By Cathy Kiley

There exists, on the corner of Chelsea Avenue and Greenwich Street in Bethlehem, a dining oasis serving up some of the best breakfast and lunch fare in the Lehigh Valley. For nearly eight years, this quaint eatery – Jumbars – has been a neighborhood staple, providing a popular venue for great food, warm hospitality and buzzing conversation between friends, family and strangers alike.

Jumbars opened in November 2003 under the direction of Lehigh Valley natives Chef Paul Hoffert and his wife Mary. After graduating from the New England Culinary Institute, Chef Paul returned to Bethlehem to recapture the “homey” quality of life he remembered for himself and his family. He continues to bring that atmosphere to all who dine here.

My husband Tom and I visited Jumbars on a recent Saturday morning. While it  was our first visit, I will not hesitate to say that it will not be our last. Warm aromas waft from the building as soon as you open the door, whetting your appetites for the meal to follow. We sat ourselves at an open table and our two servers, Pinky and Somre, were quite attentive, serving freshly brewed, deliciously hot coffee and explaining the day’s specials. Jumbars’ breakfast menu features “Starters” including grilled sticky buns, muffins, fresh seasonal fruit, parfaits of organic yogurt, fruit, granola and maple syrup and well as Heart Warming Oats with topping choices.

Tom and I started with a grilled sticky bun and a serving of fresh fruit. Grilled sticky buns are always a treat if they are done right.  This one was – not too buttery and grilled until crispy. The refreshing fruit salad was delightful with strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, mango, pear and apples – truly a sweet mixture of healthy fruit to begin a heartier breakfast.

Jumbars’ Signature Omelettes include a Greek Omelette with spinach, tomatoes, olives and feta; a Chili Omelette with house-made beef and black bean chili, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses; and a South of the Border Omelette with salsa, guacamole, cheddar and pepper jack.  These are only three of the many choices on the menu but you may also create your own omelet with a large selection of ingredients. All entrees are served with Jumbars potatoes and toast. Eggs may be ordered any style with a la carte sides of accompanying meats. In addition, breakfast sandwiches, quiches, French toast and pancakes are regulars on the menu. Completing the offerings that day were the following specials: Creamed Chipped Beef with Spinach and Mushrooms over whole wheat toast served with eggs and Jumbars potatoes; a Frittata with shrimp, Andouille sausage, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, white corn grits, corn tortilla, pepper jack cheese and toast; Bing Cherry pancakes and a Whole wheat waffle with berries and bananas and optional Nutella.  The “Scramble” du jour – scrambled eggs and tofu with spinach, artichokes, mushrooms and caramelized onions served with toast and potatoes rounded out the specials listing.

I ordered something I haven’t eaten for at least 30 years – the Creamed Chipped Beef.  I’d forgotten how good this dish could be and it was delicious, quite decadent and, after having the starters, far too much to finish. The Jumbars potatoes are terrific, neither overcooked nor greasy. They are grilled local red potatoes (from Padula’s Potatoes in Bath), not fried all-purpose potatoes, so the texture is firm. Since all the breads are made in-house, the toast is excellent, especially when paired with one of the many homemade jams and jellies. These are open and available on the corner baker’s rack along with over 20 hot sauces and other condiments so that you  may help yourself. Various reading materials are also available on the rack.

Tom’s choice of traditional sausage and eggs was perfect for him. The Maple Sage Sausage was delicious and his eggs were done perfectly over light, just the way he likes them.  He paired his toast with a bit of Jumbars’ pepper jam which he enjoyed so much that we took home a jar.

We sipped more hot coffee and again admired the pleasant dining room. The attractive exterior is only surpassed by the colorful interior with seating for around 40 with  various-sized tables covered in floral oilcloth, Fiesta® ware, and vases holding fresh flowers. Green wainscoting covers the walls and cute window dressings accent the room. The atmosphere at Jumbars is pleasant, right down to the spotless restrooms.

All dishes at Jumbars are made to order so the speed of service–although  attentive– depends on how crowded the dining room is at any given time. Jumbars serves breakfast Tuesday thru Friday until 11:00 AM followed by lunch. Breakfast on weekends is their niche and it is served all day long (in addition to their Leisurely Lunch on Saturday.)  The daily lunch menu consists of various salads including: Salad Nicoise with grilled ahi tuna on bed of mixed greens with olives, grilled potatoes, green beans and hard cooked eggs, red wine vinaigrette; Roasted Duck Breast on mixed greens, with sliced pear, dried cranberries, roasted walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette; or Mary’s Salad with grilled chicken on mixed greens with hard cooked egg, tomato, Fuji apples, Cheddar and honey Dijon dressing–just to name a few. Their Combo Meal Deals consist of sandwiches and Quiche choices that are served with a cup of soup or a side salad. These are in addition to the daily blackboard specials. Check out jumbars.com for complete menu listings.

The name “Jumbars” is an interesting tribute to Mary’s great-grandmother, Anna Jumbar. Anna  arrived in the Lansford, Pennsylvania area from Austria-Hungary in June of 1876. She established residence in a boxcar in this coal region after she was unable to find a home. (Slovak immigrants were arriving in droves to work in the mines and weren’t pleasantly received.) She installed a stove and long tables in her boxcar to feed the miners. Together, she and her husband Stephen were pioneers; dedicating their lives to helping other immigrants find housing and jobs thereby creating a better experience for them than Anna had encountered herself. Sadly, Mary Hoffert passed away in 2008.  Since then, Chef Paul and his daughter Emily Hoffert, have continued Anna’s tradition of serving comfort food to appreciative diners. For that, we are grateful.

Jumbars continues to win accolades from steady customers and is located at 1342 Chelsea Avenue, Bethlehem. They are open Tuesday thru Friday 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM (serving lunch after 11:00 AM); Saturday 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM (serving breakfast all day as well as lunch after 11:00 AM); and Sunday 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM (breakfast only.) Make it a point to stop in and see what all the talk is about.  You will be glad you did.

For private parties, Jumbars’ dining room is available after normal business hours and many of their jams, jellies and homemade baked goods including pies, quiches, cakes, muffins, kiffles, breads and rolls are available for purchase. Call 610-866-1660 for more information.

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