The Bookstore Speakeasy
Ratings: 14 | Reviews: 12 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by wagenvolks:
4.56/5 rDev +12.3%
Hands down, this is one of the coolest beer-centric bars I've had the good fortune to visit. When they call it a Speakeasy, they mean that in almost every literal sense of the word. It has a nondescript entrance that you'd mistake for anything OTHER than a bar, the entry room is kept separate from the bar with a bookstore-looking "guise". Once inside, there are low ceilings and cande-lights on stacks of books around the room. Here's the kicker: the night I visited, there was a 20's style jazz ensemble playing. Tuba, trumpet, banjo, piano, old-timey microphone and songs. It literally felt as though I had stepped onto the set of Boardwalk Empire.
Now for the beer...it's an eclectic list, but whoever designed it has superb taste. Drie Fontenein Oude Kriek and Gueze, Haandybrygartd (sp?) Flemish Red, and several other top notch sours. For the stout lover there was Bell's Expedition, Thirsty Dog Siberian Night, and several others. IPA's were moderately represented, as were a healthy contingent of big, belgian Quads and lighter german beers (Prof Friz Kolsch, for example). The prices are a bit exorbitant, but I'd gladly shell out similar amounts again--especially in such a small town as Bethelehem.
Go to there, (if you can find it) you won't be disappointed.
10-29-2011 17:05:51 | More by wagenvolks
More User Reviews:
3.54/5 rDev -12.8%
My girlfriend and I decided it was time to try out one of Bethlehem's more interesting bars/eateries. We called to make a reservation for 7pm on a Saturday night, but were told that the closest available time was 8 pm. Fair enough, it was just a few hours before that I was calling. I was also told that Fri and Sat nights had a 2 hour limit on table use with a reservation. Not a problem for us.
There were plenty of parking spaces on the street outside the entrance, which is simply marked "The Bookstore" in white lettering on the door. The entrance is a small,dim room surrounded with bookshelves and candles. The hostess's station was right in front, and we told her we had a reservation for 8 pm. She looked over her sheet for a bit then told us we could hang out at the bar for a bit while our table was being prepared.
She led us into the main dining room which was decorated appropriately for the 1920's speakeasy theme. Lighting was mostly hurricane lamps, candles, and a few incandescent bulbs. The place was fairly full with most tables were filled as well as the bar. We got a couple seats and ordered a couple cocktails as they specialize in more old fashioned drinks. The beer list was varied and interesting, and the tap list was as well even though it was only 5-6 beers.
We sat for about 25 minutes before I approached the hostess asking when our table would be ready. She admitted she had forgotten about us and showed us to our table which was the one closest to the dining room, kitchen, and bar so it saw the most foot traffic. Ok, not optimal but I suppose someone has to get that table. A server dropped off a couple glasses of water and told us another server would be taking care of us and would be by shortly. During our wait, there was an interaction between the first server and the hostess that led us to believe that the table we had reserved had been given away and the less than optimal table we were now sitting at wasn't supposed to be ours. Pretty unhappy at this point, we joked we should have remained sitting at the bar! After nobody stopped for 5 or so minutes I hailed down the original server who took our appetizers order. A few minutes later the other server stopped by but we told her our order was already but I would have a Smuttynose Baltic Porter. $7 for what appeared to be a 12-14 oz snifter is a bit high but we were expecting prices to be a bit higher before our visit.
The appetizers arrived (escargot and stuffed mushrooms) and both were delicious. Our server stopped to ask how things were and took our main course order. We were a bit hesitant to stay due to the poor service so far but we decided that we were hungry and wanted to try and make the most of the evening. My girlfriend also ordered a Thirsty Dog Cerasus, which we had never heard of before and was quite delicious. A band started setting up around this time and played some jazz. I'm typically not a fan of music at dinner since it's usually so loud it destroys any possibility at conversation, but the music was light enough to carry on which was surprising for such a small place. Well done.
The food arrived (pork medallions and swordfish steak) and was very good. I ordered a St. Bernardus Tripel at this point. We finished up, paid, and left.
Overall the atmosphere, food, and drink selection was very good. Prices were on the higher end, but it's worth it for a once in a while night out especially at such a unique spot. The service was pretty poor at first, but seemed to get better towards the end. We couldn't quite figure out how the hostess could have forgotten about us in such a small place, and especially since we had made a reservation. To top it off we were given what we perceived to be the worst seats in the place while someone else enjoyed our original spot. Even though we caught some bits and pieces of conversations between the staff that led us to this conclusion, nothing was ever mentioned to us nor an apology made besides the hostess saying "sorry" when I first approached her after waiting for close to half an hour for our table. Pretty inexcusable treatment of your paying customers, especially in a day and age were there are dozens and dozens of other places we could have giving our support. We enjoyed everything besides the service enough that we will be back at some point, but it won't be on a Fri or Sat night for sure.
11-24-2013 16:27:27 | More by skiofpinsk
4.5/5 rDev +10.8%
Another by the same people who own the, no, scratch that, not own, um, manage, I believe, and now not that anymore either. I guess a cousin of, once and permanently removed. So, Bethlehem, on that side of the river I’d never reasonably go, and you’re right, this is the 300 block, so it must be here somewhere. Okay, yeah, it’s the door marked, well I could tell you, but I think you know better than that...
A small reception area often unmanned with bookshelves. You can stand around there indefinitely or see what’s behind curtain number one. Turn and turn again, into a dimly lit room with nooks and sectioned secret places, too. Or at least there were a few months back. They’re gone now save that one front corner 3 table sectioned area, bordered by pressed tin sided ½ wall room dividers dividing, their sills filled with books. It really opened up the room. There are nearly a dozen and a half tables, many of them 2 seat wooden tables with leafs to 4 them up, some stand alone and others in groups. A good bunch of them in a clean row between the pillar poles curtain dressed nicely adjacent to the bar.
And the bar on the far wall, an “L” shaped pressed copper top job, seating a dozen. Glass oil lamps and tea candles along the way and jars of pickles and things pickled, and a bowl of citrus fruits for the ‘tails, I’m sure. Ornate mirror on barback center, with tea candle lit shelves holding booze to both sides, and wines in the front on the counter between the low lamp lighting there. Cash register and stacked books to the left, and a blackboard resting atop listing the tap selections.
A single drop lamp, some mismatched stand up plug ins, small oil lamps & glassed candles on the tables, the bar, and everywhere else. The place is a-flicker. 2X2 block flooring, deep red walls (in this light, anyway, could be yellow, but I doubt it), and a brownish ceiling where there isn’t pressed tin play. Little bookshelf pieces, framed old time pics about, scattered mix and match mirrors, a vintage radio here, a grandfather clock there, and an old piano in the corner with an ancient gramophone horn atop and one of those bull horn things you talk into. I don’t, but you do. I know you do. Late at night with the curtains drawn, oh yes, you do.
6 taps, mix and match of stuff. On a recent visit, they had up the De Proef/O’Reilly collaboration Broederlijke Liefde (can you smell that Flemish Primitive funk?), the Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge of not suck, Smutty Porter, Meantime Scotch Ale, Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, and the New Holland Sun Dog.
And an extensive bottle list broken out stylesque (approachable; earthy; bitter; dark & roasty; refreshing; sour, tart & super funky; brawny sippers; Belgian style beauties; cider, spiced & fruit). 58 bottles by my count, a little more than a 1/3 of them Belgian, a little less than a 1/3 American craft, and the remainder a mix of mostly UK & German, with a few others thrown in for good measure. Some nice Belgian goods (Oud Beersel Oude Geuze Vieille, De Proef Flemish Primitive, Hanssens Scarenbeccakriek, Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze, Girardin Gueuze 1882), although I’m sticking to the taps just now. Orval, my pricing gauge for all things beer, will cost you $11.
First time fooding, I started with the gorgonzola honey fig toast of sticky sticky goodness, and then the smoked duck salad (mixed greens, dried cherries, candied walnuts & a sherry vinaigrette), just wonderful. She had the grilled cheese gruyere, apple onion jam, crisps, played sans bacon, as she does. Complaining, there was none. You know, you’re right, the smores dessert does sound good and probably looks better, but I must refrain.
On subsequent revisits, I’ll take in the meat and cheese plate, pay as you play. Had at the house smoked trout (tasty cherry tomato jam), the Salami Rosa (pistachios, white pepper & coriander), and a pair of cheeses; the Cabot clothbound ched (dense, nutty) & the Lenora goat (creamy). Another time, I mixed in the Felino (slow aged salami), the Coppa (Capricola, dry cured pork shoulder), and a single cheese; the Roomano (sweet/salty). As always, they came with slivered bread, pickle pieces, stone ground mustard, spiced candied almonds, and awesome brandied cherries. I put the pieces together in different ways. It was some good pickin’ at. Food has been consistently wonderful on my multiple visits now. It’s just a matter of time ‘til I hit that slab bacon sandwich.
Wednesday night again, diggin’ on the old time Jazz, and yapping beer with the Paultender while he deals mixology 301 (graduate level, advanced mixology). I love the house rules but am concerned that my boorish behavior may get me bounced. I mean, I suspect “Kindly refrain from any vulgar language or untoward behaviours” to have been written specifically for me. A chill spot with very good food & drink, I like. And people started piling in. beer people. Good beer people. People in the know. The place is scene.
08-06-2011 20:42:13 | More by slander
4.25/5 rDev +4.7%
The Bookstore a goldmine of a place in the Lehigh Valley if you're in the mood for something entirely different. My cousin told me about this place when it opened and she said that it was a "must go to" type of place for someone like me. With that knowledge I kept that in mind and checked out their website and was blown away by the Beer & Cocktail List. Plus their food menu sounded awesome too. I managed to save up some money and take my girlfriend there for a few rounds of drinks one night.
We got there and the place was booming, we were asked to come back in 30 minutes to see if anything opens up. We walked around town for a little and came back. We managed to get in this time and as soon as we went behind the curtain, I felt like Sam from Quantum Leap. Instantly you're thrown back in time to the 1920's. This place has some of the coolest decor I've ever seen in a bar. Just really antique and fancy looking things all over.
There is live jazz bands that play some nights which is really cool and adds to the uniqueness of the place. The bartenders and other employees wear clothes that look old fashion as well. The overall look of the place is incredible the first few times you're there.
The beer list has dwindled since I started going there. The beers on tap don't change as frequently either it seems. They used to post new beers on their website almost weekly there. Now I'm lucky if they post changes once a month. The beers they do have available are some of the best around though. They had a wide assortment of Belgian Brews there along with German and American beers too.
There is plenty of good tasty food too here. It's pricey but it's good. If you have the money and the time go and sit back and relax and enjoy the music and the visuals you get at the Bookstore by all means go for it. Just be prepared to spend a pretty penny doing it. Also save yourself the trouble of not getting in and make a reservation before you go.
04-07-2011 16:21:35 | More by Knapp85
4.43/5 rDev +9.1%
This was a surprise find, I didn't know this place existed here in the Lehigh Valley, this came from the recommendation of a friend,and a very good one at that. I met up with a buddy of mine for a "guy's night" out.
The Bookstore is dificult to find and if you're not watching, it's easy to miss, especially since the only marker is a black door with "The Bookstore" spray painted in white letters. It's exactly what the title implies, it's a Speakeasy throwback from the 20's. You walk in the door and there's a small counter and two walls of bookshelves full of books on the left with a big, thick, heavy velvet curtain behind the counter. I was confused because this tiny little entrance room throws you off a bit, it's like, "Where's the bar? Am I in the right place?" At that, the hostess pulls the heavy curtain aside which opens into a big area with a few rooms on the side and there it is, the bar and restaurant area! The decor is very 1920's, from the furnishings to the electrical fixtures. The mixed drink menu is actually imbedded in the first several pages of an old book, so obviously, each drink menu, though the same, looks diffrent because no two books look alike...very cool. The place is really dark inside and if it weren't for the flashlight feature on my cell phone, we wouldn't have been able to read the menu because the candle light wasn't bright enough to do the job. The bar looked very 1920's and there was even one of the old push button style cash registers on the counter.
The food menu has alot of meats and cheeses for appetizers which is served on a slate slab, nice touch. The dinner menu is limited with 8-10 selections (if I remember correctly), a little eclectic, and the burger was awesome. It doesn't strike me as a place you would go if you're looking to graze on a big meat and potato meal, but the portions were just right and the burger was filling. For the appetizer platter we had a really nice spicy cheese along with salami and smoked trout, it was really, really good.
On to the beer, I didn't count the total number of bottles on the menu, but I'd say there was something in the neighborhood of 30 beers or so and another 5 taps, all high end/top shelf stuff. Heck, they had Nebraska Black Betty on the list, I've been searching for that beer, how cool is that? I also bought one to take home and age.
They have live jazz on Saturday night with a really talented foursome who does all 1920's style of jazz.
Overall, I absolutely loved this place and will definitely be back. The past two weeks have been difficult with alot of personal stuff going on and this was a welcome diversion. Spending a few hours there is like another dimension and it makes you forget about everything outside its walls. Just for a few hours, I felt like I went back in time and was able to forget the entire world outside for awhile. It's the most unique experience I've ever had, the worst part was trying to find it, but once I did, the frustration was WELL worth it!
01-23-2011 20:08:13 | More by jzeilinger
4.45/5 rDev +9.6%
Cute discreet entrance, just a door with "Bookstore" stenciled on in small letters. You enter a small room full of books and are escorted through a dark curtain into the bar and dining room. Low ceiling and very dark. Had to use the candles to see the menus which are inside books on your table. Nice selection of beers both on tap and bottled. A little heavy on the Belgiums but they also had Brooklyn Blast on tap and Burtons Baton bottled so this hophead was happy. Food is lots of small plates from $3 to $7 and large plates for $12. Small plates were, well, small. Smoked Trout, Foie Gras mousse on toast, endmame/red pepper puree on toast. Large plates: We had scallops with sweet potato puree with vanilla, skirt steak with roasted onions and a wine reduction sauce. Best buy was probably Kobe Burgers with bacon jam, excellent.
Our total bill for 4 was $175 but that included several expensive beers and a couple very expensive ($11) drinks.
All in all a great place, and right around the corner from Godfrey Daniels where we were headed for a show.
Service was above average with a couple long waits for drink orders ("long" being 10 minutes). I'll be back.
01-08-2011 16:46:39 | More by johnrf
3.93/5 rDev -3.2%
This is a discreet, albeit gimmicky, place in Bethlem that is worth checking out if you are doing some shopping nearby at Abe's. The entrance is on a side street with no sign or any clue that it even exists except for the word bookstore painting on a dark grey door. Once you walk in there is a very small room with a few bookshelves and a cashier. Behind the cashier, who realy is q hostess, there is a curtain that leads into the bar/dining room area. It is very, very dark with subtle light from lanterns on each table. All of the servers are in tuxes and their is a piano which I'm told is played on weekends. The whole idea is kind of kitschy but I'm a sucker for his kind of thing. Gimmicky but really unique.
I didn't eat here but sat at a table with a local BA and his girlfriend. We only ordered drinks so the service was prompt but nothing spectacular.
The selection is really good, one of the first places in the area to serve Schlenkerla Eiche. They only have about 7-10 taps but all of them are quality. They have a very extensive bottle list and the menu is actually a hardback book which fits the theme of the place. There's a huge variety of bottles includig local and other domestic craft as well as a vintage selection and a plethora of awesome Italian beers. I was really impressed with the selection and would defintely recommend this place to anyone who doesn't think the gimmick is extremely stupid.
12-18-2010 23:14:56 | More by corby112
4.5/5 rDev +10.8%
Went here after leaving tap and table, probably not the best idea to go beer bar hopping on a friday night in a college town with all that DUI buisness i've been hearing about but I did it in the name of beer. This review will be short because I drank my face off this weekend.
A- Located somewhere in Bethlehem The Bookstore is a basement type of place. Once in the doors I see a lot of books and darkness. To say this place is dim is a huge understatement. Old looking, piles of books all over and some old time Decor. A seating area to the left, a bar to the right, a old time piano and the 1920's music to boot. While different for a bar, I still felt right at home. AUTHENTIC.
Q- I had some banging beers on tap and they tasted amazing, clean lines and all that JAZZ. Clean sniftas of goodness. Did not try the food as it was late but there was that authenticity of the bar food in the big jars (sorry cant articulate this more, Im not a foodie). The bathroom was nice. Cant really say much about the cleanliness of the entire place because it's just so damn dark, im assuming it's nice though. Did they have Vacumns back in the 20's?
S- While reading other peoples reviews I noticed that alot of people stating the service sucks here. Well im going to let you in on a little secret, maybe it's you guys that suck. My service was great, that is all.
S- Not a bunch of taps but what's there is well thought out. Alot of the beers on the list were saison's from T&T's saison event, so a good variety. A short and mindblowing list of all the goodies in the bottle list. I could have a field day here if I had the loochie to splurge on it. Draft prices were way high for the 1920's though, I came in thinking everything would be under a buck, or a nickle or something like that,:)
F- I did not get to try any grub but I'll be back for some in the future, or the past, you catch my drift.
This place is way beyond cool, a great departure from the regular beer bar scene, an experience. Coming back soon with fat pockets.
09-26-2010 00:49:05 | More by BARFLYB
The Bookstore Speakeasy in Bethlehem, PA
91 out of 100 based on 14 ratings.