Vince’s Cheesesteaks has been promising a return to downtown Allentown for some time, and now it’s happening.
The family of Vince’s founder, Vince Cocca Sr., will open a cheesesteak restaurant at 806 W. Hamilton St. in the City Center development in Allentown this spring. Owners Vince Cocca Jr. and Chris Cocca are, respectively, the son and grandson of the founder.
The cheesesteaks have been strictly a food truck business the last couple of years.
In 2014, the family closed its shop in Lower Macungie Township, which it had been running for six years, saying that rent was increasing and it wasn’t the right place for an eatery that was always known more as an Allentown institution.
Chris Cocca said the family planned to open in the city, but just as it closed its Lower Macungie eatery, the cheesesteak chain Tony Luke’s announced it was opening in the new City Center development.
“There really wasn’t a place for us,” Chris Cocca said. “It was a missed opportunity.”
Tony Luke’s, however, closed, and the Cocca family was eager to fill the spot.
Cocca said being able to move into a space already fitted for a cheesesteak restaurant has been advantageous.
“It’s pretty turnkey, from what was there,” Chris Cocca said.
Mostly, the family only needs to make a few minor design and décor changes to create the exact feel for the restaurant that it wants. Cocca said he expects to open in four to six weeks.
“Tony Luke’s is a strong franchise with great people. We appreciate their cooperation in transitioning their space to Vince’s Cheesesteaks of Allentown,”Jim Harbaugh, vice president of leasing, City Center said. “We’re thrilled to welcome Vince’s Cheesesteaks back downtown to satisfy local tastes. Beyond that, the Coccas have a passion for this city, and we’re confident they will be great partners in the continuing renewal of downtown Allentown.”
While Vince’s is best known for its traditional old-fashioned cheesesteak, customers should also expect new and different takes on the cheesesteak, he said.
“The classic is what we’re known for, but we also want to serve cheesesteaks that may be a little fancy but still not at a high price point,” he said.
He said the family has developed new recipes while on the road with its food trucks. For example, its spinach garlic onion chicken cheesesteak has become popular.
Besides cheesesteaks, Vince’s will serve items such as hamburgers, hot wings, pierogies and fries. It focuses on using local produce and is a “Pennsylvania Preferred” businesses with the state Department of Agriculture.
Originally opening in 1957 at Seventh and Union streets in Allentown, Vince’s Cheesesteaks also had a drive-in restaurant on Walbert Avenue in South Whitehall Township and a double drive-through stand at 15th and Allen streets in Allentown.
The family intends to continue with its two food trucks, which travel to businesses and events throughout the Lehigh Valley.
“The food truck industry is still very on trend right now,” Chris Cocca said.
The Coccas plan to hire 11 or 12 people for the downtown eatery. The goal is to provide jobs for people living in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Chris Cocca’s hope is also that the people living in the surrounding neighborhoods will be customers.
“Young people are moving back to the city, as are empty nesters; these are the people who know us,” he said.