A business closes, its location going fallow as dust collects on the windows and what remains of the interior. For sale/lease signs are placed in the window and they too, in time, begin to collect a bit of dust. Over the months and years that pass speculation and rumor are given life regarding what the location may become, each meeting an end as quickly as it began. Then one day a bit of activity is detected as signage comes down and paper indicating that an interior is receiving new attention goes up. Word begins to spread that new life is being breathed into an old location and cautious optimism begins to build. Soon the exterior façade receives attention as new windows are installed and an entrance is relocated. Word slowly seeps out that sometime soon there will be a new place to gather, to break bread and share a libation with friends. As the anticipation builds, curiosity reaches a fevered pitch and at long last, rumors are confirmed as the windows receive their final treatment… STOKE.
In the brief period of time that the newest occupant of 1 Lehns Court has been open, Stoke Coal Fire Pizza & Bar has already earned a reputation for a comfortable, relaxed dining experience and exceptional food. The interior is reminiscent of a favorite hometown bar with a slight industrial chic twist. Co-manger Scott Voelker is responsible for the interiors feel and was interested in creating a space that would quickly become your local living room. Hard wood floors and industrial light fixtures whose glow casts a subtle pattern on the ceiling add to Stoke’s charm and feeling of comfortable familiarity. Patrons can be as at ease here as they are at home in their living room while dining or sharing drinks with friends. Upscale yet unpretentious describes much of what you will find at Stoke.
Stoke’s main feature, besides Executive Chef Abe Lopez, is its 5,000- pound coal fired pizza oven. Able to accommodate six to eight pizzas at a time, this culinary wonder is able to provide guests with a perfectly cooked, thin crust pizza, every time. At 800 degrees as the optimal cooking temperature, 90 seconds is all it takes to cook whichever of the numerous pizzas offered you may choose to sample on a particular evening. What comes out of that oven is simply delicious. Co-Manager Melissa Lozada’s favorite happens to be one that is shared by many. The Fig & Pig is a sumptuous blend of fig spread, prosciutto and ricotta that is drizzled with honey and balsamic reduction, and then finished with arugula. With ingredients presented on a perfectly cooked, thin crust, the sweetness of figs and honey pairs perfectly with the slightly tart flavor provided by the arugula and balsamic. The prosciutto is the final element that ties it all together. It is no small wonder that this is one of the more popular pizzas ordered. Other options include the Veggie featuring coal roasted peppers, mushrooms, squash, broccoli rabe, and crushed tomatoes with mozzarella and parmigano-reggiano, Sausage and Peppers, White Pizza that is subtle in it’s use of garlic and of course the Margherita featuring fresh mozzarella, crushed tomatoes and fresh basil. In addition to these daily options, specialty pizzas are offered frequently.
Stoke is more than just pizza. Salads, small plates, entrees and sandwiches are all provided equal representation on the menu, each with its own unique twist. Of particular interest for those who enjoy a good plate of wings are the Stoke Fired Chicken Wings. Executive Chef Abe Lopez has put his own twist on a bar fare classic through topping his version with caramelized onions, banana peppers and crumbled blue cheese. Once you try his version you may not return to the standard varieties again. Stoke’s Fried Zucchini is large enough to share, crisp and thinly sliced. Presented almost as crispy fried noodles, this option under the Small Plates is served with a bit of parmesan and garlic aioli. If one is given to suggestion I would recommend that on at least one of your trips to Stoke you not leave without trying Anna’s Italian Meatballs. Served with marinara, parmigiano-reggiano and herbed ricotta, this Small Plate will transport you instantly back into any kitchen experience you may have had as a child, watching your mother or grandmother hand make and then cook meatballs for the evenings dinner. To say they are home made, perfectly seasoned and filled with flavor and childhood memories is an understatement.
When it comes to the kitchen and the ingredients used, fresh is best and aside from the pizza selections where nothing is hidden, the entrees are where this philosophy shines. Whether it is a simply prepared Salmon Special or one of Stokes mainstays, clean, uncomplicated and light flavors shine through. There is nothing “heavy” about this menu and for patrons on the go, coming to or from a State Theatre show or one of the many gallery openings in town on a particular evening, Stoke’s menu will fill you up without weighing you down. Goodfella’s Primavera is a perfect example of a dish where the words “cream sauce” are do not equate to a meal that will leave one feeling sluggish. Orecchiette is tossed with white wine and garlic, sautéed broccoli rabe, blistered tomatoes and roasted red peppers and served in a pesto cream sauce that is light in consistency and balanced in its flavor. The Chicken Milanese, served over mezzi rigatoni with vodka sauce and fresh basil is yet another dish where the re is proof positive that a sauce can be flavor filled and an enhancement to a dish without being overpowering. It is evident that Chef Abe has designed his dishes and his menu with care and sensitivity to what balancing flavor, ingredients and a bit of creativity can bring to ones palate. A personal favorite from the dinner menu would have to be the Sauteed Chicken, topped with a rustic red pepper tapenade, buratta, balsamic drizzle and fresh basil. Upon taking a first bite, this might just become one of your instant favorites as well as the flavors from this entrée reach your sense taste and the aroma coming from your dish tickles your nose.
There is much to not be overlooked on Stoke’s menu. Sandwiches served Panini style on house made bread, such as the Chicken BLT, the Veggie Panini or the Three Cheese Panini featuring provolone, smoked gouda and mozzarella with sundried tomato puree and garlic aioli are all great options if you happen to stop in for lunch. Served with a side of soup that is perfect for dipping, the bread is always fresh and never heavy. There are options to choose from for the vegetarian or omnivore in you, but whatever you choose, try not to leave without a bit of dessert. If you happen to be in for lunch you may want to consider taking a treat home for later. Having dinner out? A shot of espresso and a nice tiramisu cheese cake may just be the perfect way to end an evening out with friends. One thing is for certain. News is quickly spreading about Easton’s newest spot to relax and dine as patrons line up and wait patiently for a chance to sample the menu and enjoy the company of friends.
As always, enjoy-
Stoke Coal Fire Pizza and Bar
1 Lehns Court, Center Square, Easton
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