Sagra Bistro in Hellertown had its roots in Easton, where the husband and wife team of Jim Zebert and Robyn Cavallaro catered and taught culinary classes. Searching for a location for a restaurant and striking out in Easton, they eventually found their footing in Hellertown.
This unassuming little eatery is tucked quietly into a block of shops ranging from barbers to dance studios. Upon entering you’re greeted with a small, slightly-cramped-if-crowded dining area and a bar to the back. I visited early and took a seat at the bar and got a seasonally-appropriate cucumber martini. Through a small, yet focused and diverse, listing of drinks there’s a lot to look over here. Craft beer with a variety spanning from IPAs to Belgian triplels, wines by the glass or bottle that span quite a few varietals and appellations, and surprisingly tasty hand-crafted tipples. I was shocked – SHOCKED that I didn’t hate the cucumber martini even a fraction of how much I wanted to considering it used a vodka base.
The bar itself is interesting in its own right, as is the rest of the bistro. The bar is covered in the wood from old wine cases. You could get real liquored up and make a trivia game out of it if you happen to be dining with a bunch of oenophiles. The dining room is rife with antique browns and black accents. When it gets darker outside this is a great place to be hanging out in, with dim lights and cozy colors complimenting the darkening outside and your glass of cab.
So how was the food? Pretty good. A salad that was unthoughtful was good enough. The balsamic was great and in just the right proportion to drown the salad. My medium-rare steak was delivered halfway through the salad, rushing me straight along to me entrée. A delightfully seared filet dripping with six month bleu, accented by bacon and caramelized onions proves to be flavorful, indulgent, and just enough. Melding with the rich beef flavor, the tang of the bleu plays well with the sweet onions delivering a lingering aftertaste that’s savory and welcome.
A house-made dulche de leche cheesecake you say? Yes, please. A dram of Tomatin 10 to accompany, if you don’t mind. In what turned out to be a gut-busting, ultra-rich affair, Mr. Zebert’s cheesecake is top of the line and nearly unbearably rich. How I managed to plow through the entire slice is one left up to gastronomic scientists, but suffice to say it was lovely. The smooth Highland whisky cut straight through the sweet stuff and I felt fat and happy by the end of my meal.
If there’s one thing Sagra lacks it is properly trained servers. On this and a subsequent visit I felt like I was being forced through my meal quickly. Entrees delivered when I’m halfway through my appetizer, constantly being asked if I need anything or want the check. Can’t I just relax here and let the five pounds of food I just demolished in lightning speed digest? I understand that the space is smaller and there’s limited seating, but rushing guests through isn’t a way to build returning clientele or get a good tip.
Is Sagra Bistro world class? Nah. Is it the best in the valley? Not that either. What it excels at is being a moderately pricey endeavor that will deliver you tasty food, excelling in some areas and occasionally lacking in others while maintaining a comfortable atmosphere. It doesn’t come off as a stuffy, high end snobfest filled with Cosmo-drinking trophy wives, but rather a relaxing affair where you can enjoy an easy-going gourmet dinner without a lot of fuss. I’d love to see some truly innovative dishes come out of the kitchen of this place, but right now they seem okay with where they’re at and that’s okay with me. Sagra is a welcome respite in a town widely devoid of culinary decency. Also, if you’re looking at that filet and drooling, it’s available on Tuesday nights for $15 – a full ten off the normal price.
620 Main Street
Hellertown, PA 18055