite, the Voodoo Juice, which is a blend of banana, curacao, pineapple, sour, cranberry, and a secret rum. It sounded appealing but too sweet for my tastes. I order the whiskey crush which was a blend of bourbon, apricot and banana schnapps, sour, and over crushed clementines. Everything on the menu looked appetizing and I had a tough time making a decision on which entrée to order. However, I believe everything happens for a reason so when it came time to order food I decided to go with the chef special, the fried chicken, just as my uber driver had recommended on the way to the restaurant.
Maybe it was me and the fact I was starving since I had not eaten since lunch but I felt that we waited for our entrees for over an hour. We did have a large group so that could have been another reason for the long wait but when the food was finally served a big smile came across my face. The table was filled with all kinds of foods ranging from mac & cheese and braised oxtails to salmon and steamed claims. Everyone tasted a bit of each other’s plates but I will say that my entrée, the fried chicken, was my favorite. The meat was so tender that it fell right off the bone and the sides of pickles and sweat potatoes only added to the flavor.
Once we finished our meal our waitress brought the birthday girl a small surprise birthday cake that we all got to nibble on. In the end, all I can say is that the food was unforgettable and the atmosphere of the restaurant gives off the feeling of real southern hospitality. I recommend everyone that has a taste for southern food to give this restaurant a try. You can find out more information and check out the menu on their website, http://www.dat-bayou.com/. I have learned that you never know what you are missing out on until you are willing to try new things so I encourage everyone in the Bethlehem area to treat themselves to a mouthwatering meal at The Bayou.
*All photos are owned by the restaurant and can be found on their website (www.dat-bayou.com/gallery/)