For 40 years people have flocked to Richard's Drive-In in Palmer Township, a bubble gum-colored fast-food shrine that dishes fries, hot dogs and cheesesteaks so laden with grease that their white paper wrappers become translucent. Patrons lovingly dubbed it Greasy Dick's, and one smitten online food connoisseur awarded it three grease spots for gastrointestinal greatness.
So it's ironic, to say the least, that the three families who jointly own the drive-in are at the forefront of the latest culinary revolution: ridding their fare of cooking oils that contain trans fats, artery-clogging stuff so bad for the human heart that New York City has banished it under penalty of law. Other cities, including Chicago and Philadelphia, may follow suit and many chain restaurants, including Starbucks and Taco Bell, have taken the same step.
Richard's isn't the only business embracing the trend. A small but growing number of Lehigh Valley restaurants are going trans fat-free by eliminating hydrogenated oil, the durable stuff used in heavy doses by the fast-food industry that is the chief source of trans fats.
Bethlehem Brew Works eliminated trans fats from its menu in April, a month after one of the owners, David Fegley, died from heart disease at the age of 33.
''It wasn't the trans fats that killed him; he had heart problems, but it made us look at what we eat every day,'' said Mike Fegley, David's older brother. ''It's a couple more thousand dollars a year'' for trans-fat-free oil, he said, ''but we wanted to do the ethical thing.''
So far, major fast food chains such as Wendy's, Taco Bell and KFC are using oils that don't contain trans fats, but McDonald's and Burger King are still dragging their feet, said Jeff Kronin, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science and the Public Interest.
Stephen Yeager, chef at Ye Olde Limeport Hotel in Limeport, lost about 30 pounds two years ago in part by eliminating trans fats from his diet. ''I didn't feel right that I was cutting this stuff out in my personal life and not at the restaurant,'' he said.
So, he got busy trying to find a tasty alternative and settled on canola oil after regular restaurant patrons Roger and Judy Butterfield gave four stars to trans-fat-free fish and chips during a taste test.
Do you know of any other trans-fat free restaurants in the Valley?