PHOTOGRAPH: COURTESY OF THE LANTERN
Tucked away in Wassaic, on the eastern edge of Dutchess County, lies The Lantern, a former 1890s inn and speakeasy during the Prohibition era, which eventually evolved into a small-town bar. Recently, it has been resurrected as a casual restaurant. Here, writers, artists and locals escape their busy lives for a pint of craft beer and a wood-fired pizza.
On a weekend night, the five taps are flowing with brews from the area, such as Keegan Ales of Kingston and Westchester’s Captain Lawrence. Past the bar is the open kitchen, where you can place your order with the cooks and grab a number tag for your seat at one of their welcoming wooden community tables. Middling bar food this is not. The Lantern pulls its mozzarella cheese in-house, and sources many of its other ingredients from the soils around them. The kale, salad greens and eggs are from Wassaic’s Olde Forge Farms. The sausage on the rattlesnake pizza is made at Jacüterie in Ancramdale. The beef for the burgers is from Pine Plains. In the springtime, foraged ramps are highlighted on the menu during their short season. And any mushrooms or wild harvests that can be foraged, will be.
“Being able to do something simple, well, like really well? That’s sort of like the pinnacle,” says Jeff Barnett-Winsby, manager of the Lantern and co-director of the neighboring Wassaic Project, a community-based arts project and annual festival now in its eighth year. When the Lantern was bought by Dick Berry and Tony Zunino in 2010, Jeff Barnett-Winsby and Bowie Barnett-Zunino, co-directors of the Wassaic Project, were given a blank canvas to paint their vision on. They would bring locals together, and this time by running a down-to-earth food joint.
The Lantern’s atmosphere invites customers to linger long after they’ve finished eating. They can have another drink at the bar or head outside to let the crackle of the bonfire warm their spirits. Patrons dance along to a shelved collection of 1960s records, entwine themselves around the offerings of live music and crack and disperse with the pool balls as the local pool league continues its legacy.
It may seem strange to come to the quiet hamlet of Wassaic, New York, especially after dark. But once you spend an evening there, you realize that the energy inside the Lantern is what carries Wassaic’s glow; it flickers a profound iridescence among passersby. —Katie Fenton
10 Main Street, Wassaic