Taste Smokers brings barbecue, family bonds to the Southside


Quartez Moore stood in front of a 7-foot-tall multi-level charcoal grill as he prepared ribs, brisket, salmon and pork. The scent carried through the breezy afternoon air at Bethlehem’s annual Oktoberfest.

As the sun began to set and attendees funneled in, Moore and the rest of the employees at Taste Smokers promptly moved inside a large white tent to prepare what they’d just cooked for sale. They were setting up to serve at an event with more than 38,000 attendees across two weekends.

Lines quickly began to form each day when Moore opened the tent to the attendees. Taste Smokers was the sole barbecue vendor in attendance at Oktoberfest.

The local barbecue business got its start at events like this. It has served communities in the Southside and surrounding areas for three years, and it expanded into a physical space at 318 E Third St. in August 2021.

Now, after celebrating its fifth anniversary in October, Moore envisions a future of growing from a mere restaurant into a space where anyone can set up and host an event.

Moore believes to accomplish this, he needs to stay true to the brand he has cultivated over the course of five years. At Oktoberfest, Moore fulfilled what he considers to be one of the “main staples” of the Taste Smokers brand: keeping an active community presence.

“It is a community-based area,” Moore said. “The Lehigh Valley is a small business incubator geographically because at least a percentage of people who support your business own small businesses too.”

A typical Friday afternoon at Taste Smokers’ Third Street location involves Quartez Moore and his wife Veronica Moore’s two children running around. They cling to their parents as they move back and forth between the kitchen and the modern-art-adorned dining room in the hours after the school week ends.

Quartez Moore relocated to the Lehigh Valley in 2008 after Veronica Moore took a job in Lehigh University’s former Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs. 

Veronica Moore said one of the important aspects of the business is to teach their children how to build a business and establish their own generational wealth.

“It teaches them tenacity, it teaches them perseverance, it teaches them dedication and it teaches them to work hard,” Veronica Moore said. 

The interior of Taste Smokers’ Third Street location has a vast but minimalist dining room. Apart from the art, it consists of only a handful of tables but also contains an open space for patrons to walk around, converse and eat the wide range of barbecued food the restaurant has to offer. 

Cooked from an in-house kitchen, the interior menu of Taste Smokers is more diverse than the offerings at events like Oktoberfest. While the meats remain the same, customers can also order sides of their “Gourmaq and Cheese” or receive their meats as part of a “Smokers Sandwich.”

Customers are greeted by houseplants adorning the window of the unassuming storefront, which shares a building with four other restaurants. 

Quartez Moore and employee Julian Lanfranco run back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room, taking orders and greeting customers.

Lanfranco has been at Taste Smokers since 2020, but his connection with Quartez Moore dates back to 2019 when they worked alongside each other at KidsPeace, a non-profit organization that tends to the mental health needs of children.

The two bonded simply over a song on the radio. They kept in touch afterward and, eventually, Lanfranco joined the young business.

“What (Quartez Moore) is trying to build, I definitely want to be a part of it,” Lanfranco said.

Lanfranco said he did not initially imagine himself cooking barbecue as part of his career path. Now, he embraces all that Quartez Moore has been able to teach him.

Lanfranco sees the expertise he has picked up in the kitchen as one of the largest areas of growth in his personal skills since joining. 

“My favorite part is just making the food and seeing people’s reactions,” Lanfranco said. “We’re doing something that not a lot of people can do well.” 

While Quartez Moore spoke warmly about what is going on in the kitchen, he is now aiming higher than barbecue. 

Moore referred to events like the virtual one Taste Smokers co-hosted with Lehigh University Art Galleries in February 2022 — where patrons picked up cooking supplies as they learned about art and culinary history over Zoom — as an example of what he sees as the larger plans for his business.

Back in October, Taste Smokers hosted “We Rock the Mic Night,” an event celebrating 50 years of hip-hop music. The event was held as part of a larger series of hip-hop celebrations organized by Andrew McIntosh, a sociology professor at Northampton Community College.

McIntosh commended Taste Smokers for being multifaceted. He noted that they were able to appear at community events like Oktoberfest, while also being able to host events like his in their own space.

“Quartez and Veronica very purposefully created an open space for artists and families to rent out and use for their own purposes,” McIntosh said. “They decided not to be a conventional restaurant.”

Despite describing himself as a “transplant” to the area, Quartez Moore said he is drawn to the Southside.

To him, the Southside is a place where his business can continue to find its footing and grow in its early years. Quartez Moore believes that the Southside provides a buffer compared to a place like Chicago.

The most crucial thing for Quartez Moore, regardless of how the business develops, is staying true to the brand he has formulated over the years.

“We started out with just some barbecue but had some plans,” Quartez Moore said. “Now, those plans are slowly starting to come into play.”

Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.

Leave A Reply