Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cheeburger Cheeburger Brings Diner Style to Downtown Easton

By Christina Georgiou

More than 100 locals packed Downtown Easton's newest restaurant,
Cheeburger Cheeburger, to sample burgers, fries, and the eatery's
signature milkshakes during a ribbon-cutting event held Wednesday afternoon.
More than 100 locals packed Downtown Easton's newest restaurant, Cheeburger Cheeburger, to sample burgers, fries, and the eatery's signature milkshakes during a ribbon-cutting event held Wednesday afternoon.

Cheeburger Cheeburger officially opens to the public today at 11:30 a.m. The new restaurant fills a niche in Downtown Easton's growing collection of eateries, Mayor Sal Panto said.

"It adds, not to our culinary destinations on the high end, but adds to a part we’re missing. There’s nothing like it in Easton," Panto told the crowd.

Frank Aversa and John Jaindl, third and fourth from the right,
cut the ribbon at their new Cheeburger Cheeburger restaurant
Wednesday afternoon.

Local State Representative Bob Freeman, a lifelong Eastonian, was also on hand for the event, and concurred.

"I think you'll find a ready audience for milkshakes and cheeseburgers here in Easton," he said. "This fills a missing piece of the restaurant puzzle here in Easton."

With a high-camp 50s diner-theme, including Hollywood icons such as Marilyn Monroe and the Blues Brothers adorning the walls, the casual restaurant offers an impressive array of choices to customize burgers and similar options to "invent" milkshakes and fries.

Salads, sandwiches, wraps, and melts round out the menu.

Prices for most menu offerings range from just over $5 to about $10.99 for a 20-ounce burger or platters. Cheeburger's signature milkshakes are $4.99, or $3.99 for the half size.

The Easton franchise is owned by partners Frank Aversa and John Jaindl.

One of Cheeburger Cheeburger's
signature milkshakes in the making.
Aversa, who owned a Cheeburger location in Flemington, NJ, discovered Easton through developer Mark Mulligan, who owns the Pomeroy building where Cheeburger is located. The two worked together on Flemington's Business Improvement District.

Aversa said he otherwise hadn't really heard of Easton, until Mulligan suggested the  city as a good location.

"We had no clue, being from Jersey," he said. "But we were blown away."

Aversa said that in addition to the opportunity Easton offers, the city has already been a pleasant place to do business.

"I've opened up a bunch of these, and the people in city hall were so courteous and helpful. I've never seen that," he said.

The new restaurant employs about 60 people in full- and part-time positions, and all that were hired are local to Easton, Aversa said.

Cheeburger Cheeburger opens its doors to the public today and is open seven days a week.

Diane Bower, Manuel Fresneda , Marcel Bedoya, and Steve Flowers toast with french fries at the opening
celebration of Cheeburger Cheeburger on Wednesday
For now, hours will be from 11:30 a.m. to late evenings on weekdays, and open until about 2 a.m. on weekends. As the restaurant gets established, it plans to be open 24 hours a day on weekends, which will offer another place in the Downtown district where people can get a bite to eat after the bars close.

Cheeburger Cheeburger is located at 336 Northampton St. Reach them by phone at 610-438-1311. Take-out is available.

More about the restaurant can also be found online at

Man Arrested as Police Raid Nets Heroin and Crack Cocaine

A warranted search of a home at 1227 Spruce St. in Easton's West Ward neighborhood  by city police early this morning led to the arrest of one man and the seizure of quantities of  heroin and crack cocaine, police report.

Jaronzia Fletcher, 39, was arrested at about 6 a.m. at the residence after police found about $2,500 worth of heroin and $100 of crack cocaine, authorities said.

Fletcher will face charges of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance for the heroin and possession of a controlled substance for the crack cocaine that was found, it was added.

Police said the search was the result of an investigation that was begun in September that focused on the sale of heroin in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Daddy's Place Brings Lebanese Cuisine to Easton's West Ward

By Christina Georgiou

Lebanese and Mediterranean goodies, all made fresh on the premises, greet
restaurant guests in the case just inside the front door at Daddy's Place.
Click on any photo for a full size view.
Daddy's Place opened quietly this past Friday, but the new West Ward Easton restaurant isn't likely to stay a secret for very long.

Located on Northampton Street just a couple of blocks outside of the city's Downtown district in the former Northampton Glass building, which has been completely renovated, the new eatery offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with more than 250 craft beers to pair with meals or to take out.

Daddy's Place offers an impressive
selection of more than 250 domestic
and imported craft beers.
With a menu that ranges from Lebanese and Mediterranean specialties that will be familiar to anyone who has ever attended the city's popular Lebanese Heritage Days festival to classic American fare like brick oven pizza, hamburgers, cheesesteaks, fries, and wings, all Daddy's Place offerings are freshly made on the premises, promises owner Lena Koorie, who is running the new bistro with her husband Sharbel.

"The dough, I make it every day," she said, in between preparing mini tomato pies Tuesday afternoon. "I want it that way. That's how we eat at home, so why not."

Just-made tomato pies go into the brick oven to bake.
Lena Koorie, right, makes mini tomato
pies Tuesday afternoon.
Just inside the door, restaurant guests are greeted by a mouth-watering array of ready-to-go ethnic goodies, including spinach and meat pies, hummus, tabbouleh salad, kibbe, stuffed grape leaves, and more.

Even the chick peas for the hummus are cooked fresh, never canned, Koorie said.

"It's a lot of work, but it's worth it," she said.

A batch of stuffed grape leaves in the
Tomato, spinach, meat, and cheese pies, along
with other delectables cool on a rack at
Daddy's Place on Tuesday afternoon.
In the back of the kitchen, three people patiently assembled the next batch of stuffed grape leaves, one by one.

Despite all the labor and love that goes into the food, prices for most menu items are moderate.

Koorie, along with her husband Sharbel and their five children, live just blocks away from their new restaurant, and they want Daddy's Place to be a gathering place for those that live in the neighborhood.

"I want people to feel comfortable," Koorie said. "People can walk here. We don't have anything like this (in the West Ward), and we need it."

Sugar pie, a Lebanese sweet reminiscent
of a baked doughnut, was one of the
special desserts on offer on Tuesday,
along with baklava and brownies.
Daddy's Place, located at 650 Northampton St., is open seven days a week. For now, hours are from 7 a.m. to about 8 or 9 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 8 or 9 p.m. on Sundays.

Take out orders may be called in at 610-438-4442.

An official grand opening celebration is planned for the near future.

Check out Daddy's Place's menu on the restaurant website,, or keep up with what's coming out of their brick oven daily on the Daddy's Place Facebook page.

Beer Expert to Hold Book Signing at Weyerbacher

John Holl, author of "The American
Craft Beer Cookbook" will be
at the Weyerbacher Brewing
Company visitors center
this Friday, Nov. 1.
Contributed photo
John Holl, beer journalist and the editor of All About Beer Magazine,  will be signing copies of his new book, "The American Craft Beer Cookbook" at Weyerbacher Brewing Company's visitors center at 905 Line St. this Friday, November 1 from 4 to 7 p.m.

Holl has traveled the country and collected more than 150 recipes from breweries, brewpubs, chefs and beer-centric restaurants for his new cookbook that illustrate the delicious intersection on the culinary road where food and beer meet. In some cases beer is used as an ingredient, and every recipe discusses how to find a  perfect pint to bring the meal to a crescendo where the complexity, depth and breadth of a craft beer beautifully complements, contrasts with or enhances the flavors on the plate.

Geared towards the home cook, "The American Craft Beer Cookbook" covers everything from breakfast to dessert, salads, soups and entrees for every taste.

The book also includes a recipe from Weyerbacher for "Belgian Endive with Gruyère and Prosciutto".

Copies of the book will be available for purchase during the signing, a release from Weyerbacher about the event said.

For more information, visit the Weyerbacher Brewing Company website at or call 610-559-5561.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Paxinosa Students Geared Up for Winter, Thanks to Easton Firefighters

By Christina Georgiou

Paxinosa Elementary School students show off their new winter coats Tuesday afternoon. The Easton Fire Department's
"Coats for Kids" campaign outfitted 125 kids in need with brand-new, American-made winter garments.
Click on any photo for a full size view.
It's getting chilly outside, and it's only going to get colder as winter comes, but 125 Paxinosa Elementary School students are well-prepared for the season after  Easton firefighters outfitted them with brand new winter coats this afternoon.

The Easton Firefighters Coats for Kids campaign raised almost $4,000 since its kick off in August to provide the American-made garments to students that participate in the free and reduced-price lunch program at the school.

A student, assisted by an Easton firefighter, picks up her
new coat in front of Paxinosa Elementary School Tuesday
The students had their choice of colors--light pink, dark pink, or purple for the girls and gray, bright blue, or khaki for the boys--and each coat was tried on to ensure the proper fit, with a little room to grow too. Then, each child's name was written on the label inside by the Easton firefighters who volunteered their time for the giveaway event shortly before the end of the school day in front of the Northampton Street school Tuesday afternoon.

Donations to pay for the warm winter garments came from a variety of community sources and individuals, Easton Firefighters Coats for Kids organizer James Cocheran said.

"We got a lot of help," he said.

Sponsors, in addition to private donations, included Two Rivers Brewing Company and Rivals Sports Bar and Nightclub, both of who held multiple fund raising nights where profits from sales were donated to the cause.

IRCO Community Federal Credit Union in Phillipsburg, NJ was a major sponsor of the campaign too.

"And that's really amazing, since they're not even in Easton," Cochoran said.

One young man can't contain his excitement after receiving
his new bright blue winter coat.
Other local and area community businesses, including American Printing, Easton T-Shirts and Logos, Vintage Restaurant, Genesis Bicycles, Minuteman Press, Spa Soleil, and Dorney Park, also donated funds, supplies and materials, he added.

For their part, the students seemed delighted with their coats, showing them off to friends and happily posing for photos.

But despite the happy atmosphere, that there is such a need for the coat drive should be cause for reflection, Easton Fire Department Chief John Bast said. More than 80 percent of the approximately 725 students that attend Paxinosa Elementary School are eligible for the free or reduced lunch program, and about 1 in 6 of the students that attend the school were recipients of the city firefighters' generosity.

Students also got some fire prevention tips from
"Coats for Kids" organizer, Easton firefighter James
"It says something that we have to give away this many coats," he said. "We have to take care of each other."

Anthony Viglianti, who took over as Paxinosa's principal this year after serving as a principal at Easton Area Middle School, said the event showed how much the community cares about the students.

"This is unbelievable," Viglianti said. "The overwhelming support the city provides, not only to our students, but the families too, is unbelievable. I always knew it when I was at the middle school, but now that I'm here and get to see it first hand...well, it's just incredible."

But Cochoran and all the other firefighters with the Easton Fire Department who spent months fund raising and donating funds of their own to make the coats a reality were modest about their efforts.

"It couldn't have worked out better," Cocheran said, as the children cavorted around him. "It was really great to see the smiles on the faces of the kids."

Easton City Council Reviews Coming Year's Expenses

By Christina Georgiou

A pie chart illustrating Easton's 2014 proposed expense
Click on the image for a full size view.
Easton City Council members examined the expense side of the 2014 proposed city budget equation during a budget discussion--the second such session so far--Monday evening.

If the 2014 budget proposal is passed without changes, the Earned Income Tax (EIT) rate for residents will need to be raised by 2/10ths of a percent to help cover a shortfall of more than $1 million, bringing the total rate to 1.95 percent EIT, with 0.5 percent going to the school district. The EIT rate for those who work but do not live within city limits, first imposed this year, will remain unaffected by the possible change.

Three ordinances were introduced at last Wednesday's regular city council meeting to cover three possible EIT rate hike scenarios, 1.35, 1.45, and 1.55 percent, though only one will ultimately be passed by the council sometime next month, if council does not cut some expense items to avoid the increase. If council decides to cut expenses, none of the three will be passed, elected officials said.

Despite the projected shortfall, however, some line items in the city's 2014 budget proposal seem destined for increases. Next year's city budget calls for a general fund of about $32.27 million, an increase of approximately $700,000 from 2013.

The city plans to buy 50 more parking meters that take credit cards next year, along with "some other devices" for the city's parking system, said City Administrator Glenn Steckman, which will increase the line item for parking meter expenses to $137,654 next year from $76,960 budgeted for this year, an increase of $60,694.
Un-reimbursed overtime for the Easton Police Department is also expected to rise by $15,000 next year to $40,000 from a projected $25,000 this year. The increase is due to a increasing number of city events, officials said. Other overtime department members put in, such as for providing security for high-profile Lafayette College events, is reimbursed by the organization for which it is incurred, they added.

In the city's IT department, nearly $93,000 more will be spent in 2014 than was allotted for this year, with the bulk of the cost being new equipment and software related to upgrading the city computer system and installing an electronic payment system so people can pay bills and fines online.

Mayor Sal Panto said the upgrades are necessary, despite the associated costs, and expressed frustration the switchover has taken years, saying the changes are long overdue.

"Let's stop talking two to three years," he said of the total tech upgrade plan," Panto said. "Lets start talking one to two (years). I've been here six years, and we've been saying two to three years that whole time."

Some city technology costs are likely to decrease next year too, with the installation of a new phone system, said the city's IT director Frank Caruso, who estimated the annual savings will be about $21,000.

Easton currently uses Verizon as their phone provider, and this year's city phone bills will cost a total of about $86,000. City officials said the company has been "totally unresponsive" to inquiries about billing charges, which in a number of instances appear to be inflated and contain calls to "questionable" numbers, such as ones that seem to be disconnected or connect to perpetual busy signals.

"We're hoping to go over to a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system. We're almost there," Caruso said. "We're going to make the switch and move away from Verizon."

In the city's public works department, road repairs and maintenance is estimated to cost $110,000 for black top and other construction materials next year, up from $52,000 in the current year's budget.

Public Works Director David Hopkins attributed the steep rise to the number of city streets that will require maintenance, and state laws that require the city to add handicapped-accessible ramps at all crosswalks where road repaving is performed.

In the past, the city has relied on Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to shoulder some road maintenance costs, but Easton should largely discontinue the practice, Hopkins said.

2014 projected revenue sources
Click on any image for a full-size view
"We need to wean ourselves off CDBG funding because only 40 percent of the city is eligible," he said.

An additional $23,000 will be spent on the city's trees next year too, bringing the total projected cost to maintain the urban forest program to $40,000 for the year.

Some of the city forester's resources will be used to assist homeowners who have trees that lie in or near public property, but most will go towards city-owned trees, Hopkins said.

"(The city owns) at least 3,500 trees, not including parks," he said.

A threat to the city's ash trees from the emerald ash borer, expected to be in the area within two years at most, means the city needs to be ready and proactive, Hopkins said. Saving the trees is not only prohibitively expensive, the remedy is far from being a sure thing and probably won't save the trees in the end anyway, he added.

"We're probably looking at the removal of the 90 or so ash trees we have along the streets," Hopkins said.

City council members asked few questions during the session, and it's unclear which, if any, members might favor budget cuts over an EIT rate hike.

A third 2014 budget session is set for Tuesday, November 12 at 6 p.m. in city council chambers. Discussion is expected to included planning and economic development expenses, salary-related issues, and city operational costs.

The current budget proposal includes a 3 percent salary increase for all city employees, including non-union employees and the mayor.

"I think there's about an hour to an hour and a half left on the budget to cover," Steckman told council members.

Mourning Rites of the Past to Be Topic of First Monday Program

A black mourning dress of the 19th
century. Mourning customs of
the past will be the topic of
the Easton Area Community
Center's next "First Monday"
Contributed photo
Curtains would be drawn and clocks would be stopped at the time of death. Mirrors were covered with crape or veiling to prevent the deceased’s spirit from getting trapped in the looking glass.  A wreath of laurel, yew or boxwood tied with crepe or black ribbons was hung on the front door to alert passersby that a death had occurred. The body was watched over every minute until burial, hence the custom of "waking."

These and other customs surrounding the death of loved ones will be the topic of the Easton Area Community Center's next First Monday program, set for this coming Monday, November 4 from noon to 1 p.m.

Easton historian Melissa Rabinsky, dressed in period costume and adopting a demeanor of the 19th century, will detail the mourning customs of the day and the reasons behind them. Some, such as the custom of dressing in black being considered proper etiquette for attending a funeral, are still observed today, though an extended period of wearing black dress is no longer expected .

The public is invited to the talk, and there is no charge for admission.

The Easton Area Community Center is located at 901 Washington St. For more information, call EACC at 610-253-8271.

'Simply Savory' Raised More Than $35K for ProJeCt of Easton

ProJeCt board member Bill Bryson, ProJeCt of Easton Executive
Director Janice Komisor, board member Pat Amin, and board member
Danny Cohen pose for a photo at "Simply Savory", held earlier
this month. The event raised more than $35,000 to support ProJeCt of Easton
self-sufficiency and literacy programs.
Contributed photo by Jamie Cabreza.
More than $35,000 was raised for local programs and services at Simply Savory, ProJeCt of Easton's premier annual fund raising event held earlier this month on October 7 at the Hampton Inn.

"We couldn’t be more pleased with the outpouring of support from the local community
including our culinary participants, sponsors, donors, guests and volunteers," said  ProJeCt Executive Director Janice Komisor. "“The funds raised go toward our mission to help people help themselves with services that include emergency shelter, food pantry and literacy programs."

This year’s culinary participants included: Baker Street Bakeshop, Beyond Cakes, Blue Grillhouse, Constantino’s, Cozze Cakes, deLorenzo’s, Divine Dining, Elizabeth Mulrine Culinary Events, Franklin Hill Vineyards, Green Harvest Food Emporium, Leaf Restaurant & Cigar Bar, Marblehead Chowder House, Marianna’s Pizza Café, Maxim’s 22, Miguel’s, North Star Catering, Pearly Baker’s Alehouse, Sette Luna, Thyme Restaurant & Bar, Two Rivers Brewing Company, Valenca, Vintage, Vintner’s Circle, and Weyerbacher Brewery.

Easton photographer Jamie Cabreza served as the event photographer, and Palmer Township DJ John Harvey served as the emcee.

Numerous local sponsors included: the Hampton Inn; Elaine Emrick; Lexus Lehigh Valley; The Express-Times; Crayola; Seidel Cohen Hof & Reid, LLC; the Brown-Daub Foundation; Follett Corporation; Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Fader, LLC; Abraham, Borda, Corvino, Butz, LaValva & Co. PC; Campbell, Rappold & Yurasits LLP; Cornerstone Advisors Asset Management, Inc.; David T. Lyon, MD; Easton Hospital, John & Janice Komisor; Kiwanis Club of Palmer Township; The Nenow Family; Knights of Columbus; AD Computer dba Jet Pay Payroll Services; Alfero Co., Inc.; Easton Endodontic Associates; Embassy Bank; and John T. Eisenhard, CLU, CFBS; National
Penn Bank.

ProJeCt local services include an emergency assistance and food program, case management support to assist people in developing life skills to help them move to self-sufficiency, and educational programs that include adult basic literacy, English as a second language, GED preparation, family literacy and supplemental education programs for school-age children. The agency provides assistance to more than 5,000 people a year, serving Easton and the surrounding communities in Northampton County.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Man Sought in South Side Robberies Turns Himself In to Police

Kajuan Knox, 23, a suspect in multiple robberies
that occurred in Easton's South Side neighborhood
earlier this month, turned himself in to
authorities this afternoon, police report.
Contributed photo

Kajuan Knox, 21, of Palmer Township, surrendered to a Northampton County Sheriff early this afternoon and is currently in the custody of the Easton Police Department. Knox had been sought by the EPD for approximate two weeks in connection with robberies that occurred in the South Side section of Easton, one of which occurred at a home that was also searched by police earlier this week.

A police search seeking Knox early in the morning of October 17 at 3104 Vermont Ave. in Palmer Township failed to find him, but police discovered a quantity of illegal drugs and weapons at the residence instead.

Alden Grange, 23,, who had also been sought as suspect in the South Side robbery incidents, turned himself in to the Easton Police Department later that day.

Knox, who was taken into custody without incident today, had been considered armed and dangerous by authorities.

He is scheduled to be arraigned today in front of District Magistrate Daniel Corpora. Easton Police Inspector Daniel Reagan said Knox faces charges of conspiracy, robbery, and reckless endangerment.

Great Phillipsburg-Easton Parade Draws Crowd of Thousands

By Christina Georgiou

Baton twirlers for the Easton Area High School Marching
Band dressed as cats for the annual Great Phillipsburg-
Easton Halloween Parade on Sunday afternoon. The
band was awarded the trophy for "Best Marching Band"
in the event.
Click on any photo for a full size view
Several thousand people of all ages lined streets in Phillipsburg, NJ and Easton Sunday afternoon to watch the Great Phillipsburg-Easton Halloween Parade.

Broken into five divisions, about 60 local organizations and businesses took part in the annual October event, which was cancelled last year due to the effects of Superstorm Sandy.

But the break only seemed to give this year's crowd more enthusiasm, as children scrambled for candy thrown by some of the parade participants.

Many spectators, including a few pets, came dressed in costume for the occasion too.

The head of the parade was led by elected officials from both
Phillipsburg and Easton, including mayors Harry Wyant and Sal Panto.
The parade kicked off along Main Street in Phillipsburg, proceeded over the Delaware River free bridge to Northampton Street in Easton, reaching its final destination just past the grandstand on Centre Square.

The head of the parade was led by elected officials from both Phillipsburg and Easton, including mayors Harry Wyant and Sal Panto.
Four judges, two from New Jersey and two from Pennsylvania, judged the event participants, and a number of the entrants were awarded trophies in various categories.

Trophy winners were:

  • Best Marching Band - Easton Area High School Red Rovers Marching Band
  • Best Marching Entry - Two Rivers Roller Derby
  • Best Community Youth Entry - Cub Scout Pack No. 51
  • Best Float - St James Lutheran Church
  • Most Original Entry - Dance Phillipsburg
  • Chamber's Choice - Garden State Crewzers PT Cruiser Club
  • Grand Marshal's Choice/Best of Parade - American Legion Riders Palmer Township Post 9

While in recent years, the event has been organized by the Warren County Chamber of Commerce, the Great Phillipsburg-Easton Halloween parade has a decades-long history, having formerly been an annual Jaycees event.

Having all ages take part in an annual Halloween parade is a tradition in Easton that goes back at least a century too, as one that was organized in the city's South Side neighborhood in 1913 encouraged "older people to come out with masks and costumes, and to be young again."

Many spectators dressed up for the occasion as well.

The Phillipsburg High School Marching Band led the first parade division
over the bridge into Easton.

Girl Scouts and Brownies from Phillipsburg NJ strut their stuff.
Members of the Boys and Girls Club of Easton chose a "superheroes against bullying" theme.
The Easton Area Middle School Marching Band lead the second division into Easton.
Balloons the Clown is a familiar sight at many Easton events.
The Wilson Area High School Warrior Marching Band struts their stuff.
Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, who is running for Northampton County
Executive, took the opportunity to pass out candy to kids, or as he called them
"future voters" at the Great Phillipsburg-Easton Parade on Sunday.
A mini British invasion...
American Legion Post 9 in Palmer Township built a float
to commemorate those who lost their lives in war.
One canine spectator was dressed as a gladiator's mount, while his
companion was adorned with a Batman costume.
Two spectating princesses wave to parade participants.
Members of the Easton Area High School Marching Band approach the grandstand.
Even some of the sousaphones in the parade came costumed for
Two Rivers Roller Derby girls show off their skills while passing out candy to the crowd. The group was awarded
the trophy for "Best Marching Group" for their efforts.
One participant's entry celebrated the Mexican Day of the Dead, traditionally
celebrated the day after Halloween, on November 1.

Young marchers get ready to toss candy to the crowd. 
Easton Guardian Angels wave to spectators.
Some Easton Cub Scouts got a ride, while others pushed and marched.
Santa Claus, atop a Pohatcong fire truck, brought up the rear
of the parade, reminding everyone present of
the upcoming holiday seaston.