Youell’s Oyster House is an oyster seafood house conveniently located one block south of Hamilton Street at the corner of 23rd and Walnut Streets in Allentown PA, just minutes away from the new PPL Center. Youell’s Oyster House has been serving the finest quality seafood since the late 1800’s, and since then has grown and now has a line of fine fresh seafood, cock-tails, craft beer, and homemade desserts.
The history of Youell’s Oyster House is as rich as the food here, and interesting to say the least. The Rice brothers opened the eatery at the original location on Northampton Street, the current site of the former Hotel Easton. On top of that, they allegedly operated a speakeasy outside of town during the 1800’s.
Later on, the seafood restaurant was moved two blocks east, to the first block of North Front Street, along the bank of the Delaware River. During that era of Easton’s history, the city was not only the county seat but a thriving point of commerce and a host to many saloons and hotels. It was also noted as a center of illegal gambling and other nefarious activities. Then known as “Rice’s,” the restaurant was well-known for their shellfish and steak. Old-timers remembered the owners, accompanied by their Boston Terrier, accepting their daily delivery of wooden casks filled with fresh oysters.
In 1938 Bob Youell bought the business, renamed it and put more emphasis on seafood, particularly fried items. Years later, Youell’s was purchased in 1953 by local politician Gene Ricci who added extensively to the seafood menu. Contrary to popular belief, the restaurant did not fall victim to the “Great Flood of ’55” which caused extensive damage to that part of town, but to urban redevelopment.
The seafood restaurant moved to 325 Cattel Street in Easton’s Historic College Hill neighborhood in 1955. The building was originally a single family home that was converted and then expanded in 1961, to accommodate the restaurant’s prolific following. Long time Lehigh Valley residents will remember the reputation that the small unassuming restaurant had: in spite of the cramped quarters and a frantic pace, patrons would wait for over an hour, in lines that stretched up the block, rain or shine.
Regular patrons hailed from the Poconos, northern New Jersey, New York and the Philadelphia area. Much of the credit for Youell’s popularity was due to the fine quality Chesapeake crab meat that was used in many of the entrees.
Longtime patrons, the Filipos family acquired Youell’s Oyster House in 1984. With an understanding of the restaurant’s uniqueness, there was a philosophical agreement that they would maintain the integrity of the business and continue to “offer the highest quality seafood at reasonable prices.” Nervous customers were relieved to find that the new owners did not alter any of the established recipes or economize on the quality of the ingredients.
A second location with larger quarters was opened in 1992 in Allentown’s West End. The Easton restaurant was sold to a former Chef two years later, however, much to the dismay of the family and generations of patrons, the business shut their doors after at least 100 years of business.
The current location of Youell’s Oyster House at 23rd and Walnut Street carries on the tradition for which it has become famous. The building dates back to the early 1800’s. Adjacent to Reading Road, the former main trail from Allentown, the original farmhouse also served as a stagecoach stop and general store. At some time a tavern and dining room evolved and was operated by the Hemerly’s. There was a separate entrance for women, with the men entering the bar room. It is said that the bar had a brass hand and foot rail (underneath which was a drained trough used in lieu of a spittoon). Older patrons remember steamed clams served for a penny apiece through the 1950’s. During the 1960’s the restaurant operated as “The Ivanhoe”, and in the 1970’s and ’80’s, the very popular “Sirloin Pub” steakhouse, owned by German Chef Harry Hoff. And finally the “Florentine Inn”, serving northern Italian fare.
In The early hours of January 22, 2013, the Allentown Fire Department was notified that Youell’s was ablaze. Every engine in the city eventually responded. Five firefighters were hospitalized, but the adjacent homes were spared major damage, despite the closest being several feet away. A low temperature of 7 degrees, along with high winds made the conditions considerably more challenging.
The restaurant was a complete loss, and was demolished. A four month build began in September 2013. From the ashes rises a spacious and beautiful eatery, only exceeded by the fine food, staff and patronage.
The new Youell’s includes a mezzanine level for private functions and pairing menus, as well as a rooftop garden and apiary (honeybee colonies).
Patrons will find their longtime favorite entrees, complemented by daily Chef’s features and gastropub fare. Complementary to the menu are an extensive craft beer selection and substantial wine list.
The staff at Youell’s Oyster House still hand pick the jumbo lump crab meat daily and served it in a variety of ways. Repeatedly patrons comment about:
- The Jumbo Lump Crabmeat: “The freshest and best available – especially good with browned butter.”
- The Shrimp Stuffed with Crabmeat: “So unique; not available anywhere else.“
- The Crabcakes: “Better than those offered in the Baltimore-Annapolis area.”
- The Sauteed Soft Shell Crabs: “Hard to find better anywhere on the East Coast.“
In addition to crab meat, a variety of fresh, seasonal fish and shellfish is available as well as prime steaks and poultry. The long standing unique recipes are complemented by daily Chef’s features, specially prepared, often with fresh herbs grown in Youell’s garden.
Proudly Serving customers in Lehigh Valley, PA | Allentown | Bethlehem | Easton