Roar Social House

Roar Social House

Some friends and I chose Roar Social House for our recent Girl’s Night Out and we had a blast. Roar is an attractive, welcoming restaurant and a unique addition to the burgeoning downtown Allentown dining scene. We sat at the bar for drinks where Danny, bartender extraordinaire, not only mixed up a wonderful Cosmo for me but a very dry Svedka Martini for Sandi and a Hemingway Daiquiri for Jill that was a delicious concoction of Bacardi, fresh squeezed grapefruit and lime juices, Maraschino and a touch of powdered sugar.

Since we were all settled in and enjoying Danny’s company, we decided to stay at the bar and share a few appetizers that were specially priced for Happy Hour. The Sauteed Mussels with shallots, green olives and vermouth were fresh, plump, sweet and delicious and the accompanying grilled sourdough was perfect for dipping in the savory sauce. We all enjoyed the Crab and Avocado Spring Rolls with a wonderful soy ginger dipping sauce as well but the favorite plate of the three ordered was the Warm Mushroom and Boursin Bruschetta – fresh ciabatta smothered with sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onion, tomatoes and Boursin. This appetizer was sinfully delicious and could well serve as a meal in itself.

All of Roar’s appetizers are perfect for sharing and we thought it was terrific that the plates were split for us in the kitchen before they were served. On a subsequent visit, we ordered the Classic Baked French Onion Soup as well as the Shrimp Romano that I can attest is yet another perfect blend of sauteed shrimp, artichoke hearts and spinach in a lovely lemon butter. On a lighter side, you may try something from Roar’s fresh Raw Bar or a “create your own” Charcuterie and Artisan Cheese Slate to start your meal.

Next, we shared a chopped salad that was very fresh and served on well-chilled plates as it should be. This combination of coarsely chopped romaine, radicchio and bibb lettuce with roasted peppers, tomatoes, pistachios, chickpeas, capers and mild swiss cheese tossed in a mustard vinaigrette dressing is, I must say, one of the best salads I have ever tasted. There are four other salads on the menu and having sampled their house salad, I also highly recommend that blend of baby lettuce, spicy pecans, gorgonzola and balsamic vinaigrette.

While waiting for our entree to arrive, we admired the decor which, combined with background music from the 1920s and 30s, is designed to arouse nostalgia. The exposed brick walls are original to the building which dates back to the mid-1800s and has the most interesting history that would take yet another article to relate. Beautiful high density lighting fixtures, combined with twinkly light “trees” above the entranceway, accent the leather booths and fabric banquettes presenting a wonderful atmosphere in which to enjoy your evening. There is not a shred of evidence of House of Chen which for 30 years previously occupied this unusual space. The white bar sets off the beautiful dark woodwork and gives it a vintage look that we all loved. A continuous newsreel video projected on a back wall is a novel idea and a work of art.

This structure was the first three-story brick building built in Allentown. It is a mere 20 ft. wide but extends 240 ft. deep. The configuration is part of the charm that is Roar. A second dining area with seating for about 40 extends to the open kitchen where there are a few “Chef’s Tables” along the wall to watch the chefs at work. Ascend the staircase and there is seating for another 40 in a loft setting that would be perfect for a private party or business meeting.

Roar1Well, back to the food! We each ordered a glass of Simi Sauvignon Blanc to accompany our shared entree of Cast-Iron Seared Dry Scallops served over Mushroom Asparagus Risotto. This is a truly wonderful entree. I’ve had this dish twice here and both times it was amazing. The scallops are superb and the risotto and lemon butter are simply perfect with them. I must explain that dry scallops aren’t often seen on area menus and there is an amazing difference. We lived for many years on Long Beach Island, New Jersey which is home to one of the largest scalloping fleets in the United States. The difference between dry scallops and wet scallops is that wet scallops (which are what you normally see in grocery stores and restaurants) are treated with phosphates as a preservative.

When scallops are soaked in phosphates, they absorb water and “plump” up. They will therefore weigh more so you will pay more for them. The water evaporates during the cooking process thus shrinking the scallop so you are actually yielding less seafood. Phosphates may also alter the taste. Dry scallops, on the other hand, are wild, natural and are not treated with any preservatives. They brown beautifully during the sauteeing process. You pay only for the seafood you buy and they are delicious. You will notice the difference immediately. Always opt for dry scallops when available and if they do not say “dry”, they’re wet! Ask before you buy.

Other entrees are “Roaring Broiler” selections that include steaks and chops with a choice of sauces. Blackened Scottish Salmon, Grilled Mahi, Seared Yellowfin Ahi Tuna and a catch of the day are also offered with a choice of sauces. Roast Chicken, Papardelle Pasta, Duck Breast and Vegetable options round out the menu.

We ended our tasting experience by sharing two desserts – Coconut Creme Brulee and Triple Layer Chocolate Cake. All desserts at Roar are made in house and both of our desserts with freshly-brewed coffee were a decadently sweet ending to a wonderful evening.

Roar is family-owned and operated. Long time restauranteur Don Saylor who, while no longer affiliated, owned The Shanty on 19th Street for many years and sits at the helm here. His son, Dave Saylor, is the restaurant’s manager. The staff at Roar is professional yet very friendly, from Leslie who greeted us at the door, to the servers and kitchen staff. Chef Gregory Fiedler is self-taught but also attended the culinary program at Lehigh County Community College. His previous experience includes stints with Hilton, Randall’s on the Orchard, Beck’s Seafood and Kingfish. He heads up a busy kitchen at Roar that strives to prepare only the freshest ingredients from local purveyors.

There is much to enjoy at Roar and I cannot wait to go back and visit bartenders Michael and Lucas at “Hush,” the intimate Speakeasy at the rear of the building. This is a very chic space where you can enjoy drinks and snacks in intimate surroundings. It does have a private entranceway (complete with sliding peep hole) to check out who’s coming in through the purple door that will be used when the adjacent parking deck is completed.

Roar is located at 732 Hamilton Street in Allentown across from the PPL Center. There is on-site valet parking. Roar is open for lunch Monday thru Friday and dinner everyday but Sunday. Call 610.434.1230 or log onto: for hours of operation, reservations plus complete menu and other information.



Photos by Ryan Hulvat

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