BY JENNIFER LOCONTE
Looking for authentic, mouth-watering barbecue with a side of soulful jazz? Look no further than Sugar Hill Jazz House, a Southern eatery located in downtown Allentown. Co-owners Jay King (from Philadelphia) and Mary Shearin (from Brooklyn) were previous owners of a tiny take-out space called Baby Got Que, but after becoming increasingly popular, it was time to find a larger, more accommodating space. With a love for old-school jazz, King and Shearin decided to incorporate live jazz into their new restaurant, creating a buzz around the Valley since they first opened in June 2016.
King, executive chef, started molding his craft and love for cooking over 20 years ago.
“I loved cooking and catering parties for family and friends when I was in middle school,” he says. “I’ll never forget people’s expressions when they asked if I cooked this dish or that dish. I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
King enrolled in a variety of culinary classes to learn more about the science of food, but it was his personal cooking experiences that taught him the most. Through trial and error and using different woods for smoking meats, he perfected his recipes. At Sugar Hill, King uses a huge smoker to cook meats for up to eight hours.
At Sugar Hill, everything on the menu is made from scratch, including sides like corn bread, mac and cheese, grits, candied yams and collard greens. Live jazz from all over the Lehigh Valley and beyond performs on Friday and Saturday nights, so call ahead for reservations. Enjoy music by a live pianist during happy hours throughout the week, and feel free to sing along. Try a signature cocktail like the Billie, Ella, Duke, Miles, Coltrane or Louie.
Sugar Hill seats about 115 patrons in a combined two-room comfortable space adorned with jazz-themed art and a full-service bar with a bar top resembling black and white piano keys. Private-party booking is a possibility, and take-out/catering is available.
Top 3 Must-Sample Appetizers
- BBQ Hennessy Wings, drenched in homemade Hennessy barbecue sauce.
- Rib Tips: Boneless spare-rib tips battered and cooked in a country oven with a side of Baby Got Que sauce.
- Loaded French Fries: Fresh, hand-cut French fries loaded with cheese sauce, shredded cheese, green onion, bacon, jalapenos, sour cream and Baby Got Que sauce drizzled on top.
Top 3 Must-ORDER Pit Sandwiches
- “Award Winning” Beef Brisket: Slow-cooked brisket served with Baby Got Que sauce.
- The Phantom: King’s award-winning brisket, smoked beef sausage, beef pastrami, sautéed onions and peppers and deli mustard, served on a warm brioche bun.
- The Cowboy: Signature barbecue chicken drenched in homemade sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, topped with cheddar cheese, coleslaw, lettuce and tomato on a warm brioche roll.
HAPPY-HOUR SIGNATURE COCKTAIL
- Sugar Hill Manhattan: Maker’s Mark, sweet vermouth, bourbon-barrel-aged maple syrup, dash of bitters and a slice of candied bacon.
SUGAR HILL JAZZ HOUSE
(39 S. 9th St., Allentown) is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call (610) 841-JAZZ or visit sugarhilljazzhouse.com.