Chili dogs and deep-fried pierogies: That’s lunch. Where are you? If you answered Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, count yourself among the Roadfood congnoscenti. What French fries are to most of the fast-food eating populace, fried pierogies are to the Lehigh Valley. And what Yocco’s is to Allentown, Pete’s is to Bethlehem.
Pete’s, which calls itself King of Hot Dogs, has been a fixture on Bethlehem’s Southside since the hayday of the steel production that took place less than a mile down the road. Take that drive east today and you’ll discover that Bethlehem Steel is now a casino; but Pete’s is still slinging chili dogs and pierogies on Broadway.
The dogs are pork and beef Hatfield franks (same as the ones served at Yocco’s), well-browned on the flattop. You can enjoy a naked dog, of course, but there’s nothing intrinsically wonderful about a plain Hatfield frank. At Pete’s, you want the classic local combo of chili, brown mustard, and chopped onion — known among regulars as a Greeker. Unlike the chili served at Yocco’s (which they do NOT call chili; it’s Yocco’s “sauce”), Pete’s chili will not seep into the bun. It is thick and viscous enough to remain atop the dog. It has a touch of heat, but cumin is the operative flavor.
For well under $10, you can lunch on a couple of chili dogs, a trio of fried pierogies and, if you really want to go local, a container of chocolate milk. Or grab a can of the locally bottled (in Allentown, since 1918) A-Treat soda. It is a soulful taste of the Lehigh Valley.